Retired Hinsdale lawyer writes mystery novels
Hinsdale author Bob Wangard
Years in Hinsdale: Since 1978. His wife, Helen, grew up here.
Published books: “Hard Water Blues,” a collection of short stories; “Target and Malice,” murder mysteries with the lead character Pete Thorsen.
How he stays on task: Deadlines. Most successful writers are on a book a year schedule. He wants to have book No. 4 out by Memorial Day.
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:36AM
Robert Wangard retired from a satisfying law practice in 2006. These days, he sits in his Hinsdale home researching how bodies decay in freshwater.
Wangard is a published mystery writer. His third book, Malice, was released at the beginning of June.
“I was an international transaction lawyer,” Wangard said. “I had a wonderful career.”
Wangard worked for Ross & Hardies, “an old-line Chicago law firm.” Wangard represented European and Asian companies that were acquiring other businesses in the same industry.
“I used to travel to Europe constantly,” he said.
In 2003, when Ross & Hardies merged with a larger law firm, “I started to look forward to the next chapter of my life,” he said.
As a lawyer, he had published 25 legal articles. But they were “written in a very precise and boring fashion.” Wangard said he had to unlearn that style before he could write fiction well.
“Nobody would ever read a book written in a lawyerly fashion,” he said.
However, he also was familiar with writing less formally, in a more freewheeling advertising style, as he had overseen the law firm’s marketing department.
Before he retired, he started taking writing courses over the Internet from the Writers Online Workshops.
Wangard approaches his writing, “not as a retired person, but as a segue into a second career.” He works five or six days a week.
“I probably write five hours a day and spend another couple of hours a day researching,” he said.
People may think a fiction writer just “pulls things out of thin air. Nothing can be further from the truth.” He has researched a variety of topics, so the plot developments and the description can be detailed and accurate. For example, what happens to a body when someone drowns or seems to drown?
“I had to research locations in the books,” he said. “Or, for example, there’s a difference between a revolver and an automatic.”
“Ninety-five percent of the research I do can be done online.”
Wangard’s first novel was Target, a murder mystery set at Clear Lake, Wangard’s pseudonym for McHenry County’s own Crystal Lake.
Before he submitted it to a publisher, he wanted it critiqued by a professional.
“I usually don’t rely on someone in the family to look at my manuscript,” Wangard said. “I think that causes too much discord.”
He hired author Barbara Rogan, who had taught him advanced novel writing through the online writing workshops.
“I asked her to read it over and critique it. I thought the manuscript was in pretty good shape and I thought she kind of liked my writing style; and I paid her pretty well for her outside objective opinion,” he said.
To his surprise and dismay, Rogan “didn’t like anything about the book,” Wangard said. “Her critique ran 30 pages.”
“I was depressed for about a month.”
But as Wangard read the criticisms, he would think, “maybe she has a point there.”
Rogan complained Wangard’s plot gave away too much too soon. She knew by page 30 who committed the murder.
“I thought how did she know?” Wangard said.
He realized in trying to play fair with the readers, “I had overdid it. I tipped it off.”