Rathmell, George W(esley) 1931-

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RATHMELL, George W(esley) 1931-

PERSONAL: Born March 14, 1931, in Berkeley, CA; son of George H. and Grace Wagner (Muenks) Rathmell; married Margaret Montgomery, December 21, 1958 (died, 1998); partner of Janet Lee Gage, beginning August 9, 2004. Education: University of California at Berkeley, B.A., 1956; California State University at San Francisco, M.A., 1970; Sorbonne, University of Paris, Certificat de Langue Superieur. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Protestant.

ADDRESSES: Home—Box 98, Sea Ranch, CA 95497. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Oakland Unified School District, Oakland, CA, teacher of English, 1958-87; University of California Extension Department, Berkeley, instructor in education, 1967-86; Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa, CA, instructor in English, 1988-2000. Military service: U.S. Army, 1949-52, Corps of Engineers; became corporal; received Korean Service Medal, U.N. Service Medal, and National Defense Service Medal.

MEMBER: California Writers' Club, Sea Ranch Foundation.

AWARDS, HONORS: First prize, California Writers' Club short-story contest, 1996.

WRITINGS:

Bench Marks in Reading: A Guide to Reading Instruction in the Second-Language Classroom, Alemany Press (San Francisco), 1984.

Realms of Gold: The Colorful Writers of San Francisco, 1850-1950, Creative Arts Press (Berkeley, CA), 1998.

A Passport to Hell: The Mystery of Richard Realf, Authors Choice Press (San Jose, CA), 2002.

Contributor to The Californians, Gualala Arts Bulletin, Independent Coast Observer, Sea Ranch Soundings, and Coast; also author of monthly column on California history for Nob Hill Gazette.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A biographical novel on Richard Realf.

SIDELIGHTS: A teacher of writing for many years and a member of the faculty of Santa Rosa Junior College from 1988 to 2000, George W. Rathmell is also an enthusiast of the study of California history and literature. He has written numerous short stories and articles for California publications, and several in the latter category—on Bret Harte, on Frank Norris, and on California literary history in general—would serve as a springboard for his first general-interest book, Realms of Gold: The Colorful Writers of SanFrancisco, 1850-1950, published in 1998. Rathmell is also the author of a guide to reading instruction for educational professionals.

Realms of Gold chronicles San Francisco's long history of providing a favorable climate to renegades and iconoclasts of all stripes, but especially those of a literary bent, and the volume presents a wealth of anecdotes that have accumulated along the way. Together with glimpses into the life and work of Harte and Norris, Rathmell weaves in tales about Richard Henry Dana, Mark Twain, Ina Coolbrith, Ambrose Bierce, Jack London, and John Steinbeck—just a few of the stellar names in American letters who either hailed from the Bay area or lived and wrote there during a significant period in their careers. Harte was the founder of one of San Francisco's outstanding literary journals, while Twain worked as a journalist under his real name of Samuel Clemens, became familiar with the city jail's drunk tank, and adopted his nom de plume. After they had left San Francisco, Harte and Twain were made honorary members of the Bohemian Club, and Rathmell writes in detail about this exclusive lodge's long period of influence. Realms of Gold also devotes space to the post-World War II literary developments that would later give birth to the Beat Generation. A contributor to Publishers Weekly praised Rathmell for presenting "a breezy, accessible, entertaining portrait" of not just the assemblage of literary stars large and small who once called the city home, "but also a glimpse at the radically changed world that spawned them."

Of his book A Passport to Hell: The Mystery of Richard Realf, Rathmell called the work an "unconventional biography, told in the words of the people who knew the subject, those who loved him and those who despised him."

Rathmell told CA: "I was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and have lived there all my life, and over the years I have developed an interest in and a deep affection for the area's literary history. Numerous trips to France have given me an appreciation of the respect that the French accord to their writers, both past and contemporary. I hope to encourage similar respect among my fellow Californians. My work, fiction and nonfiction, has been particularly influenced by Gerald Haslam and Michelle Cliff."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Press Democrat, March 29, 1998, review of Realms of Gold: The Colorful Writers of San Francisco, 1850-1950.

Publishers Weekly, March 23, 1998, review of Realms of Gold, p. 91.

Sea Ranch Soundings, spring, 1998, review of Realms of Gold, p. 12.