About Richard Nisley
My dad is to blame.
He was an aerospace engineer who loved all things mechanical--boats, airplanes, and especially cars. He didn't take us to ballgames; he took us to car shows and automobile races. He didn't read books. He read periodicals about yachting, light planes, and cars. Alas, he subscribed to five car magazines, little realizing how it would shape my life. My dreams and my employment would revolve around cars. Eventually it would include my dad's second vital interest--history.
I was the youngest of five boys. We lived in a spacious California ranch house with a three-car garage that doubled as an auto repair shop. No other family had a father who spent weekends tinkering on cars rather than working in the yard. My brothers' friends would come over to see cars in various states of overhaul, including a custom sports car my brother John was building, and a 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe that my brother Rob was retooling into a hot rod. Both the sports car and the Deuce Coupe were powered by souped up Oldsmobile V8 engines with more horsepower than either car could reasonably handle. The rest of us boys--David, Charles, and me--would help with cleaning parts. In the third stall was a 1925 Wills St. Claire in original condition. The engine, however, was in pieces. It was a project my Dad never got around to finishing. He drove an English Morris Minor and dreamed of owning a Porsche 356 Coupe, something he couldn't afford on a mid-level management pay with five kids to feed and clothe.
By the time I was 12-years-old, the family dynamic changed. John went off to college. Rob completed his Deuce Coupe and moved out, and David quit school to join the navy. Work ran out at General Electric where my Dad was employed as a jet-engine design engineer. They offered him a temporary assignment in Philadelphia, which he accepted. It meant that he was away for two years. Thus, our family of seven was down to three--my mom, Charles, and I. It wasn't long and Charles joined the Navy and we were a family of two.
I began to dream of building my own car. Behind our house were enough spare parts to get started. For thirty dollars I purchased the chassis and body of a '32 Ford pickup, and for ten dollars bought a Ford flathead V8 engine. I had everything I needed, and was in the process of putting my dream hot rod together when my dad returned from Philadelphia. We moved to a small house which meant my hot rod project was put on hold indefinitely. My unfinished hot rod and John's unfinished sports car languished in a field where over a two-year period both disappeared piece-by-piece.
After I turned 16, my dad passed away suddenly. Two years later I went to work part-time in a filling station and never stopped working until after my first son was born, 25 years later.
I put myself through college. I was never a great student, unless the professor was particularly inspiring. The turning point was journalism. Thank goodness I learned to type in high school. Despite working 30 hours a week off campus, I joined the college newspaper, moved up from reporter to page editor to editor-in-chief. I loved the entire process: writing, editing, and layout. I also did one semester writing for the college magazine for which I won a writing award.
I should have pursued a writing career. Instead I pursued a career with the Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. I started as a tire buster while attending college. After graduation, I moved to sales and then was promoted to a staff position at Firestone's retail headquarters in Los Angeles. Eventually I accepted a promotion that moved me to corporate headquarters in Akron, Ohio. Before retiring early, I managed the Consumer Affairs Department. Along the way I met the love of my life, Cindy. She encouraged me to listen to classical music, took me to art museums and plays (mostly Shakespeare), and got me interested in architecture and economics. When we moved to the northeast, we began visiting historical sites, such as Mount Vernon and Gettysburg. We have two children, Scott and Bill.
When Cindy was carrying Scott, I wrote the first draft of a novel entitled "The Ragged Edge." It was the fulfillment of a dream I'd had since high school--writing a novel that accurately portrayed F1 motor racing. Having failed to interest a traditional publisher, I turned to an electronic publisher with access to printing and public distribution. It set me back $400 but made the book available to the public through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. The book got rave reviews from enthusiasts, but was ignored by the larger public. A couple years later, a small publisher asked me to edit an anthology of motor racing fiction entitled, "If Hemingway Had Written a Racing Novel." While compiling the book I interviewed a number of 'name' writers who like me had tried their hand at motor racing fiction. None had earned a dime. The genre doesn't sell.
I began writing articles on a free-lance basis for various car and motor racing magazines. I wanted to write another novel but in a genre that stood a better chance of achieving success. After visiting Jefferson's Virginia home at Monticello, I began reading books about the Founding Fathers. I was drawn to George Washington because historians have trouble fleshing out his character, and to Alexander Hamilton because of his fiscal sleight-of-hand that transformed the Revolutionary War debt from economic liability to economic miracle.
I wanted to write a novel that revealed Washington as a three-dimensional character and to show how Hamilton's economic policies actually worked, and to show why, without free enterprise, democracy is impossible. After writing four chapters, I realized fiction was the wrong approach. I attempted traditional narrative history and realized I was merely rehashing what historians had been writing for 200 years. I felt frustrated. I had a story to tell--a unique story that was my own--and didn't know how to tell it.
I had to tell somebody, though, and that somebody was my four brothers. Thank goodness for email--that was my medium. I told the story in increments, in emails of 100 to 200 words. Each email was a challenge: how to grab their attention within the first three-or-four words, and to keep it to the end. Such an approach punched up my writing style and differentiated it from the careful prose of historians and academics. If I had learned nothing else reading early American history and biographies, I learned that even the best of writers, however objective they claim to be, have definite opinions and rely heavily on historical documents that support their opinions. In turn, they downplay or ignore historical documents that refute their opinions. Read any biography of Jefferson or Hamilton and you'll see what I mean. You can't like one without disliking the other. Indeed, it's the writer's point of view that makes his book worthwhile. As I wrote, I didn't worry too much about whether or not I was favoring one Founder over another. I set out to tell a story, and to tell it as I saw it, after having read or researched over 60 books and countless letters and historical documents.
After 18-months, I had a solid first-draft. With some tweaking, I worked the emails into 25 chapters. Filling in the gaps, I finished with 32 chapters. Borrowing a quote from James Madison, I titled it: "If Men Were Angels: George Washington and the First Congress of the United States."
Using my 'email voice' I began writing emails about a variety of subjects--music, economics, world history, architecture, and motor racing. Sometimes, I would read a book and write a summary that reflected a particular point of view. I expanded my email base to include cousins, fellow motor racing enthusiasts and childhood friends. That led to creation of this blog. I am indebted to my wife for the idea, and to my son Bill for creating the website.
To readers, Welcome.