Sunday, July 10, 2011

RIP: Author Allan W. Eckert Has Died

Allan W. Eckert has died of prostate cancer at age 80.  He was diagnosed with cancer many years ago, and back in 2004, he told me that he had beaten it--at least that time--with positive affirmations.

Eckert was a positive thinker and a very prolific and versatile author.  His 40+ books ranged from crime novels such as The Scarlet Mansion, to YA novels such as Bluejacket and Incident at Hawk's Hill, and to historical narratives such as The Frontiersman, which was a biography of Simon Kenton.

Besides being a novelist and playwright, Eckert wrote almost all of the scripts for television's Wild Kingdom.  Back then, he lived in Everglades, Florida, and he would sometimes go up the coast to lunch with the writer's club in Sarasota on Siesta Key.  Members of that group included crime novel authors John D. MacDonald and Charles Willeford, MacKinlay Kantor, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Andersonville, and several others.  Eckert told me that he, Peter Matthiessen, and Randy Wayne White were the junior members of the group, and that due to his workload, he could only rarely attend.

Eckert's work won many awards and he was seven times nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  I've always thought that he deserved it, even though I questioned some of his historical sources over the years.

I called him at his home in Everglades, Florida, decades ago now, to ask him where he had found "The Journal of William Grills," one of the many sources he cited (and quoted) in The Frontiersmen.  He didn't remember, but he was very gracious to this upstart critic from out of nowhere.

I was persistent and engaged many reference librarians across the country, but no one has been able to locate that source.  Eckert tried to find it again too, and occasionally he sent me notes, recalling places that he had done his research for that book, suggesting additional places to look.  I was then engaged in Native American historical and genealogical research, and Eckert, going through his voluminous papers, sent me some three hundred letters he had received from scholars and readers over time, touching on relevant items.  I still have them all, as well as our correspondence.

Allan W. Eckert was a prolific author with a strong work ethic and he never stopped researching and writing.  I'm looking forward to his new book, which will be out later this year, and his publisher at the Jesse Stuart Foundation says that there will be yet another one coming later.  The grace of the man will live on in his books.

My wife and I send our condolences to Joan, his widow, whom we met several years ago at the Kentucky Book Fair.


  1. The Jesse Stuart Foundation has a special pre-order going on for Allan W. Eckert's most recent book "The Infinite Dream". This 688 page, hardcover edition has a tribute page, "Memorial Edition" on the book jacket and a signed bookplate that reads "Best Wishes, Allan W. Eckert". These are limited to 500 copies - sure to be a collectors edition!

  2. I never had the privilege to meet Mr. Eckert but I did have the privilege of talking to him once around 2001 over the phone. I found out where he lived and took a gamble of getting in touch with him by calling 411 and asking for his number. Turns out that his number was public and he answered on the first call which took me off guard.

    I asked if he had any plans for any book signing events and he said no. However, he was gracious enough to help me out with obtaining his autography on a number of books.

    I remember asking him what he was working on at the time as I had at the time purchased "That Long And Bloody River" as I remember. He told me he was working on a book on the Alamo.

    Not long after the call, I became caught up in a number on events in my life that took my concentration off reading for a while and a few years I remembered my phone conversation with him. I checked to see if his work on the Alamo had been published. It hadn't. So from time to time I kept checking.

    Perhaps the Alamo will remain an unfinished work or maybe someone who knew his thinking well will complete it.

    Whatever his last publications are, I will be there to purchased them. He was one superb writer and such the historian.

    Thanks Mr. Eckert for all you life time works.


  3. I just learned of the passing of Alan Eckert today with great sorrow. I had spoken with him 6 years or so ago and bid him Godspeed. From receiving "The Frontiersman" as an Outdoor Life book club book as a wee lad in Stow Ohio to the present day, no one has influenced my Life as much as his opening my Heart to those who walked that land before me. Each year as we plowed we found artifacts and the Spirit of the Native Americans were strong as I walked the woods and thought of Tecumseh! I too would love to see Alamo (I live in Texas now) and more of his works reach a greater audience. "Ni Neewah" was inscribed in Laura's ring upon our marriage. Thank you Dear Alan.... Grandfather. Until we meet again