September 16, 1951-September 6, 2021.
Michael was born in Bakersfield, California in September 1951. He cultivated dreams of a writing career from age seven, producing small “books” illustrated with photos and original drawings, given or sold for a pittance to classmates. On the practical side, he earned a B.A. in History and Political Science, with a teaching minor in English, pursuing sundry jobs in public education in California (1973-76) and later in Nevada (1979-86).
Nearly by accident, Michael advanced his writing dream in 1976, penning a fan letter to the author of his favorite action/adventure novels, the best-selling “Executioner” series. He had forgotten that whimsical letter two months later, when series author Don Pendleton phoned from his home in Indiana, inviting Michael to contribute a substantial chapter to his latest work, The Executioner’s War Book. That entry became Michael’s first professional publication and earned him an invitation—with colleague Stephen Mertz, author of many books under sundry pen names—to work with Pendleton in Indiana. There ensued a priceless eight-month apprenticeship, during which Michael also cultivated a love for the verdant hills of Brown County. After that partnership dissolved in August 1977, Michael published eleven books under his own and various pen names. In 1980 he received a startling letter from Harlequin Books, thanking him for his interest in their new Gold Eagle action/adventure imprint, poised to revive and vastly expand the briefly moribund Executioner series. Divining that Don Pendleton had placed his name “in the hat,” Michael auditioned for the team and won a spot as one of four. By the time Don passed away in 1995, Michael had penned fifty series episodes. He went on to publish a total of 136.
Michael met his best friend and soul mate, Heather in 2000, and they married at Fort Augustus, Scotland, on the shore of Loch Ness, in 2003.
Diagnosed with an untreatable hereditary kidney disease in 1988, Michael lived normally until declining health forced him into home dialysis in 2013. From there, he gained a new appreciation of two favorite singers: Mick Jagger (“What a drag it is getting old”) and Jim Morrison (“No one here gets out alive”).
As of 2021 Mike had published 357 books (a tribute to the .357 Magnum pistols, perhaps?) which included 258 novels and 99 nonfiction books. He also published 91 nonfiction articles, and 58 shorter pieces, including chapters in several best-selling true-crime anthologies. In 2017 Michael received the Lifetime Achievement Peacemaker Award from Western Fictioneers, honoring his publication of 62 western novels.
If any form of consciousness remains, he said he’d miss Heather, their cats, writing and reading. In lieu of flowers, Mike would love a PayPal donation to go to his favorite cat charity, Mara’s Heaven, an amazing nonprofit in Romania, run by Ada Constantinescu. (PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org) Check out her FB page and you’ll see the amazing work she does.
C’est la vie, and adios y’all.