David Morrell is the award-winning author of First Blood, the novel in which Rambo was created. He was born in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. In 1960, at the age of seventeen, he became a fan of the classic television series, route 66, about two young men in a Corvette convertible traveling the United States in search of America and themselves. The scripts by Stirling Silliphant combined action with ideas and so impressed Morrell that he decided to become a writer. (Click here to read Morrell’s essay about this remarkable series and to see a neat photo of Morrell with Silliphant on the beach at Malibu.)
In 1966, the work of another writer (Hemingway scholar Philip Young) prompted Morrell to move to the United States, where he studied with Young at Penn State and received his M.A. and Ph. D. in American literature. There, he also met the esteemed science-fiction author William Tenn (real name Philip Klass), who taught Morrell the basics of fiction writing. The result was First Blood, a ground-breaking novel about a returned Vietnam veteran suffering from post-trauma stress disorder who comes into conflict with a small-town police chief and fights his own version of the Vietnam War.
That “father” of modern action novels was published in 1972 while Morrell was a professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. He taught American literature there from 1970 to 1986, simultaneously writing other novels, many of them international bestsellers, including the classic spy trilogy, The Brotherhood of the Rose (the basis for the only television mini-series to premier after a Super Bowl), The Fraternity of the Stone, and The League of Night and Fog.
Eventually wearying of two professions, Morrell gave up his academic tenure in order to write full time. Shortly afterward, his fifteen-year-old son Matthew was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and died in 1987, a loss that haunts not only Morrell’s life but his work, as in his memoir about Matthew, Fireflies, and his novel Desperate Measures, whose main character lost a son.
“The mild-mannered professor with the bloody-minded visions,” as one reviewer called him, Morrell is the author of more than thirty books, including such high-action thrillers as The Naked Edge, Creepers, and The Spy Who Came for Christmas (set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives). Always interested in different ways to tell a story, he wrote the six-part comic-book series, Captain America: The Chosen, the two-part comic-book series, Spider-Man: Frost, and the standalone comic book, Savage Wolverine:Feral. His writing book, The Successful Novelist, analyzes what he has learned during his four decades as an author.
Morrell is a co-founder of the International Thriller Writers organization. Noted for his research, he is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School for wilderness survival as well as the G. Gordon Liddy Academy of Corporate Security. He is also an honorary lifetime member of the Special Operations Association and the Association of Intelligence Officers. He has been trained in firearms, hostage negotiation, assuming identities, executive protection, and defensive/offensive driving, among numerous other action skills that he describes in his novels. To research the aerial sequences in The Shimmer, he became a private pilot, the training for which he describes here. In 2010, he was with the first group of authors to be sent on a USO tour to a war zone (Iraq). Click here to view a short video of the tour.
Morrell’s latest novels, Murder as a Fine Art and Inspector of the Dead, are Victorian mystery/thrillers that explore the fascinating world of 1850s London. Based on years of research, they attempt to make readers believe they are truly on those harrowing, fogbound streets. Both novels feature a controversial, brilliant literary figure of the era, Thomas De Quincey, who wrote the sensational memoir, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, and invented the true-crime genre in his equally sensational essay, “Postscript: On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.”
Morrell is an Edgar and Anthony finalist, a Nero and Macavity winner, and a three-time recipient of the distinguished Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association. The International Thriller Writers organization gave him its prestigious career-achievement Thriller Master Award. Bouchercon, the world’s largest crime-fiction convention, gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award. He also received an RT Book Reviews “Thriller Pioneer” award and a Comic-Con Inkpot award for “outstanding achievement in action/adventure.” His short stories have appeared in numerous Year’s Best collections. With eighteen million copies in print, his work has been translated into twenty-six languages.
For installments in Morrell’s autobiography, please look at the following:
Fireflies: A Father’s Tale of Love and Loss
The Successful Novelist
Black Evening (introduction)
American Fiction, American Myth: Essays by Philip Young (introduction)
The Hundred-Year Christmas (introduction)
Nelson Riddle: The Man Behind the Music (introduction)
The Interrogator (introduction)
Captain America: The Chosen (afterword)
John Barth: An Introduction (foreword)