McCauley, William 1937–
McCauley, William 1937–
Born September 10, 1937. Education: University of Washington, B.S. (geological oceanography), 1969, B.S. (scientific and technical communication), 1988.
Home—Auburn, WA. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, novelist, and Peace Corps volunteer. Worked for the following companies as an employee, contractor, or freelancer: Luminterra, Inc., Redmond, WA, geophysical exploration software; Consystant Design Technologies, Kirkland, WA, coordination-centric software design tools; Bazillion, Inc., Seattle, WA, VOIP startup; Microsoft, Redmond, WA, Software; Metawave Communications, Redmond, WA, wireless antennas; Claircom Communications, Seattle, WA, airborne wireless telecommunications systems; AT&T Wireless, Kirkland, WA, wireless telecommunications; Sierra Geophysics, Kirkland, WA, Geophysical exploration software; Halliburton Energy Services, Houston, TX, geophysical systems and software documentation; Fisheries Pilot Project Tombo, Freetown, Sierra Leone, fisheries development; Northern Technical Services, Anchorage, geotechnical and hazards survey reports; University of Washington, Department of Oceanography, field and lab work, report writing, 1988—; and Scripps Institute of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, geophysical field work, computer analysis, report writing.
Society for Technical Communication.
William Peden Prize/Missouri Review, for short story "Mr. Henry's Trousers."
The Turning Over (novel), Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 1998.
Need: Stories from Africa (short stories), Permanent Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Adulteries, Hot Tubs & Such Like Matters, Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 2007.
Writer William McCauley served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone, Africa, and that setting serves as a rich and evocative background for his fiction. In The Turning Over, McCauley's debut novel, protagonist Robert Kelly is a former Peace Corps worker who avoids family pressures at home by staying in Sierra Leone to work on development projects. Jaded by his experiences and juggling concurrent addictions to alcohol, pot, and sex, Kelly also carries on simultaneous affairs with his fifteen-year-old maid and with a development worker from Mali. Though Kelly's idealism has been suppressed by the debauched lifestyle he leads, he finds his shaky morals challenged by the impending turnover of an important development project to corrupt local officials. Kelly's rival, Alexander, is set to take over the fishing cooperative that Kelly has painstakingly set up, a transfer that will surely lead to rapacious exploitation of local villagers and the program's plunder by greedy government administrators. As cultural conflicts simmer, Kelly is offered leadership of another aquaculture project in a less-stable area of Africa. He takes the opportunity, but soon faces a disaster that is far beyond his control as injury and illness overtake him.
McCauley's "novel has appeal as an adventure story, a modern love affair, and a tragedy," remarked Rebecca Sturm Kelm in Library Journal. The author "should be praised for depicting some of the paranoia that comes with political instability and a slight hint of the chaos that will follow," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. Tony Zurlo, writing on the Peace Corps Writers Web site, commented favorably on McCauley's prose style, stating that the author's "straightforward, but vivid style snaps the perfect scene over and over again."
Need: Stories from Africa is a collection of nine tales that also take place in Sierra Leone. Set in the late 1980s, when the country was self-destructing under the weight of corruption and political breakdown, the stories explore the social and political turmoil that characterized daily life. Hunter, the protagonist of "Palaver," is threatened with imprisonment unless he pays a hefty bribe after he reports a crime. "Mister Henry's Trousers" evokes the bitter poverty faced every day by Sierra Leonians. In "Need," narrator Moody sells some precious gasoline to a man who claims to have a great need, and in the process becomes entwined in the man's life and sexually attracted to his British wife.
McCauley is an "accomplished scene-setter as well as chronicler of the dispiriting relations between white expats and the local Africans struggling to survive the increasing lawlessness" in Sierra Leone, noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that most of the stories are structured in terms of white males' conflicts with black Sierra Leonians, but concluded: "Despite the restricted perspective, these are evocative, nuanced, tightly written stories."
In his next short-story collection, Adulteries, Hot Tubs & Such Like Matters, the author turns his eye toward America with tales of well-to-do middle-aged suburbanites and their foibles. A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented that the author "populates his affluent, quasi-Cheeveresque world with successful professional men and women who have too much time and not enough soul." Many of the stories focus on people's sexual desires, such as the man who ponders his sexual encounters and determines that, as far as an accounting of being faithful to his wife, he is "ninety-nine and seven-tenths percent loyal." Another story finds a couple having an affair as revenge on their respective cheating spouses. The author also writes about the elderly, including the story "Edna's Mission," in which an old man who has dementia stares at the television in an isolated world all his own. In another tale, a young suburbanite gets busted for growing pot and faces a loss of his job and more. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, wrote that "each finely crafted story is like a snippet of a bigger story." Pitt went on to note that some readers may wish to know more about the characters the author develops in these interconnected stories, but that McCauley keeps the glimpses into their lives brief. Pitt noted that the author "has made the right choice in creating a suburban collage."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
McCauley, William, Adulteries, Hot Tubs & Such Like Matters, Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 2007.
Booklist, August 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Adulteries, Hot Tubs, & Such Like Matters, p. 31.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Need: Stories from Africa, p. 886; September 15, 2004, review of Need, p. 886; July 1, 2007, review of Adulteries, Hot Tubs, & Such Like Matters.
Library Journal, September 1, 1998, Rebecca Sturm Kelm, review of The Turning Over, p. 215.
Publishers Weekly, September 7, 1998, review of The Turning Over, p. 84; October 25, 2004, review of Need, p. 26; June 4, 2007, review of Adulteries, Hot Tubs & Such Like Matters, p. 27.
Seattle Times, March 11, 2005, Michael Upchurch, "Need: Stories Lovingly Summon Fragile Sierra Leone."
Elliot Bay Book Company Web site,http://www.elliottbaybook.com/ (September 3, 2005), biography of William McCauley.
Peace Corps Writers Web site,http://www.peacecorpswriters.org/ (September 3, 2005), Tony Zurlo, review of The Turning Over.
William McCauley Home Page, http://williammccauley.com (June 5, 2008).