Robert Ward

Robert Ward portrait image to appear alongside the Robert Ward biography.

Robert Ward was born in Baltimore in 1943. In his senior year in college he wrote a short story which won a school literary prize called "The Value of Evolon."

After getting his MFA degree Ward got a job teaching at Miami University-Hamilton Campus in Hamilton Ohio. He had finished re-writing his novel, Shedding Skin, about his travels, and lunatic adventures, and it was accepted for publication by Harper and Row in 1968. Upon hearing of an opening for a teaching job at Hobart and William Smith College, Ward sent his novel to the head of the creative writing program, James Crenner. Crenner wrote him back saying that he thought the book was one of the greatest novels he'd ever read, and invited him to Geneva for an interview. Though his novel came out and won an NEA Grant as one of the best novels published in 1972, his attempt at a second book was a disaster, and he began to take opiates and drink whiskey to dull the pain of his total and his absolute failure of nerve.

Ward, trashed and depressed, realized that he would never be an academic, and his only chance for survival was to get to New York City and become a journalist. He managed this feat by hanging out with the local cops for a piece which he then sold to New Times Magazine. He also wrote for GQ, Rolling Stone and many other magazines after quitting teaching and moving to New York City.

Meanwhile, at night he finished his second novel Cattle Annie and Little Britches, sold it to the movies and wrote the script which a few years later was made into a critically acclaimed movie starring Diane Lane and Burt Lancaster. Once in New York, Ward felt as though he was living the real life of a real writer, and as a result all his work blossomed. Cattle Annie led to other movie assignments, the journalist gigs came fast and furious, and Ward eventually fell in love with Celeste Wesson, a beautiful and brilliant blonde from WBAI radio. She moved to Washington DC, and Ward suffered another breakdown after writing a book for five years which came to nothing. Finally, when all hope seemed lost, Ward found the right voice for his new novel, Red Baker, and began to start all over again. In nine months he had his best book ever, but it was turned down by all thirty one publishers it was submitted to.

Three weeks later his agent, Jay Acton, sent the book to editor, Joyce Johnson, Jack Kerouac's ex-girlfriend and herself a fine novelist and essayist. She bought the book for Dial Press. It was published, received rave reviews in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Village Voice. Eventually, it won the Pen West Award as the best Novel Published in 1985 in the United States.,

In 1991 Ward had his second son, Robert Wesson Ward, and for the following 18 years he took care of his boy and wrote three more novels, one of which "Four Kinds of Rain" was called a comic masterpiece by Michael Connelly, and was a New York Times notable book of the year. Ward has also acted in his western Brotherhood of the Gun, and played himself in the ESPN mini series The Bronx Is Burning, a film which was in part based on his famous Sport magazine piece on Reggie Jackson. Ward is now in talks with producers about doing 'Rain' as a movie. And there has recently been interest in re-making Cattle Annie and Little Britches.

