His first book THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O'TOOLE draws on his family’s colorful pioneer history by creating a rousing children’s Western adventure story, just like the ones he loved growing up.
Eric was born in Redlands, California; raised in Washington, DC; and now lives in Topanga, California. He is a veteran Hollywood character actor whose credits include dozens of film and television productions including Hart of Dixie, Parks and Recreation, Alien Nation, Jag, Medium, Star Trek, CSI, The Mentalist, and Liar Liar.
HITTING THE TRAIL
His ancestors came west on the Oregon Trail in the mid-1800s. So to give his debut novel an authentic feel, Eric and his dog, Joey, hightailed it cross-country to follow in their wagon wheel tracks to do research.
The O'Toole kids are witnesses to a murder by the notorious Blackstone Gang. Mrs. O'Toole's dying wish is that Caleb take his sisters to the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana to live with their Aunt Sarah. Thus begins a great adventure as they hit the Oregon Trail just as the torch bearing zealots close in on them.
With the help of a gunfighter they must deal with the many unexpected dangers of the Trail. They find sanctuary among most unusual allies they meet along the way. Caleb must grow up beyond his years. Julie finds strengths she never new she had. Together the three O'Toole children journey a thousand treacherous miles with the murderous Blackstone Gang a breath behind.
LASSOOING THE STORY IDEA
“I wanted to write a book I wish I had read when I was young,” he said. “My inspiration in writing THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O'TOOLE came from a love of the American West. I grew up watching great classic TV westerns and movies. I have a special interest in the plights of children who, for whatever reason, must overcome great hardship.
“I have travelled extensively in the western United States. My own family has its roots in the western migration during the 1800s. They came across on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails in 1848. They left diaries. In my visits to Montana I began to wonder what it might have been like for children to survive the rugged and dangerous life back then.”
As he sat down to pull the story from his mind, he found that many of his “facts” about the Wild West came from Hollywood. So he decided he had to experience for himself the journey he was going to write about. Setting out with Joey, he traced the route his characters take in the summer of 1877; from the flat prairies of Great Bend, Kansas, along the Oregon and Bozeman Trails to the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana.
His research paid off because the novel has caused a ruckus with reviewers:
“A rowdy Wild West adventure.” – Publishers Weekly
"A pioneer story that will keep readers on the edge of their seat.” - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Once I began to research the history of that era, I got hooked,” he said. “That led to a wonderful road trip with my dog, Joey. We started in Great Bend, Kansas and explored the route the characters of the book would have taken along the Platte River in Nebraska, up through Wyoming, then over to Montana. We ended up in a cabin in the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana, writing notes on the porch.
“I was a mentor in Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles for years. I used to take my Little Brother on adventures. Horseback riding, river rafting, ski trips. I watched him grow and learn from new experiences.
"I first developed this story, focusing on the adult characters. After a time, I found it more challenging and interesting emotionally to get into the mindset of twelve year old Caleb. How would he respond to the dangers and obstacles he would face during the journey? How would he learn to survive, how would he grow in courage and integrity and ultimately succeed in fulfilling his mother’s last wish? He had to learn to become a man in ways he would have never imagined.
“The adults became supportive players, mentors, friends and enemies. I also feel that there is very little historical fiction adventure for this age group and especially for boys. I want to write more for this audience.
“I hope when the last page is turned, the reader will love these characters and wish for more. I would like to think that they learned something of the history of the times. I want them to remember the O’Toole children and think about them, think about their journey, their courage and determination. I would like children to feel that they have had a fun and exciting reading adventure, and possibly reflect on their own lives and become inspired.”
This isn’t Eric’s last ride as an author. He’s rustling up another great historical adventure for Middle Grade readers.
“The working title is The Secret Mission of William Tuck and centres around a young farm boy, William, during the American Revolution in 1781. It focuses on the period leading up to the Battle of Yorktown.
Check out Eric’s official website HERE
You can find more information there about him and the journey he took, as well as detailed information, including pictures, and a map charting the O’Toole Family’s journey.
THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O'TOOLE can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, Sourcebooks etc.
Barnes and Noble
You can also find out more about Eric's action career HERE
Bye for now. But wherever you are on your Earth Walk, always try to Reach For The Stars.
You'll be surprised just what you can achieve!