Nilson took a giant step on his road to becoming a writer when he was a freshman at California Polytechnic College. He enrolled in an English course which required him to write a story in class every week. He would stay up the night before and practice writing, and soon the professor noticed his efforts. “He told me I had a good imagination and suggested I get some training for it,” Nilson recalls. “I was really happy to have someone encourage me to do something I loved.” He went on to earn a Ph.D. in sociology, a subject that appealed to his inner writer because it helped him understand what motivates people. He spent 25 years as a professor of sociology at Eastern Connecticut State University before retiring and finally having time to do the things he enjoyed most – riding his motorcycle and writing. He wrote two unpublished novels and joined a writer’s group to hone his skills. Then his wife, writer Lesley Diehl, suggested he base a book on his passion for motorcycles. “I toyed around with the idea until it morphed into a sustainable story,” he says. The result was his first published novel – Murder on Route 66. According to Nilson, “The old Route 66 TV show had an appealing hook – guys on the road who get involved in other people’s problems. I thought this would be a good situation for an amateur sleuth.”
Murder on Route 66 is the story of biker Bobby Navarro, a character Nilson describes as “a solo rider looking for the home and family he never had; a marginal person who cares about people and wants to help them; a biker who’s not a gang member or middle-class wannabe, but more an insider-outsider.” Bobby is taking a working vacation along Route 66 in New Mexico when his employer is murdered. Bobby promises the victim’s young son that he will find the killer – no easy task for an outsider in a small town. “As a sociologist, I look at things through a sociological lens,” Nilson says. “I’ve always been attracted to character-driven stories, not so much whodunit as how lives are impacted by what’s been done. The human drama of how people change and grow is the real guts of the story.”
With this in mind, Nilson has been working on a sequel, tentatively titled Murder on the Mother Road. In this story, also set in the Southwest, Bobby, a high-explosive expert, has just finished a blasting job for a friend when he attempts a stopover at the Grand Canyon. However, instead of viewing one of the great natural wonders of the world, he finds himself staring down at the lifeless body of a young woman who’s been murdered and stuffed in the trunk of a car left parked on the street.
Naturally the police must consider Bobby a suspect—an awkward situation made worse when he recognizes one of the officers as a woman he knew in high school. When the police arrest someone else for the crime, Bobby is told by the town eccentric that they have the wrong person in jail and that he knows who the right person is. The police officer/former friend recruits Bobby to help determine how much the disturbed acquaintance actually knows about the murder, and how much the eccentric may have been involved himself.
Nilson hopes his tales will help readers realize that even outsiders like Bobby can have something valuable and interesting to offer. “Life’s a journey,” he says. “I want readers to enjoy the journey and feel that my stories relate to something important in their lives.”
For more about Glenn Nilson, visit his website at www.glennnilson.com.