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Gear, W. Michael 1955–

Gear, W. Michael 1955–

PERSONAL: Born May 20, 1955, in Colorado Springs, CO; son of William Gear (a television anchor) and Katherine Perry Cook (an artist); married Kathleen O'Neal (a historian and writer), October 20, 1982. 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.

ADDRESSES: Home—Red Canyon Ranch, P.O. Box 1329, Thermopolis, WY 82443. Office—415 Park St., Thermopolis, WY 82443. Agent—Owen Laster, William Morris Literary Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: 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.

MEMBER: American Anthropological Association, American Association of Physical Anthropology, Society of American Archaeology, Paleopathology Association, National Bison Association, Western Writers of America, Wyoming Writers.

AWARDS, HONORS: Spur Award for best novel of the West, Western Writers of America, 2005, for People of the Raven.

WRITINGS:

FICTION

Long Ride Home, Tor (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.

(With Kathleen O'Neal Gear) Dark Inheritance, Warner (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Kathleen O'Neal Gear) Raising Abel, Warner (New York, NY), 2002.

The Athena Factor, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.

"FIRST NORTH AMERICANS" SERIES; NOVELS; WITH KATHLEEN O'NEAL GEAR

People of the Wolf, Tor (New York, NY), 1990.

People of the Light, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1991.

People of the Fire, Tor (New York, NY), 1991.

People of the Earth, Tor (New York, NY), 1992.

People of the River, Tor (New York, NY), 1992.

People of the Sea, Forge (New York, NY), 1993.

People of the Lakes, Forge (New York, NY), 1994.

People of the Lightning, Tor (New York, NY), 1995.

People of the Silence, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.

People of the Mist, Forge (New York, NY), 1997.

People of the Masks, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.

People of the Owl, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.

People of the Raven, Tor (New York, NY), 2004.

People of the Moon, Tor (New York, NY), 2005.

"ANASAZI" 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.

WORK IN PROGRESS: People of the Weeping Eye, a novel.

SIDELIGHTS: W. Michael Gear is the author of a series of popular historical novels set in prehistoric North America. Gear and his coauthor and wife, Kathleen O'Neal Gear, have penned more than a dozen "First North Americans" titles, which blend whodunit suspense, historical romance, compelling characters, and a wealth of anthropological 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. Their determination, however, proved worthwhile; Gear's first book, a western novel titled Long Ride Home, was published by Tor Books in 1988.

Gear went on to write another western, Big Horn Legacy, before beginning a series that blends science fiction and Native American belief systems. In The Warriors of Spider, which began the series in 1988, a lost colony of Native American and Hispanic descendants are "discovered" by an advanced civilization. The story continued through two subsequent books.

Gear came up with the idea for another work on a flight home from Boston after attending a professional conference there. 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 work centers on Richard Hamilton, a pretentious Harvard philosophy student whose father decides to send him West on business to teach him something about the world. Hamilton lands in trouble soon after arriving, when he is assaulted, robbed of his father's money, and sold as an indentured servant on a trade boat heading into Indian Territory.

The harsh work and harsh world Hamilton finds himself in are depicted in vivid detail, but help comes in the form of a boat passenger named Travis Hartman, a mountain man who knows several Native American languages. Hartman teaches the Bostonian about various Native American tribes and their customs, and explains that the Plains Indians, in particular, have some appalling customs. As Gear told Dale L. Walker in an interview with 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. 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."

