Former North Little Rock resident Wade Rivers returned to town Saturday for a book signing at the Books-a-Million Store. “Y” City was Rivers first novel about a crime and a small town that erupted into chaos as a result. A year ago an offer was made to have it made into a movie but the deal fell through. Rivers hopes that the right offer will come along and get the story made into a movie and filmed here.
He now resides in Pencil Bluff, a place he calls a writer’s haven on the Ouachita River.
Rivers signed copies of “Y” City along with his two latest books. Thrillervision is a collection of stories and two suspense novels which both take place here in Arkansas. He wrote them because of his fond memories as a youth going to the Park Hill Theater and watching matinees as a kid.
“When I was young a group of us would go to the ole Park Hill Theater and watch a series of great thrillers in the afternoon. In between the feature movies there would be “shorts”, sometimes they were cartoons or episodes like the Green Hornet. We more than got our monies’ worth in those great matinees.”
Rivers added, “Thrillervision is like that, it starts out with a young college student at the University of Arkansas that starts receiving mysterious text from an anonymous source. What begins as just curiosity turns into a spine tingling thriller. The second feature novel is actually about a newspaper editor from North Little Rock who leaves the city with his daughter to escape and enjoy some rest and relation on the Ouachita River. As it turns out, his escape becomes a nightmare when he runs into the Yomen.”
Rivers said he credits his writing to his mother who used to work at the Laman Library. She was head of the children’s department and brought him hundreds of books to read.
“I was a mischievous child and I was forced to read four to five books a week. Having a tremendous curiosity and flair for adventure I read primarily mysteries. My mother was adamant about my reading and many years later writing came to me as a result.
Rivers added, “Writing today is an obsession, it is something I start every morning at 4 a.m. and the first three hours of the day are dedicated to it. My biggest dream however, is to have all my works made into movies filmed here in Arkansas or have some of them turned into a television series. My mother, though, does deserve the credit because not only did she encourage me to develop a love for writing, she taught me to follow through with whatever I am working on. The inspiration is just the start, dedication and discipline is what gets it done.”
The third book by Rivers is called The Trisix Colony and all that he will say about it is that it is well ahead of its time. It was started many years ago as a result of research he was doing. He said that it is an updated version of the classic “1984”.
Rivers said growing up in North Little Rock had an impact on his writing.
“ Generally life was grand when I was growing up, not perfect but it was an ideal time for us in North Little Rock. I moved there Labor Day weekend 1958 and met my best and lifelong friend Robert Hill on the first day. Robert works at CBS in New York and is also a very accomplished musician.”
Rivers said he remembers experiencing total freedom as a kid.
“We rode our bikes everywhere. My family lived on Olive Street in Park Hill and it was a daily trek going down to the lakes in Lakewood where we fished and swam virtually all day during those hot muggy Arkansas summer months. It was a contest of sorts to swim across the lake and I know that on several occasions I nearly drowned when an asthma attack came on. Robert and I were sort of like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I remember him telling me how I wasn’t going to drowned; I was going to die of snakebite. Sure enough a swarm of moccasins were swimming our way. Long story short, I discovered I could swim fast when I had to.”
Rivers said he went to Park Hill Elementary and still have the scars to prove it.
“We played football on the hardest ground on earth. My knees and elbows bear the evidence of this. It was our daily objective to try to hit a ‘homer’ over the top of the school so we could run down JFK Boulevard after it. I never hit a home run over the building being that I was so small, generally the smallest kid in class until I was in 5th grade when finally a girl was shorter than I was. I remember that I stood next to her in line every chance I could just to show the others that I was actually advancing in life, at least in height.”
Back in those days, there weren’t what youths called allowances, according to Rivers.
“We were given a lawnmower and a can of gas. That was a privilege I might add, there was an old push mower in the garage as a reminder of the harder days. I’d earn $1.50 and sometimes $2 to mow a yard. Occasionally I’d get a $5, which made me ponder early retirement. A little money though went a long ways back then. We’d go up to the Park Hill Theater and get in for 25 cents. A coke was 10 cents and candy bars were five, so a sugar high was relatively cheap and certainly worth the hour or two it took to mow a yard. Winter times were tough as I recall since there was no lawn mowing to be had, ergo we reverted to more enterprising ways to get quick cash, primarily cashing in empty coke bottles for 2 cents a pop.”
Rivers said there were two filling stations on the corner of JFK and “D” Street where he used to fill his tires up and get a cold soda.
“Next to the coke machine they stacked crates of empty bottles, which to me was like laying around a bunch of extra cash. Every now and then a crate or two would disappear. It was a short trek from the filling station to what use to be the old Black and White grocery store. They often told my mother at the store that I was the most industrious kid in the neighborhood. Boy, was she proud, but little did she know the depths of my schemes.”
Rivers added, “My dear sweet mother never could figure out how it was that I always seemed to have so much money. She used to say that I would someday be a money manager, well close, I did become an investment banker — an honest one I might add.”
Later in life, Rivers did go to college and was involved in lobbying and other interests.
“I got back into writing though more out of necessity than anything else. I have gone through a few difficult times in life and writing was an escape just as reading is an escape. I don’t know what the requirements are for being a writer but if it is an active imagination, I have that. I do consider myself fortunate that I have been blessed with many life experiences and was able to grow up in an age where kids could enjoy unlimited adventure. My life as a child in North Little Rock was rich in that regard for which I am grateful and blessed for it.”