Hello, I’m Nick Cole and I write books about the end of the world. Or at least, the end of the world as we know it. Worlds end all the time. Elementary school leads, eventually, to college, and each time we advance in our world, the one we’ve lived in for a few years and think we know so well, it ends. Chaos. Change. And then, like Columbus, we arrive in a new world and meet new people. The new world becomes our world. We readers know this. Worlds end and begin all the time, each time we pick up a book.
This is where I work as a writer. I work in the in-between worlds. Between the dying old and the savage new. A while back when I’d gotten out of the Army, I was doing the whole drunken ex-soldier thing when I broke my arm and found myself reading a book a day beside a community pool, trying to figure myself out. I felt beaten by life. But the real question was: was I actually beaten? Then I found a second-hand copy of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I read it and realized the truth of the book. You’re not beaten until you decide you’re beaten. That is, until you give up. Then you’re beaten. I respected Hemingway’s quiet fisherman, Santiago. His lonely journey and epic struggle to prove only to himself that he still had value, that he could still make a contribution. That resonated with me. After that, I made a point of reading The Old Man and the Sea once a year over the course of a single day. It’s a short book. I usually read it in the bathtub.
In the meantimeI kept on writing. I’ve always written and studied, formally and informally, the art and the craft of writing. I read Heller and Vonnegut, Chandler and Izzo, Paco Igancio Taibo and Perez-Reverte. I love mysteries and dark humor, Golden Age pulp and Hard Science Fiction. One of my first revelations as a writer came when I began to understand voice. As I started to read and re-read these authors, I began to hear their voices and study them. I heard Vonnegut’s melancholy joke. Heller’s bewilderment. Chandler’s lyric metaphor. Hemingway’s truth. Cormac McCarthy’s depthless simplicity.
It was in the last two where I found the crossroads that began the jumping off point for a story I would call The Old Man and the Wasteland. I’d kept on writing, and wrote a few other manuscripts including one about an old man living in a village of salvagers forty years after a nuclear war. I took a chance and published on Amazon and the other indie sites. I was surprised, completely, when The Old Man and the Wasteland found an audience on Kindle Amazon. It was just an experiment and I wanted to see how it would work out. The first month I sold 8 copies. I was thrilled. Out there in the world were eight people who’d been interested enough in my book description to actually part with .99 cents and take a chance.
Then, beyond expectation, I got a good review. Reading it, I felt that the reader was extending me a kindness maybe I didn’t deserve. Maybe she was just being nice and didn’t want to savage me on my first novel. I’ll never know. But I am still grateful for her kind words and encouragement. Other reviews followed. And sales. Often times I’m truly humbled by what people have to say about the Old Man. He became a friend to many of them. They wrote kind words about rooting for him, knowing exactly how he felt when everything seemed against him, being right there, in the wasteland with him, when he triumphed in some small way. When he didn’t give up. The readers were just like his friend, Santiago, Hemingway’s Old Man was, right there with my Old Man. Every day I would call my Dad and tell him the numbers. At the end of his life it became a thing we enjoyed talking about together. He loved business. I love writing. When he died this year, I asked myself, “who will I tell the numbers to now?”
Eventually my agent Jeff Gerecke landed a nice deal with HarperCollins’s imprint, HarperVoyager. Lead by Diana Gill, they asked for two more Wasteland stories regarding the further adventures of the Old Man. Ironically, many readers thought he’d died in the first book. I agreed to a contract and wrote The Savage Boy and The Road is a River.
The Savage Boy is an interlude in the story of the Old Man. I think of it as Jack London meets the End of the World. I can say this about the book: I honestly felt bad about what I’d done to all the characters in it. They deserved far better than what they got. It’s a heartbreaking tale and many readers have told me so. They liked it. But it is sad. Vonnegut said that we should do everything rotten that we can to our characters and when we’ve run out of things to do, that’s the end of the novel. I tried not to totally do that, I tried to help them. There are beautiful moments of happiness and love. But it’s Romeo and Juliet after the world ends. So, yeah, in the end, after I’d done everything rotten to them, I’d reached the end of the book.
The Road is a River returns to the story of the Old Man and his last adventure in the Wasteland. This time he takes his granddaughter on a journey to rescue some survivors trapped in a bunker. He meets the Boy from The Savage Boy, journeys through a nuked Vegas and crosses a country of crazy savages and a mad fool bent on the nonsense of utopia all the while avoiding the army of a post-apocalyptic warlord known only as King Charlie. I think of it as a post-apocalyptic King Lear.
So who am I? I’m a writer. I’ve always written. Even when no one was looking. I got noticed during the initial blush of the indie revolution and the folks at HarperCollins have been kind enough to indulge me and ask that I make more stories for people. I’m honored. I’m married to an Operatic Soprano with a nice career. I write in hotel lobbies. I don’t soldier anymore, but if my country needed me, I would. Worlds end all the time. I’m a writer now. And worlds begin all the time.
The complete trilogy of The Old Man and the Wasteland, The Savage Boy and The Road is a River is available to pre-order now as one complete set, in both eBook and paperback.