Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Look at Wilam in The Victor and The Vanquished

I have had many more readers comment (both to my blog and on Amazon’s Mark Wildyr’s Author’s Page) on my two historical books (Cut Hand and River Otter [STARbooks Press]) than on V&V (also STARbooks), but I like the ones I have received. A former English/ American Lit instructor recently posted a critical review of the book (Five Stars, by the way) on Amazon, taking me to task over how rapidly William (Wilam) Grayhorse achieved great fame and fortune. I acknowledge this fact. I wanted success to come early and tried to give it some legitimacy by the actions of three honorable men in a trade not necessarily known for that trait. This is likely the real weakness in the book.

Ben Ames, a man who makes his living by selling carvings at an Albuquerque flea market on the State Fairgrounds, recognizes the teen-aged Wilam’s carvings have progressed far beyond his usual goods. Despite the fact he will likely lose his best-selling craftsman, he sends Wilam down the street to an Indian goods trader named Horace Gresham.

Mr. Gresham (and he’s always Mr. Gresham to Wilam) takes the talented young whittler under his wing. He’s shrewd enough to see the future potential, ambition, and determination in the youngster. Our hero has already cut ten years off his career path by having a mentor to sell his product and push him into trying new mediums and aspire to greater things.

The Indian trader also recognizes when the young sculptor has progressed beyond Gresham’s usual merchandize and arranges for him to meet Ellis Greenby, an old acquaintance who is a renowned New York art dealer. Due to Gresham’s strong recommendation, Ellis takes on the artist, cutting another ten years from his career path.

The second criticism the reviewer had was to question whether Wilam would have has such a grand affair with New York Socialite Diane Leighton. If he was truly gay, would this have actually happened?

I based this upon two individuals I have known in my life, neither of which ever met the other. The man claimed to be bisexual, and indeed, had intimate relationships with both sexes. As I got to know him better, he confessed that while he got something from intimacy with women, he had to work at it harder. Gay relationships came more naturally to him.
This insight helped me write Diane into the novel to accomplish two things. Her widely publicized affair with the young artist brought people into Greenby’s gallery who might not have been interested in Wiliam otherwise. She also paid record prices for some of his work in a deliberate and successful attempt to put her young lover “on the map.” The torrid and public nature of the affair also caused Joseph to question where his relationship (strictly business at this point) was heading. It put some suspense in the book. Based upon the woman I knew and modeled Diane after, the end of their affair was no surprise and caused no regret over helping him. He was the spice her life needed at the time.

In addition to this, Wiliam is an intriguing mix of the naïve and the world-wise. His horrible childhood caused him to grow up fast. In in a sense, he had no childhood. As a youngster, he regularly assumed responsibility for his two younger sisters. He fought, out-maneuvered, and outsmarted his drunken, brutal father. In all but physical development, he was a man by the age of twelve or thirteen.

Anyway, that’s my story…and I’m sticking to it. A shout-out to the professor, who said kind things about the book, to others who’ve posted comments on Amazon, and to everyone who’s read The Victor and the Vanquished.

My undying thanks to all of you.

Note: New posts are published around the first of every month.


Comments are welcome, not only on this post, but also about any relevant subject the reader wishes to discuss.



  1. Very nice post, Don. I appreciate the behind-the-scenes look at what went into the making of your character.

  2. Thanks. It's amazing what goes into building a book, isn't it?