Bill Pieper seems like such a warm, trustworthy guy. But his literary specialty is deceit.
Pieper (pronounced like Piper in the Pied Piper) of Sacramento and Nevada City is the author of "So Trust Me: Four Decades of Love and Deceit," four novellas linked in theme and spread through time.
Each novella represents a decade (the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s).
"This way, I thought I could get a lot of things going in the reader's mind between stories, cultural changes and so on," he said. "I wrote them in a period of 18 months."
Most of Pieper's career has been in the financial end of government, he says, but he has always been a writer. And now he's a full-time writer.
"I've written since I was a teen-ager," he said. "I have a drawer full of manuscripts that thank God never saw the light of day. And more recently I've had the opportunity to cut back on other work and devote myself to writing. This book is the first to be published; I have several others that I hope will soon follow."
Pieper says he's a largely untaught writer in the academic sense, having never taken writing classes, but he describes himself as an avid reader. He most admires the early work of Phillip Roth.
Pieper's publisher is Creative Arts Book Company of Berkeley. Creative Arts, a small publisher, gave Pieper a large say in how his book would be edited and what the cover art would look like.
For the cover art Pieper chose to use "Wolf in Studio" by the late Joan Brown, a striking painting (the original hangs in the Crocker Art Museum) set against a dark blue background. It's a very good-looking book.
"I'm so pleased with how the book came out," he said. But Pieper, like so many writers, sounded a familiar theme: Had he known in advance how difficult the publishing process would be, he might have been discouraged. Yet he got published quickly and easily, compared to most first-timers.
Pieper said he had about a dozen friends read "So Trust Me" in manuscript form and these friends, whose advice he trusted, convinced him the manuscript was publishable.
"Recognizing that you have to start at a fairly low rung on the ladder, if you are unknown and this is your first book, I decided, since all of the stories are set in Northern California, that I would look for regional publishers and that gave me a manageable list. I then pursued Creative Arts and was fortunate enough to sign a contract…and I'm delighted with the book," he said.
Pieper had a signed contract a year after the novellas were written, which is fast work for a new writer. Pieper says it's now his job, however, to market and promote the book. He has given readings in Nevada City, Sacramento and Davis and has several planned for the Bay Area at the end of the month.
"I like giving readings, it's fun," he said. "But setting them up and the logistics and so on is nowhere near as much fun as writing. I enjoy the writing far more but I want to get the book out…to give me legitimacy as a writer.
"Getting published is almost easy compared to getting noticed," Pieper added. The best novella of the four is, I think, "The Willamette Kid," the first one, set in San Francisco of the early 1960s (it's not remotely about the Summer of Love so don't think that way). It concerns a recent college graduate, John McDonough, who is a liar and fraud. He lies to his girlfriend and his father, convincing them both that he has a job when he does not. Instead, he fences all day. That's fencing as in the sport.
Pieper is not a fencer, but he loves the sport. He says fencing combines the perfect balance of guile and force, and uses that as a paradigm for John. "John is a person who lies because he thinks he has to although he doesn't," said Pieper.
Pieper has another novel in the hands of publishers, "Fool Me Once," set in San Francisco in 1964.
"I picked '64 because it was the seed time for what became known as The '60s," he said. "It too deals with deceit and betrayal. I don't know that that will be a permanent theme of mine but I wasn't done with it after 'So Trust Me.' "
"Belonging" is the working title of his third novel, which is described as two months in the life of a town and a tragic event that affects the townspeople.
If you'd like to reach Pieper to find when and where his next readings will be, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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