When I was young, my father was in the Air Force, and as is the way of the military, he was frequently transferred, so I’ve lived in quite a few of our united states. Eventually we settled permanently in Southern California, and in time I graduated from the University of California with degrees in history and political science. In college I toyed with youthful notions of becoming a racecar driver, a karate instructor, or a writer. So, one out of three ain’t bad.

Larry BjornsonCurrently I do marketing for a yacht dealer in Newport Beach, California. I don’t (and couldn’t) own a yacht, but I do get to travel on other peoples’ yachts fairly often. Since it can cost around $4,500 to just to fill the tank of a 62’ yacht, it’s not such a bad deal to be a mere passenger.

My family has owned a farm in North Dakota for three generations.

Around the time period of my novel Wide Open, my great grandparents immigrated to Canada after their farm in Iceland was buried in ash by one of that island’s periodic volcanic eruptions. No sooner were they settled in Manitoba than a diphtheria epidemic swept through the area and killed all four of their children. Unwilling to stay in such a sad place, and now alone, they moved to North Dakota. Here their luck changed dramatically. They had four more children, among, them my grandfather, all of whom survived to old age. My grandfather bought our current farm during World War II while my father was overseas. There are definitely echoes of this family history in Wide Open.

My grandfather met and married my grandmother in Cody, Wyoming, a town founded by Buffalo Bill Cody. On one occasion, grandfather, who was a member of the town’s band, played a violin solo for Buffalo Bill. And, of course, Buffalo Bill was a close friend of Wild Bill Hickok, a prominent character in Wide Open.

Although my father loved visits to his North Dakota hometown, his engineering career demanded he go elsewhere for employment. He specialized in aeronautics and worked on the original NASA manned space capsules (Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo), the moon-landing project, and the recently retired space shuttle. His life took him far from his prairie birthplace, but he always kept his Mid-West values and outlook on life.

My mother was a small town girl from Tennessee who ended up in Washington D.C. during World War II. She was working as a payroll clerk at an army base, and shortly after the war had ended, my father came in to resolve a paycheck issue. The rest is history. Within a few years, I came along, and a few years later my brother arrived.

The most important factor in forming my impulse to write was my parents’ love of reading and history. In recent years, I wrote a number of self-published books that were a valuable training ground for Wide Open and its acceptance by Penguin.

Wide Open required an extraordinary amount of research (my notes folders stand two and a half feet tall when stacked), but I think it may be one of the most accurate pictures of day-to-day life in a Kansas cattle town that you’re likely to read. To say the least, they don’t make towns like 1871 Abilene anymore, and that’s what fascinated me about it.

Me back in my town-taming lawman years