Bio -- Peter Heck

I was born and raised in Maryland, in a little town called Chestertown -- called "the Athens of the Eastern Shore" by H.L. Mencken It's still a small town, though it's a lot different from when I was growing up: Ben Heller's butcher shop, where they used to keep chickens in cages out back, now sells antiques; Cooper's hardware, which used to sell guns and ammo to goose hunters, sells oriental rugs. Tourist busses stop and gape at my father's law office, where my brother Sam now has his own practice. I suppose it's the only way a little town can survive these days, but I find it incongruously amusing. Then again, I find a lot of things amusing.

After I graduated from Chestertown High School, I earned degrees from Harvard and Johns Hopkins, then did advanced grad work at Indiana. The plan was to be an English professor, and I taught at several universities, including Indiana, Temple, and Dowling College before realizing I wasn't going to finish the Ph.D. (The uncompleted dissertation was on Keats's medievalism, which I interpreted as an early attempt at historic fantasy.) That led to a period of what you might charitably call diversification. I managed an air freight office in New York and a musical instrument store on Long Island before I decided to see if I could use some of my education. That started me on the road to becoming a writer and editor -- at which precarious trades I've made a sort of living for some twenty years.

That was an obvious direction for me. I'd been a voracious reader ever since I discovered the likes of Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance, and Carl Barks's "Uncle $crooge" comics. My first real writing credits (other than a letter to Mad) were as a book reviewer for Long Island Newsday. (Since then, I've reviewed for Kirkus, The Washington Post, and Asimov's Science Fiction. For over ten years I was writer/editor of Waldenbooks' SF/fantasy and mystery newsletters, Xignals, Crime Times, and Hailing Frequencies. That was fun -- interviewing authors, blurbing new books, and writing entertainment features. Later, I worked as a full-time science fiction editor at Ace Books. I learned a lot about writing there, working with some incredibly talented people, and at last it made me decide it was time to try my own hand at fiction.

So when I left Ace, I began writing a series of mysteries featuring Mark Twain as a detective. My first novel, Death on the Mississippi, was published by Berkley in 1995. The sequels, A Connecticut Yankee in Criminal Court, appeared in 1996 and The Prince and the Prosecutor in 1997, and there's more to come. Maybe I've found my career at last! In any case, it's a great kick writing about Twain and his times, and a great excuse to read more of one of my favorite writers.

My other great love is music. Until recently, I played lead guitar and sang in the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players, a blues/rock/country/folk group; you can hear me on their first CD, TKB. I also play blues piano and old-time banjo, although I'm a bit out of practice on those. My son Dan is an established jazz guitarist in Naples Florida, after paying his dues in New York and Seattle, where he was a founding member of Bebop and Destruction. Needless to say, I'm inordinately proud of him.

In early 1996, I moved back to Chestertown, along with my wife Jane Jewell, well-known photographer (she took the pictures of me on these pages) and writer who took a job at the computer center at Washington College. We were accompanied by our two cats, Sam and Dook, as well as far more books than any sane person ought to try to move, and several guitars.

Some 15 years later, we're still here. Sam and Dook are no longer with us, but Teddy and Riley have taken their places. Jane worked for several years as executive director of SFWA. I am now working for my local newspaper, a job that keeps my writing skills sharp and gives me lots of material for when I get back to writing fiction (one of these days). It's a very relaxed lifestyle, and we get to see our New York friends at conventions all over the country. I guess you can go home again -- as long as you don't mind the tourists.