Michael Wallis

Poet of Prolific Provenance

 by

 Jake Cornwell

            Michael Wallis knows America: from oil barons who watch coffee colored providence spew from the earth.  To well-groomed outlaws who scatter coins at the feet of innocent children in the heat of a Depression.  And on to ardent patriots who forge west in the name of progress, but toil over the assimilation of a people.  Wallis talks to these ghosts in daylight séance.  Roads pulse with new heartbeat.  Mesas, both of geography and humanity, intrigue the writer as much as the reader.  Sacred grounds of tribal lands, graves of bank robbing bandits, and ranches of Wild West memory live in full color.  He touches them with the heart of a poet and the mind of a statistician.  Michael is neither zealous nor humble; he is passionate.  The back of a crinkled envelope reveals a map that leads the way: "Stop here.  Turn there.  Zig left.  Zag right."  He motors his vehicle to the clandestine confines of a "Bootlegger's hollow."  Atop a hill, an old Airstream travel trailer glistens in abandon.  Michael raises his eyebrow as he surveys the land and wonders what lies ahead.  Finally, he steps out of his four-wheeled fortress.  He draws in a breath and smells the Illinois River nearby.  In a graveled voice he yells out: "Mr. Janaway.  Carl Janaway." 

            Michael Wallis is America.  In his Tulsa-based studio he surrounds himself with historical inspiration of gone-by days.  A double-headed axe guards the front door from anyone daring to interrupt the writing process.  Michael points to the severely splintered handle circled with half-century old tape and says, "This axe once belonged to D. H. Lawrence when he lived in Taos, New Mexico and is embedded with his DNA."  A typewriter (similar to the model that aided Wallis as a blossoming journalist) sits below a black and white photograph of Michael interviewing Andy Warhol.  Behind a large monitor, a trio of coonskin caps affirms his childhood and his accomplishments.  Michael Wallis is hot off of a book tour promoting two new books, David Crockett: The Lion of the West, and The Wild West: 365 Days.  In tandem with his new releases,  Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd, has gone back to press.  So what's next for the best selling, 3-time Pulitzer nominated historian?  "I'm going through the process of making a selection for my next book, which will be my 18th," he says, "There are, there have been, and still are many candidates.  Although, I've whittled the list down pretty tight." 

            Wallis sits in his computer chair and clasps his hands.  Occasionally rocking, he comments on the intricacies of his creative process in the voice of a grizzled old cowhand.  He cocks his head and cants a pointed brow.  With the prick of his words, he bursts the balloon of the "writing being easy" myth.  People often ask him if authoring multiple books gets any easier and he replies, "It's just the opposite.  [Writing] never gets easier.  In fact, it gets more difficult because you're always trying to best yourself."  Adamantly, he says, "Anyone who tells you that, 'Oh, I just love writing.  It just flows out of me and I love it, and it's so easy and I've got it down,' is either a fool or a liar." 

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