In The Morning River, a young Shoshone woman, named Heals Like the Willow, is also being held as a slave, and her life and Hamilton's soon intersect. "Gear is a vigorous writer," stated a contributor for Publishers Weekly, and one who, "when he lets the often brutal action speak for itself … tells a gripping tale." Walker also commended the work: "Gear writes a superbly rolling prose with flair, confidence, wit, an ear for sounds and an eye for details," the Rocky Mountain News reporter wrote. Hamilton's saga continues in Coyote Summer, the sequel. He and Heals Like the Willow fall in love, battle various enemies, and begin a family. A Publishers Weekly contributor faulted its prose, but stated that Gear nevertheless produced "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 traveled from Asia across an ice bridge to North America during the Ice Age. The plot centers on 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 existed in southern Illinois between 700 A.D. and 1500 A.D. The Mississippians, as they were known, cultivated corn, knew astronomy, and disappeared before European explorers reached the area. "Fast-paced and engrossing, the novel has the ring of authenticity as well," stated a contributor to Publishers Weekly. A subsequent work, 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 on the area's ecosystem. Large animals are disappearing, portending starvation for the populace. A religious leader, Sunchaser the Dreamer, worries about these changes that he cannot explain, but a mysterious woman comes to see him, and he runs away with her. He learns answers about the fate of his own community along the way. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised the authors for "integrating a tremendous amount of natural and anthropological research into a satisfactory narrative," and called it "a vivid and fascinating portrait."

The eighth book in the series, People of the Lightning, is set in the Windover community in prehistoric Florida, a group that is not related to other Native American groups. Its Standing Hollow Horn clan is led by a tyrant, Cottonmouth, who kidnaps others from a rival clan, including a warrior woman named Musselwhite, who had killed Cottonmouth's son in a previous skirmish. Musselwhite believes her husband, Diver, has been killed, and is married off in captivity to an albino, but then she learns that Diver is alive, and she flees to find him. "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 Mist takes place inside a matrilineal society in the Chesapeake Bay region. It begins when a young woman named Red Knot is betrothed in an arranged marriage to Copper Thunder, chieftain of a neighboring clan. The match is a political alliance, negotiated in part by Red Knot's grandmother, but Red Knot 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 contributor Mary Ellen Eisbernd. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly termed it a "fluid, suspenseful mix of anthropological research and character-driven mystery" with "a solid, satisfying resolution."

The Gears' eleventh book, People of the Masks, appeared in 1998. Its story is set in long-ago New York State, where the Earth Thunderer Clan, part of the Iroquois' Turtle Nation, rejoice when a dwarf is born to a family there. According to their belief system, a dwarf has the power to perform miracles, and the child, named Rumbler, is appropriately indulged and occupies a place of high honor in Paint Rock village. Neighboring villages, however, panic when they learn of his arrival, for it will give the Earth Thunderers an advantage. As a young child, Rumbler has a premonition of his own kidnaping, which indeed proves true. A fierce warrior of a neighboring clan, Jumping Badger, takes him, but the Walksalong villagers fear the child, and attempt to kill him. Rumbler is saved from a fall off a snowy hilltop by an orphan child, Little Wren, and the two set off with Jumping Badger in pursuit. Booklist contributor Diana Tixier Herald termed People of the Masks "prehistoric epic at its finest," commending the "gripping plot, lots of action, [and] well-developed characters." A Publishers Weekly commentator offered a similar assessment, finding it "fast-paced, fluid, rich with smoothly integrated background detail and softened by a touch of romanticism that deflects the violence and brutality."

The Visitant, which Gear also wrote with wife Kathleen O'Neal Gear, switches back and forth between the past and present. Dusty Stewart, an archeologist, and Maureen Cole, an anthropologist, are looking for clues to why the Chaco Anasazi Indians disappeared in northwestern New Mexico many centuries before. They find mass graves of young women whose skulls have been smashed, and flashbacks recount the story of a drought and a tuberculosis outbreak. A serial killer seems to be preying on the young Anasazi women when a war chief, Browser, discovers his wife dead; other deaths soon follow, and Browser enlists the help of his eccentric uncle, Stone Ghost. Meanwhile, Stewart and Cole must contact the office of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act because of the mass graves discovery, and a holy woman named Hail arrives to sort out the mystery. "Readers will enjoy the wide range of characters and thick suspense," predicted Susan A. Zappia in the Library Journal. "Breathtaking descriptions evoke the harsh beauty of the desert in both winter and summer," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who also commended the Gears' "lucid, erudite historical perspectives." Herald, writing for Booklist, noted "the vividly depicted characters and settings [that] are satisfying and leave the reader hoping for more titles in this promising series."

