W. Michael Gear (1955–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1955, in Colorado Springs, CO; Education: Colorado State University, B.A., 1976, M.A., 1979. Politics: "Libertarian/Republican." Religion: "Native American." Hobbies and other interests: Hunting, shooting, reloading, motorcycle touring, bison, travel.
Office—415 Park St., Thermopolis, WY 82443. Agent—Owen Laster, William Morris Literary Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019.
Western Wyoming College, Rock Springs, archaeologist, 1979–81; Metcalf-Zier Archaeologists, Inc., Eagle, CO, archaeologist, 1981; Pronghorn Anthropological Association, Casper, WY, owner and principal investigator, 1982–84; Wind River Archaeological Consultants, owner and principal investigator, 1988–2000.
American Anthropological Association, American Association of Physical Anthropology, Society of American Archaeology, Paleopathology Association, National Bison Association, Western Writers of America, Wyoming Writers.
Spur Award for best novel of the West (with Kathleen O'Neal Gear), Western Writers of America, 2005, for People of the Raven.
Long Ride Home, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1988.
Big Horn Legacy, Pinnacle (New York, NY), 1988.
The Warriors of Spider, DAW (New York, NY), 1988.
The Way of Spider, DAW (New York, NY), 1989.
The Web of Spider, DAW (New York, NY), 1989.
The Artifact, DAW (New York, NY), 1990.
Starstrike, DAW (New York, NY), 1990.
Requiem for the Conqueror, DAW (New York, NY), 1991.
Relic of Empire, DAW (New York, NY), 1992.
Countermeasures, DAW (New York, NY), 1993.
The Morning River, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
Coyote Summer, Forge (New York, NY), 1997.
The Athena Factor, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.
"FIRST NORTH AMERICANS" NOVEL SERIES; WITH WIFE, KATHLEEN O'NEAL GEAR
People of the Wolf, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1990.
People of the Light, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1991.
People of the Fire, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1991.
People of the Earth, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.
People of the River, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.
People of the Sea, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1993.
People of the Lakes, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1994.
People of the Lightning, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1995.
People of the Silence, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1996.
People of the Mist, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1997.
People of the Masks, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1998.
People of the Owl, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2003.
People of the Raven, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2004.
People of the Moon, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2005.
"ANASAZI MYSTERY" NOVEL SERIES; WITH KATHLEEN O'NEAL GEAR
The Visitant, Forge (New York, NY), 1999.
The Summoning God, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.
Bone Walker, Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
Several of the Gears' novels have been adapted as audiobooks, including People of the Owl, Books on Tape, 2003.
Frequently working with his wife, writer Kathleen O'Neal Gear, W. Michael Gear began his writing career penning western novels in the late 1980s and has gone on to write modern thrillers like The Athena Factor and several books that mix the historical western with a science-fiction edge. The Gears, who are both trained archeologists, are best known for their novels centered on the native people of prehistoric North America. The "First North Americans" series, which includes titles such as People of the Wolf, People of the Mist, and People of the Moon, blend whodunit suspense, historical romance, compelling characters, and a wealth of anthropological details in stories focusing on primitive native tribes. Calling Gear "a vigorous writer," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted in a review of Gear's The Morning River that the author "writes a superbly rolling prose with flair, confidence, wit, an ear for sounds and an eye for details."
A fourth-generation Coloradoan, Gear earned an advanced anthropology degree in 1979 and worked as a field archaeologist and archaeological consultant for a number of years. The seasonal nature of the profession freed him during the long winter months, and he began writing during one such break. He had little success finding a publisher for his first manuscripts, but in 1982 he married archeologist O'Neal, and four years later the pair decided to devote their energies to writing on a full-time basis. They moved to a remote mountain cabin built by Gear's great-uncle near Empire, Colorado, and lived there for three years with no running water and only a pair of stoves to provide heat. The determination, however, proved worthwhile; Gear's first book, a western novel titled Long Ride Home, was accepted by Tor Books in early 1987.
Gear penned the western novel Big Horn Legacy before beginning The Warriors of Spider, which blends science fiction and Native American beliefs in a story that finds a lost colony of Native American and Hispanic descendants "discovered" by an advanced civilization. After continuing the story though two subsequent books, Gear devised the premise for a new series. He imagined an educated, early nineteenth-century Bostonian lost in the wilderness of the American west in the 1820s. The idea became The Morning River, published in 1996.
The Morning River centers on Richard Hamilton, a pretentious Harvard University philosophy student whose father decides to send Richard west on business as a way to teach the young man a bit about the world. Hamilton lands in trouble soon after arriving at his destination: he is assaulted and robbed of his money, then sold as an indentured servant on a trade boat heading into Indian Territory. Help comes in the form of a boat passenger named Travis Hartman, a mountain man who knows several Native-American languages and teaches the Bostonian to appreciate Native customs. A young Shoshone woman, Heals like the Willow, is also being held as a slave, and her life and Hamilton's soon inter-sect. Hamilton's saga continues in Coyote Summer, as he and Heals like the Willow fall in love, battle various enemies, and begin a family. A writer for Publishers Weekly faulted the novel's prose, but stated that Gear nevertheless produces "a well-plotted page-turner that distinguishes itself from other westerns in the depth and quality of its historical reconstruction."
