Video Interview with Writing Out Loud Host, Teresa Miller
A former Oklahoma public school English teacher, Sheldon Russell retired as a professor emeritus from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2000. Before he retired, he had already published his first novel, Empire, in 1993 with Evans Publications, Inc.
He followed that suspense novel with two historic frontier titles—The Savage Trail (Pinnacle Books, 1993) and Requiem at Dawn (Pinnacle Books, 2000). Requiem at Dawn was a finalist for Best Original Paperback in the 2001 Western Writers of America, Inc., Spur Awards competition.
In 2006, the University of Oklahoma Press released Dreams to Dust: A Tale of the Oklahoma Land Rush, which won the 2007 Oklahoma Book Award in Fiction and was selected as an Official Oklahoma Centennial Project. The book went on to win the 2006 Langum Prize for Historical Literature.
With The Yard Dog: A Mystery (Minotaur Books, September 2009), Russell introduced the Hook Runyon Mystery Series. The Insane Train, Dead Man's Tunnel, and The Hanging of Samuel Ash. The Dig (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013)—a stand alone title—followed.
Fall 2017 saw the return of the Hook Runyon Mystery Series with the release of Book 5—The Bridge Troll Murders (RoadRunner Press, 2017). Calling the book "excellent," Publishers Weekly gave The Bridge Troll Murders a STARRED REVIEW, citing “the often witty dialogue and seamless narrative prose.” The Bridge Troll Murders went on to receive the 2018 Oklahoma Book Award in Fiction and to make the 2019 Long List for the Dublin Literary Award, an award that honors excellence in world literature. The Long List is created of nominated books from invited public libraries in cities around the world. The Oklahoma Center for the Book of the State Library of Oklahoma made the 2019 nomination.
In 2020, A Forgotten Evil (Cynren Press, 2019) won the Western Writers of America's Spur Award for Best Historical Novel.
The Fall of 2021 brought two new books by Russell set in the American West: Time and Again (Milford House Press, 2021) and A Particular Madness (Cynren Press, 2021), the latter a psychological suspense novel that has been nominated for the Dublin Literary Award Long List and was a Spur Award Finalist for Best Western Contemporary Novel of 2022.
His latest work is Listen, a historical novel set against the depleted opportunity of the Great Depression (Cynren Press, April 2023). Winter 2024 will see the return of probably his best known character Hook Runyon in a new Hook Runyon Mystery: Justice Rode the Train (The RoadRunner Press, Winter 2024).
In 2023, he received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Given annually to an Oklahoman for a body of literary work, the award is named for the late Arrell Gibson (1921-1987), fittingly himself an author and professor of history at Phillips University in Enid and the University of Oklahoma. Gibson’s works include Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries (University of Oklahoma Press, 1965, 1981) and The Oklahoma Story (University of Oklahoma Press, 1978). Gibson served as the first president of the Oklahoma Center for the Book of the State Library of Oklahoma and the Library of Congress.
As for Russell, growing up on a cattle ranch in the Gloss Mountains of Oklahoma has given him insight into the power of place and man’s capacity for good and evil. His was a storytelling culture, a culture of humor and of hard times. A passion for narrative and history was inevitable.
Russell and his wife, Nancy, a sculptor, currently reside on the home ranch in Waynoka, Oklahoma. Hobbies and interests include reading, collecting books, and gardening.