Robert Ward books reviewed

Bibliography

  • Best Bad Dream
    F.B.I. Agents Jack Harper and Oscar Hidalgo are burned out from too many cases so they schedule a two week vacation. Jack plans to hang out with his son, followed by some fishing in Baja. Then Jack gets a phone call from his snitch and on-again-off-again girlfriend, the sexy and unpredictable car thief, Michelle Wu. Michelle’s sister has been kidnapped. Terrified that she will be killed, Michelle begs Jack to come to Santa Fe at once. Jack owes Michelle big time–she once saved his life. Michelle is pretty sure a biker named Lucky Avila had something to do with Jennifer’s disappearance. She also admits she did business with Lucky, who might be angry at her. Jack goes out to see Lucky, hoping for a simple end to the case. He should have known better. Anything in which Michelle Wu is involved is bound to be complex, dark, and wild. Soon Jack is up to his neck with bikers, Mexican gangs, and a giant pet wild Razorback hog named Ole Big, who may offer a major clue to finding the missing girl.
  • Total Immunity
    Smart, tough Los Angeles FBI agents Jack Harper and Oscar Hidalgo meet their match in a diamond smuggler, Steinbach, who seems to have almost superhuman powers. Arrested during a clever sting operation, Steinbach tells the team of agents he will kill them, and sure enough, one by one, they start to die. Worse, Jack can’t begin to pin it on Steinbach, who is, after all, in prison. Soon, however, Steinbach makes a deal with Homeland Security and is freed with total immunity. Jack is pretty sure that he and Oscar could be next. But, as it turns out, Steinbach is not the only menace. Two of the agents who were killed turn out to be dirty. Jack and Oscar tour the seamy side of L.A. in hopes of finding clues, but they get way more than they bargained for.
  • Four Kinds of Rain
    Broke, recently divorced, and a total deadbeat, Bob Wells has spent his life as a psychiatrist only doing good in the world. When one of his patients with clear paranoid delusions starts to lose a grip, Bob has no choice but to intervene. Emile Bardan is haunted by demons, and he believes that someone is trying to steal his most prized possession, the legendary Mask of Utu. Bob thinks it’s all part of Emile’s imagination until he discovers that Emile is telling the truth and that the mask is worth millions. It’s Bob who may actually be the one losing his grip. He’s tired of helping people for nothing, tired of being treated like dirt-and while he may have met the girl of his dreams, he doesn’t want to lose her because he can’t take care of her. There is only one thing to do:Bob is going to steal the mask himself: But doing so may mean making the biggest mistake of all-as he proceeds down a path into a dark abyss from which there is no return.
  • Red Baker
    When Red Baker, a Larnel steel worker in Baltimore, Maryland, gets laid off from his job he goes crazy: boozing, attempted philandering, running away from his future. Filled with unforgettable characters from Red’s angry but loyal wife, Wanda; his basketball-star son, Ace; his lifelong friend Dog, a casualty of the layoff; and Crystal, the go-go dancer at Lily’s bar who embodies Red’s fantasies of escape. Red Baker is a classic American novel about a man with no identity who tries to replace the one he’s lost.
  • The Sandman
    Anaesthesiologist Dr. Cross’ job is to alleviate pain but someone is now accusing him of murder.
  • The Cactus Garden
    Daredevil DEA agent Jack Walker cruised down Hollywood Boulevard into the best unscheduled party of his career: a car-jacking featuring a .38 semiautomatic and his own movie land heroics. In any other city, the pretty woman he saved would be a star. Here she was Charlotte Rae, a former B-movie bombshell waving a lottery ticket straight from hell – a chance to get inside her husband’s drug-smuggling empire. Charlotte Rae and Buddy Wingate were one of California’s self-made platinum couples: the high-rolling discount furniture king and his bottle-blond trophy. It was Jack’s job to penetrate Buddy’s drug operation – and his marriage – and suddenly Jack’s doing a better job than he ever dreamed.
  • The King of Cards
    There’s a mounting fury in Tommy Fallon’s heart in the fall of 1965. He’s finally found his life’s calling – thanks to the inspiration of Professor Extraordinaire Sylvester Spaulding. Young Tom wants to be lifted on the wings of genius, to ascend to a clean, well-lighted place where cultured people talk about deep things. But how can this college boy learn anything about life or art while living in his family’s house of pain? Pop Fallon’s youthful dreams of becoming a painter were dashed by the Depression and his own internal demons; he rarely comes out of the inner sanctum of His Holy Toilet, where he’s long been lost to the rituals of obsessive/compulsive behaviour. Mom Fallon – beaten down by the vast resentment her husband harbours against her and all the other “Baltimorons” – is so starved for love that she enters the Miss Kissable Lips contest at the local radio station. Tom realizes he needs a refuge: a quiet, modest room of his own. There he won’t have to see the defeat in his parents’ eyes. There he’ll follow Dr. Spaulding’s lead by living inside the books that seem to be keeping his spirit alive. The King of Cards is the story of how Tom is saved from becoming a myopic, dispassionate snob when he answers an ad for off-campus housing. In the remarkable person of Jeremy Raines – World-Class Confidence Man with a Streak of Idealism, and Pied Piper to a ragtag band of followers – Tom finds a sense of adventure that is positively euphoric.