Gear and his wife began their "First North Americans" series in 1990 with People of the Wolf. The saga presents an ancient people who purportedly traveled from Asia across an ice bridge to North America during the Ice Age. The plot centers upon the power struggle between two brothers, Wolf Dreamer and Raven Hunter. In the fourth novel of the series, People of the River, the Gears imagine events among the earth-mound builder culture that lived in southern Illinois between 700 A.D. and 1500 A.D., while People of the Sea is set among a coastal California Native American community around 10,000 B.C., as an Ice Age period is ending and rising water levels are wreaking havoc for the ar-ea's ecosystem. "Fast-paced and engrossing, the novel has the ring of authenticity as well," stated a contributor to Publishers Weekly in reviewing People of the Sea, and a Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the Gears for "integrating a tremendous amount of natural and anthropological research into a satisfactory narrative." The reviewer went on to call People of the Sea "a vivid and fascinating portrait."
People of the Lightning is set in the Windover community in prehistoric Florida, where the Standing Hollow Horn clan is led by a tyrant named Cottonmouth. During a kidnapping raid on a rival clan, Cottonmouth captures Musselwhite, a warrior woman who had killed Cottonmouth's son in a previous skirmish. "A wealth of rich historical detail once again bolsters a pulsing narrative set in a turbulent time," noted a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. People of the Silence is set among the Anasazi culture in New Mexico around 1000 A.D., while People of the Mist takes place inside a matrilineal society in the Chesapeake Bay region. People of the Mist involves an arranged marriage between two neigh-boring clans, but this political alliance goes awry when the bride is slain on her wedding day and more than one potential culprit surfaces. "Suffused with suspense, their imaginative story offers a fascinating portrait of an ancient matrilineal culture," noted Library Journal reviewer Mary Ellen Eisbernd of the Gears' work, while a Publishers Weekly critic termed People of the Mist a "fluid, suspenseful mix of anthropological research and character-driven mystery" with "a solid, satisfying resolution."
People of the Masks, set in long-ago New York State, finds a dwarf born to a member of the Earth Thunderer clan and fated to be both revered and feared. In Booklist, Diana Tixier Herald termed People of the Masks "pre-historic epic at its finest," and commended the Gears for their "gripping plot, lots of action, [and] well-developed characters."
The first volume in the Gears' "Anasazi" series, The Visitant, focuses on archeologist Dusty Stewart and anthropologist Maureen Cole as they pair up to determine why the Chaco Anasazi Indians once disappeared in northwestern New Mexico but find themselves embroiled in murder when mass graves are discovered. The series continues in The Summoning God and Bone Walker, the latter which finds Dusty embroiled in the ritual murder of his uncle, a murder that has links to the history of the Chaco Canyon excavation site. "Readers will enjoy the wide range of characters and thick suspense," predicted Susan A. Zappia in Library Journal. Herald, writing for Booklist, praised "the vividly depicted characters and settings are satisfying and leave the reader hoping for more titles in this promising series." The coauthors also address modern technology in Dark Inheritance, which centers upon a British pharmaceutical maker and its attempt to create a "smart" chimpanzee through biological engineering, then raising treated animals with staff-members and their families. Booklist critic William Beatty called Dark Inheritance a "lively, thought-provoking, and convincing story."
As Gear told Dale L. Walker in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, he always strives to depict history from a balanced perspective in his books. "We've created a great many myths about our history," he explained. "I appreciate the myths, but I think people like to read about the way it really was. Kathy and I both struggle to write that kind of book."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, January 1, 1996, Kathleen Hughes, review of People of the Lightning, p. 786; January 1, 1997, Margaret Flanagan, review of People of the Silence, p. 818; February 1, 1998, Eric Robbins, review of People of the Mist, p. 898; October 15, 1998, Diana Tixier Herald, review of People of the Masks, p. 401; January 1, 1999, review of People of the Mist, p. 781; July, 1999, Diana Tixier Herald, review of The Visitant, p. 1893; December 1, 2000, William Beatty, review of Dark Inheritance, p. 675; May 15, 2003, Brad Hooper, review of People of the Owl, p. 1619.
Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), April 22, 2001, Linda DuVal, "Defining Humanity," p. B6.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of Bone Walker, p. 1582; June 1, 2002, review of Raising Abel, p. 756; May 15, 2005, review of The Athena Factor, p. 557; August 1, 2005, review of People of the Moon, p. 821.
Library Journal, February 1, 1998, Mary Ellen Elsbernd, review of People of the Mist, p. 110; November 1, 1998, Mary Ellen Eisbernd, review of People of the Masks, p. 125; August, 1999, Susan A. Zappia, review of The Visitant, p. 139; May 15, 2003, Mary Ellen Elsbernd, review of People of the Owl, p. 123.
Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), January 14, 2001, Michael A. Green, review of The Summoning God, p. 3.
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1991, review of People of the Wolf (sound recording), p. 50; June 1, 1992, review of People of the River, p. 51; September 13, 1993, review of People of the Sea, p. 89; October 30, 1995, review of People of the Lightning, p. 46; June 3, 1996, review of The Morning River, p. 61; December 2, 1996, review of People of the Silence, p. 42; July 14, 1997, review of Coyote Summer, p. 66; November 24, 1997, review of People of the Mist, p. 52; November 2, 1998, review of People of the Masks, p. 71; July 5, 1999, review of The Visitant, p. 62; June 26, 2000, review of The Summoning God, p. 53; February 5, 2001, review of Dark Inheritance, p. 65; July 1, 2002, review of Raising Abel, p. 55; May 26, 2003, review of People of the Owl, p. 49.
Rocky Mountain News, June 16, 1996, Dale L. Walker, "Young Man Comes of Age in the Wild West," p. D30.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23, 1997, Dick Richmond, "Rise and Fall of Ancient Civilization," p. T9.
W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear Web site, http://www.gear-gear.com (December 25, 2005).
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