Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI WRITERS: Charles Wilson


Charles Wilson Photo courtesy of Charles Wilson, 1999

Major Works

  • When First We Deceive
  • The Cassandra Prophecy
  • Fertile Ground
  • Silent Witness
  • Extinct (Soon to be an NBC Movie)
  • Direct Descendant
  • Nightwatcher
  • Embryo (Released in Jan. 1999)
  • Deep Sleep (2001)

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Charles Wilson: A Biography
By Bryan Daniel (SHS)

Although Mississippi is often overlooked when it comes to the arts, the works of authors from our state are known for the rich and influential heritage that many of them contain.  From the timeless short stories of Eudora Welty to Grisham's law-related suspense novels, our state's culture and character are truly visible in many Mississippi authors' works.  One such author is Charles Wilson.

Wilson was born on August 2, 1939, in Kennett, Missouri,  to Dr. L.C. Wilson and Alberta P. Wilson.  Wilson was raised in a very homey and down-to-earth environment along with his two sisters, Lee Ann and Lila Jo Wilson.

Wilson today is married to the former Linda Faye George, also of Kennett.  Together they have had three children:  Charles, Jr. is currently practicing law in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Cassandra is married with two children.  She lives  in Brandon, Mississippi.  Wilson's youngest child Destin  is currently enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Before becoming a writer, Wilson had business experience in farming and real-estate development in Mississippi and oil prospect investments in Oklahoma.  In his free time, Wilson enjoys coaching various little league sports teams in Brandon, Mississippi, where he lives with his wife. He has published a total of nine books to date:  Nightwatcher, Silent Witness, The Cassandra Prophecy, (all mystery/suspense tales) and, Direct Descendant, Fertile Ground, Extinct, and Embryo (all science- based thrillers).  His tenth book, another science-based thriller, will be out in September of 1999.

Charles Wilson: A Biography
By Chris Feig (SHS)

Charles Wilson, writer of numerous science fiction thrillers, currently lives in Brandon, Mississippi. He was born in Kennett, Missouri, on August 2, 1939. Wilson is married to the former Linda Gaye George, and they have three children. Before becoming a best-selling author, Wilson had experience in farming and real estate in Mississippi. He also enjoys coaching little league baseball and basketball and has even been a junior high football coach. His books are set for the most part in various places in Mississippi. For example,Nightwatcheris set in central Mississippi and concerns a father's investigation of his daughter's murder in a hospital for the mentally-ill. Silent Witness is also set in central Mississippi. It is the story of a woman trying to prove her husband is not a murderer. When First We Deceive, about a serial killer on the loose, takes place in Pass Christian, Mississippi. The Cassandra Prophecy is set in Biloxi, Mississippi. Another book, Fertile Ground, takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, and deals with doctors contracting a virus on an expedition to Brazil. However, Direct Descendant occurs in Memphis, Tennessee. His book Extinct, about a prehistoric animal attacking humans on the Pascagoula River in Mississippi, is being made into a television movie. His newest book, Embryo, has just been published (January, 1999) by St. Martin's Press. 

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A Review of Nightwatcher
by Bryan Daniel (SHS)Nightwatcher by Charles Wilson

Charles Wilson's Nightwatcher is truly a masterpiece.  By packing his novel full of suspense and vivid character portraits, Wilson immerses the reader in a world of fear, confusion, and total detail.  He keeps the reader glued to the pages, not wanting to miss a thing.

Nightwatcher is set in Davis County, Mississippi.  Early in his novel, Wilson describes the southern setting to set the stage for the exciting events that are in store.  And Wilson wastes no time at all.  Very quickly in the book, a murder occurs on the grounds of the state hospital for the criminally insane.

Judith Salter, staff member at John H. Douglas State Hospital, is tending her nightly duties just before clocking out.  She leaves the resident unit where the mentally-ill patients are kept and goes to her cottage, which is also on the hospital grounds.  Unbeknown to her, at that same moment, a violent breakout is occurring inside the resident unit.  Of the staff workers on duty, one guard is murdered, as were both orderlies.

Upon arriving at home,  the nurse Salter is raped and brutally murdered by a man whose face and identity are never revealed to the reader.  Though he never reveals who the killer is, the author hints to the reader that this person is one of the three patients that escaped during the breakout.

There are several vital clues left at the crime scene.  The biggest lead that the officials have is the massive quantity of of blood that is left at the scene.  As in many murder cases, this is not an unusual thing.  The key factor, though, is that there are traces of three different blood types found inside the cottage.  There are bloody sock prints left in the carpet and bullets lodged in the walls from Salter's struggle.  Wilson discusses intelligently the ideas of using the different blood types to pinpoint the identity of the killer and leads the reader to believe that it was one of the escaped patients.

When Judith's father, Brandon Richards, is informed of his daughter's murder, he is bent on discovering who did it and why.  He begins to dig into his daughter's past and finds many things that lead him on a wild goose chase of fear and suspicion of everyone around him.  He trusts no one and eventually joins forces with a local sheriff that knows the land and the people.  Together, they set out to get to the bottom of things.

What comes their way is an amazingly-gripping roller coaster ride of suspense.  They discover suspect after suspect, and finally narrow it down to one or two people.  And just as the reader decides that they know who committed the crime, Wilson throws another curve.

