Historian, author and speaker
Those who know Michael Wallis would agree he is a gifted storyteller, a painstaking researcher and a true gentleman. He has penned 18 books on people and topics from Billy the Kid to Wilma Mankiller to Route 66.
As usual, TulsaPeople found him hard at work — on two new works of historical nonfiction set for publication in late 2016 or 2017.
Tell us about your books in progress. “The Way West: The Tragic Story of the Donner Party”* tells the story of the arrogance and foibles of Manifest Destiny as told through the eyes of the Donner Party, the foot soldiers of America’s Westward expansion whose experiences have never been fully and accurately presented. W.W. Norton will publish it.
“Los Luceros: The Morning Star of New Mexico”* chronicles the colorful history and legacy of Los Luceros (“The Morning Stars”), a truly extraordinary historic site on the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico. I was commissioned to write this book by the State of New Mexico, and the Museum of New Mexico Press is publishing it.
* Tentative, working titles
If you had to pick one genre to read for the rest of your life, what would it be? That’s an easy question to answer. My primary genre of choice is nonfiction (history and biography).
Describe the plot of your favorite book without spoiling it for the rest of us. This book begins in a mid-19th century village perched on the banks of the Mississippi River. The main character (clue: whose name is in the book’s title) is a likable young rascal who serves as the narrator sharing his story of an adventure-filled journey down the big river and the host of colorful and memorable characters and misfits he encounters along the way.
In the telling of his odyssey, the youngster exposes the notion of race and identity. Although it was written long ago, the book remains a timeless classic. It is as relevant today as it was when it first appeared.
This is a provocative book that has always generated much controversy. It has been banished from many school libraries and remains one of the most banned books in American history.
Yet it is also considered to be the first genuine American novel. Certainly Ernest Hemingway thought so. He declared that this is the one book from which all modern literature came.
“There was nothing before, there has been nothing as good since,” Hemingway wrote.
I agree. (The book is “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.)
Your other favorite books of all time: “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Lonesome Dove,” “A Confederacy of Dunces,” “Lolita,” “The Old Man And The Sea,” “In Cold Blood,” “A Moveable Feast,” “Desert Solitaire.”
If you could pick someone to write the story of your life, who would it be? Hands down, the best and most qualified person to write the story of my life is my own life partner, Suzanne Fitzgerald Wallis.