My writing career began in 1965 when I went to Paris determined to find a job that would permit me to live in France for several years. I found the job--teaching English at the American Dependents' School--but it soon turned out that it would last only one year. In my disappointment, I turned to writing articles on the teaching of English in France. In the 70s and 80s, I published extensively in the field of teaching English as a second language.
When I retired, I turned my attention to literary history and published Realms of Gold: The Colorful Writers of San Francisco 1850-1950. That book led to an opportunity to write articles on San Francisco history for the Nob Hill Gazette. Sixty-four of these have appeared in that newspaper.
I am fortunate to live at The Sea Ranch on the Sonoma County coast, one of the most beautiful places on earth, where I share my life with my wife, Janet, and where I write and practice my hobbies, playing petanque and turning wood.
Realms of Gold: The Colorful Writers of San Francisco 1850-1950
Few regions in America can equal the rich literary history of San Francisco and its surrounding areas with authors such as Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Isadora Duncan, Jack London, Robinson Jeffers, Dashiell Hammett, John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, Henry Miller, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others. Realms of Gold: The Colorful Writers of San Francisco 1850-1950 gives us a fresh look at the lives of these writers and portrays the development of the city from a Gold Rush boom town through its rapid growth as a commercial port and rail head, its destruction in 1906, its rebirth, to its post-World War II status as a major urban center.
California State Librarian, Dr. Kenneth Starr, wrote, "The flamboyant literary history of San Francisco has fascinated scholars and critics since the turn of the century. In Realms of Gold, George Rathmell takes a distinguished place in the roster of those who have chronicled the special relationship between San Francisco and its writers. Here is a vivid and compelling story, solidly researched and told with a verve and wealth of detail worthy of its ever-intriguing subject."
Jean Sherrell, Editor of The Californians, wrote, "Absolutely wonderful! The reader is drawn into the 'realms of gold' and savors San Francisco's mercurial ambiance in this entertaining account of the literati drawn to the city by the bay."
President of the San Francisco Historical Society, Charles A. Fracchia, said, "George Rathmell has written a superb and charming narrative of San Francisco's past. The reader will surrender to his fast-paced and exciting prose and not wish to put the book down once he or she has started it."
Realms of Gold is available at www.amazon.com or your local independent bookstore.
Sojourners in Paradise
A Passport to Hell
This is the enigmatic story of Richard Realf (1834-1878), a prodigy poet published in his teens, a gifted teacher of the poor, a courageous member of John Brown's band of anti-slavery fighters, a Union Army volunteer decorated for gallantry in battle, a devoted family man, and a spellbinding temperance lecturer. He was also a drunkard and a bigamist who abandoned two wives and four children.
Realf was very much a man of his time and reflected the turbulent 19th century's awakening of the common man, the championing of freedom, and the desperate search for human perfectibility. His ambiguous life is a virtual allegory of the pursuit of self-realization and the price of failing to achieve it.
Gerald Haslam, author of That Constant Coyote wrote, "Richard Realf lived a paradoxical life that is far too little known. Thanks to George Rathmell, contemporary readers can explore Realf's experiences as a poet, soldier, and participant in some of the major events of our past."
"Ever since his suicide in Oakland in 1878, poet Richard Realf has remained the Great Unknown of nineteenth century American letters. In a biography employing the techniques of the of novel, Rathmell recovers for us the story of a man cursed to live as saint and sinner, a hero and scoundrel." (Dr. Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California and author of The California Dream Series.)
A Passport to Hell is available at www.amazon.com or your local independent bookstore.
The Pickle Girl
Have you ever had a really bad day? If so, then you have an idea of what seventeen-year-old Rosalina Oliverio's whole life is like. To begin with, she's lured into a job at Sally Rand's Nude Ranch at the 1939 World's Fair on Treasure Island. And then she finds she's pregnant by a boy friend who's "not ready to commit," and she enters a marriage of convenience with a gay playboy.
Widowed by a senseless murder, she's implicated in an armed robbery and is obliged to become the mistress of a man she detests. The question is not whether she'll achieve her quest to escape poverty, it's whether she'll make it to eighteen.
Jonah Raskin, book reviewer and author of Natives, Newcomers, Exiles, Fugitives: Northern California Writers and Their Work, wrote, "Reading The Pickle Girl is like watching one of those old black-and-white Hollywood movies that seemed to capture the human tragedy and the human comedy, and that made you want to go on living."
David Skibbins, author of the Edgar-winning Eight of Swords, says, "The Pickle Girl takes us backstage at the Treasure Island Fair and through the gay bars, fancy restaurants and seedy dives of San Francisco. A bittersweet love story, a vivid view of the Italian-American community, and a coming of age story, all wrapped in one."
Jo Ann Ridley, author of In Search of Eulabee Diox: the Illustrated Biography of an American Miniaturist, wrote, "Rathmell's novel evokes San Francisco history in a poignant love story that begins--and ends in the bustling behind-the-scenes milieu of the 1939 World's Fair.
The Pickle Girl is available from www.amazon.com or your local independent bookstore.
Pine Meadow is a peaceful, second-home, residential community located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. As the second-home people evolved into permanent residents, the retired urban dwellers learn to adapt to country living. Their new community is next to an old, Gold Rush town inhabited by rural families who have lived there for generations and regard the newcomers as "Fiddleheads." This causes an inevitable clash of cultures.
Ten short stories about the formerly professional class, "Fiddleheads" portray unique and distinct characters experiencing fundamental problems and conflicts that assail the human heart. Related with humor as well as adventure and tragedy, the stories exemplify different aspects of six types of love categorized by the ancient Greeks: Eros, Philia, Ludus, Pragma,Philautia, and Agape. We tend to think of "love" in its romantic sense, but these tales portray the complex aspects of this universal emotion.
“I couldn’t put it down. With inviting warmth. Rathmell tells stories of the disparate lives in a small town that become woven together in a fabric at times loose-knit, at times tight, and in the end, richly whole.”
-Mary Alinder, author of Group f.64
“Cabins built along a forest creek. A vintage car parked by the roadside for months on end. A woman, nude, trying to pull a dog away from a bear. What Garrison Keillor did for Lake Wobegone, George Rathmell has done for Pine Meadow, where new residents arrive to get away from it all, only to find that they cannot get away from themselves. Writing about them with wisdom and warmth, Rathmell makes us feel as if we’ve known them all along. Who’s to say? Perhaps we have...”
-Brigitta Hjalmarson, author of Art Players and Wind Across the Grave
Fiddleheads is available from www.amazon.com or your local independent bookstore.
Coast and Valley