The Summoning God fulfilled that critic's hope as the second book of the Anasazi series. The work centers upon the Katsinas People in the 1200s, and explains the mystery of the Anasazi extinction. In an afterword, the Gears caution that the Anasazis' fate may befall our civilization as well. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book a "memorable novel" and stated that while it is a book "not for the squeamish … the Gears offer unusual insight into Anasazi culture and history."

The Gears concluded their trilogy with Bone Walker, focusing on the ritual death of a white archaeologist in a Chaco Canyon kiva pit. Here, Cole ties up the clues to the ancient serial murders she uncovered in the first book of the trilogy. A Kirkus Reviews critic called Bone Walker a "so-so mystery," but commended the historical detail the writers provided.

The Gears have also penned more contemporary works focusing on the dangers of animal genetic engineering. Dark Inheritance, which appeared in 2001, centers upon a British pharmaceutical maker, Smyth-Archer Chemicals (SAC), and their attempt to create a "smart" chimpanzee. To do so, they have placed apes with scientists and their families, and the novel centers on Jim Dutton and his daughter, Brett, whose mother left when Brett was still an infant. A bonobo ape—a type of chimpanzee—has been raised alongside Brett, and the pair are as close as sisters. Umber can communicate with Brett and Jim by sign language and a hand-held computer, and Jim discovers that she can do math as well. She even asks about a higher being, which prompts Jim to grow suspicious about her origins. Meanwhile, his ex-wife, an investigative reporter, begins looking into the experiments, and believes that SAC is trying to make apes self-sufficient society members—but those that do not pass the intelligence tests may become violent. Booklist critic William Beatty called it a "lively, thought-provoking, and convincing story."

The Gears discussed Dark Inheritance on their Web site, Gear-Gear.com. "Pharmaceutical companies have been inserting sections of human DNA into chimpanzees," they wrote. "This is done because we are so closely related, to test drug protocols, to see how disease can be cured, and to monitor side effects. If an ape goes into anaphylactic shock, a human will, too. So we put more segments of human DNA into chimpanzees to make us even closer. Chimpanzees are cheaper than taking chances experimenting on humans. The question is begged: If we are already 98.8% the same, how many human genes can be inserted into these animals before they cross that thin dividing line between our species?"

The Gears have also teamed up on the non-series title, Raising Abel, about an investigation centering on worldwide serial murders of genetic scientists. A critic for Kirkus Reviews pointed out the "shrewd details and effectively spun stereotypes" in this thriller, while Mary Frances Wilkens, writing in Booklist, commented: "The Gears deliver a fascinating exploration of the frontiers of science." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described it as "a futuristic tale with a provocative spin on the human cloning theme."

The Gears returned to their "First North Americans" series with several more titles. In People of the Owl, they follow the adventures of a young warrior in Louisiana as he struggles to prevent the extinction of his clan. A Publishers Weekly contributor praised this twelfth title in the series as a "sturdy epic [that] skillfully navigates the ancient swamplands of Louisiana." Similarly, Booklist critic Brad Hooper called the book a "richly detailed trip back to prehistoric times," while Library Journal contributor Eisbernd commended the book's mix of "romance, intrigue, mayhem, and … nail-biting climax." In People of the Moon, the Gears deal with the Chaco Anasazi in "one of the best novels in the whole series," according to Hooper in Booklist. Ripple is a young warrior who sets out on a quest to destroy the repressive rulers of his clan, the First Moon People. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called this book "a lively tale of warring clans."

Gear has also added to his solo work with the 2005 title, The Athena Factor. Here Gear leaves historical fiction behind for a contemporary tale of a film star, a disgraced FBI agent, and a Saudi prince who has fantasies of bio-engineered babies. A Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed this novel "a stab at created-for-the-multiplex thrillers."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

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; June 1, 2002, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of Raising Abel, p. 1644; May 15, 2003, Brad Hooper, review of People of the Owl, p. 1619; August, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of People of the Moon, p. 1952.

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 Eisbernd, 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 Eisbernd, 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, 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. 30D.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23, 1997, Dick Richmond, "Rise and Fall of Ancient Civilization," p. 9T.

ONLINE

W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear Home Page, http://www.gear-gear.com (November 16, 2005).

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