Rusty Rhoad grew up in Bluffton, South Carolina—the town that is the model for White Sands in Avalon, South Carolina as well as appearing in the novel in its current state of population and trendiness—before going to school in Houston, Texas (location of Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail). After a stint in the army at Fort Polk, Louisiana—not currently in any novel, for better or for worse—Rusty and his wife Kate took a year-long camping trip in their VW bus, covering some of the same territory that Arnie Penders explores in Return from Avalon (and Points West) before temporarily suspending their wanderlust near Houston.
During the last decade of a 32-year career as a chemical engineer, Rusty began writing novels over lunch. And now safely out of the grip of the complexity of the military-industrial rat race, he continues to write.
“A lot of authors retire and make a profitable second careers writing novels about their first career. Thus we have ex-lawyers writing legal thrillers, ex-military pilots penning air-combat adventures, former doctors, ex-law-enforcement types—the list is long and storied. But I’m simply not creative enough to write a chemical engineering thriller. And so I turned instead to the legend of King Arthur, a lifelong obsession of mine.
“Why Arthur? I’m not sure I can explain if you don’t already have at least a touch of the fever. A bastard fated to become king by both the tutelage and the meddling of a mage/druid, an honest man doomed by a totally unconscious act of incest. Betrayed by his wife and best friend for reasons we can speculate on but can’t articulate for certain. And yet despite it all, Arthur sets the standard of heroism and dignity.”
All of Rhoad’s novels except for his latest, Kaffka, the Holy Grail, and a Woman Who Reads: The Quests of Sir Kay, are set in contemporary times. So how does the long-dead Arthur still impact our times, other than being someone that young boys aspire to be like?
“Well, of course that takes a little magic. But not an unbelievable amount. Just a touch of the arts. And isn’t life richer, knowing that somewhere in our ordinary world there are still bits of magic about? And besides, Arthur isn’t really ‘long dead’—he is only resting and healing until the world once again has need of heroes.”
The other trait that all of Rhoad’s characters have in common is their unrelenting wit. “I love characters who see the world with their tongues firmly in their cheeks. Life is too often serious; fiction should always have a place for the offbeat, the quirky, and the sardonic.”