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Bill Wilburn

Writing Experience

After graduating from college, I worked as a reporter for several years. I left my last stint in journalism as Associated Press Writer to begin a career as a lawyer. In my legal career, I wrote articles for numerous law reviews and law journals. I also freelanced op-ed pieces for The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Times Herald, the Baltimore Sun, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.



My first novel, First Comes Winter, is an historical romance that examines how Americans from diverse backgrounds can and do transform ingrained racial prejudice into moral conscience.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Bob Moore from Alabama enlists in the Navy to train as a pilot. His roommate Sam Schwarz is from a prominent Jewish family in Baltimore. When Sam, a man of deep moral conviction, is killed in training, Bob is shattered. At the funeral, Bob meets Sam's sister Rachel. Tentatively at first, and at long-distance, they grow closer.

War overseas and race riots at home force Bob and Rachel to doubt their inherited prejudices and hypocrisies. Bob survives harrowing aerial combat, only to question the country's war aims. During this time, Rachel's job as a social worker in Chicago caring for Black people arriving from the South forces an examination of her ingrained racial assumptions.

First Comes Winter shows that racial prejudice can transform to moral conscience. Not through preachy epiphanies, but through incremental choices that everyday people make.

My father, a World War II veteran, was a career Navy pilot. I grew up on or near six naval air stations. Like many veterans, my father rarely talked about combat, death, or what it meant to fight in and survive the war. This 75,000-word novel is also my way to honor his service and legions of others like him, to give voice to what they may have shared, their wisdom and anguish. 

Rock Island, my second novel, draws on my experience as a brakeman on the Rock Island and B&O Railroads, where I worked in my college years. I have long wanted to share with fiction readers the universal story of an individual's quest for identity, told through the imagery of a train and its unknown cargo. Such images include locomotives that struggle to pull over a hundred cars uphill; a train reaching its station on time...or derailing; a brakeman lost in a midnight fog, his only guide a hand lantern, as he searches for the right track.

In the mid-1960s, a drug deal goes wrong, ensnaring Ivy League freshman Stiles Ridgely Crowninshield IV. He is arrested, jailed, and faces prosecution. When he discovers a death threat message from underworld hoodlums, he fears for his life and enters the federal witness protection program. Wrenched from his entitled life and given a new name and identity, he must remake himself as a railroad brakeman in Fort Worth, Texas. In his first days, he befriends blue collar crewmen and, deep in rail yards, repeatedly skirts danger and death. He soon falls for Adriane Rodriguez, a mysterious young woman who cares for a young girl. Both are hiding secrets from their past--can they deepen their love if they are not completely honest with one another? A novel about daring to trust, Rock Island runs to 75,000 words.

Short Stories

Shiphrah is a 5,000 word short story that shows how people shed false emotional dependency to find inner strength that was present all along.

Ever since Sammy Brumbaugh contracted polio as a young boy in Baltimore in the late 1940s, he has worn leg braces. Despite doctors' advice and his parents' nagging that he has outgrown them, he continues to use them. At twelve years of age, he leaves for summer camp. There, thanks to the wizened stable keeper Fauntroy, he learns to ride Shiphrah, or "Shiffy," a barren mare. Except when mounted atop Shiffy, Sammy insists on wearing his braces.


On the last night at camp, Sammy returns to the stable to say farewell to Shiffy, who is lame from a recent leg injury. Suddenly, a lantern falls and flames engulf the stable. In the inferno's chaos, Sammy must confront his false reliance on his leg braces.

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