The only eyewitness that they can find is also a patient at the hospital who lives in the upper level of the extreme security sector.  He is extremely-intelligent and enjoys playing mind games with Mr. Richards and his counterparts.  He drops hint after hint but will never reveal who killed Salter.  What he does reveal is a strikingly fearsome agenda of his own.

Wilson's Nightwatcher is a wonderful, fundamentally-sound piece.  He covers all the bases to wind a suspenseful tale of lying and deception.  This novel keeps readers on their toes throughout, not ever knowing what is in store.  His striking story grabs the reader and straps them in for a ride that is over much too quickly.  Never breaking a minute to give the reader time to come up for air, it is nearly impossible to put down.  This is a definite must-read.

A Review of Nightwatcher
by Chris Feig (SHS)

Direct Descendant is a fascinating and thrilling novel by Charles Wilson. He keeps you on your tiptoes throughout the whole book. With his taut tales and last words, Charles Wilson will be around for a long time. So says best-selling author John Grisham in a quote on the cover of this book. The book is packed with action that will bring you to the edge of your seat.

 Direct Descendant is about a scientist who has made an interesting archaeological find. When the scientist's find is tampered Chris Feig, SHS reviewerwith, the action begins. Cops, scientists, federal agents, and juvenile delinquents fight with each other, all for their own secret agendas. The long buildup to the finale proves exciting, with surprises hidden in every page. The climax leaves the reader wanting more.

Wilson has an interesting style. He hops from character to character throughout the book and keeps the reader thinking that he knows the outcome when he really doesn't. The thoughts of the many people in the book keep the reader thinking about the different plans and schemes of the people in the story. Wilson's incredible depictions using very descriptive adjectives and adverbs kept me reading for as long as my eyes would allow me. Wilson mixes many different events, such as Dr. Anderson's love life, with things at the opposite end of the spectrum--like murder.Cover of Direct Descendant

I liked the book very much because although it is a science-fiction thriller, it seemed as if it could actually happen. That is another thing that I like about Charles Wilson. He goes into enough detail to make you feel like you are there while still not boring you with detail after detail. He brings in many ideas at different times during the novel and some seem to disappear, but most are there at the end for a fantastic finish. Wilson writes at a good pace. While he doesn't write on and on either, I think the length of the book was ideal.

The setting is Memphis and deals to some degree with the race issue. Wilson shows how racism (or just an accusation of it) can hurt or hinder just about anything. He does a marvelous job of bringing in the issue and then slowly and silently taking it out. Adrian (Dr. Anderson's friend and also a cop) shows compassion to a girl who was raped, and then that picture slowly fades to the back as other issues take the forefront.

There are beautiful pictures brought to mind as you read about the flowing foothills of the Ozarks. He paints a magnificent portrait of the countryside, making you wish you were there to see it for yourself. He writes about the giant Mississippi River and its powerful currents and rushing (and sometimes not) waters.

People from all walks of life have their special purpose for being in this fantastic novel. There are bartenders, federal agents, and prostitutes--all a piece of the massive puzzle that Charles Wilson constructs. One woman comes to envy money so much that she dies trying to become rich. There are power plays by the feds to keep people quiet, but eventually some people's curiosity wins out.

I think this is a great book that you should read. However, it does contain some references to sex and bars (just a couple). If that would really offend you because of your religious beliefs or something, then perhaps you shouldn't read it, but otherwise, I definitely recommend it. Evolution, cloning, and aliens are all brought up so if any of these would upset you for some reason, then you shouldn't read it either. There is also some violent behavior and some people are beaten or raped. However, I think that for all you sci-fi lovers out there, this book is a must-read. The plot is full of interesting historical facts and many weird things that were created in Charles Wilson's mind. The novel tells what happens when a man, Dr. Malone, steals a sperm sample from a corpse of a man that he believes to be a Homo Sapien from the past to clone it. When it grew older, he planned to reveal his secret to the world and prove that the humans from 500,000 years ago were just as smart as today's humans and disprove the theory of human evolution. Unfortunately, for Dr. Malone, the experiment doesn't go as planned ,and that's where I will leave you. If you want to know the rest, then you have to read the book. It's a great idea. 

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Interview with Charles Wilson
by Bryan Daniel (SHS)

1)  When and where were you born?

You can click to my website at www.charleswilson.com and see all of my bio.  Born in Kennett, Missouri, 8/2/39.Bryan Daniel (SHS)

2)  Did you have any early encounters with writing in grade school and/or high school that had an effect on your career decision?

Not really, though I was editor of my high school paper--mostly joined it in the beginning to get out of a lot of duties.  I was at a military prep school.

3)  Did you receive any special awards during high school for your writings?  (Essay contests, etc.)

Only on newspaper.  I won some first place state awards for feature and sports writing.

4)  Did you take part in any extra-curricular writing, such as a school newspaper, in high school or college?

See above.

5)  Did you decide straight out of high school that you were going to be a writer or did this decision come later?

          Much later.  I had my business life for years first.  See bio.

6)  Do you have any significant information concerning your college years, such as your majors, awards, honors, or titles?

Was just glad I got through it--though actually what I learned wasn't very good for the businesses I went into.  My education was totally structured around premedical/science/etc., as everyone in my family was M.D.s--I became a black sheep when I didn't elect to go on into this after being accepted at St. Louis University Medical School.

7)  In chronological order, how many novels have you published to date?

Nine, including mystery/suspense tales, Nightwatcher, Silent Witness, The Cassandra Prophecy, and, science based thrillers Direct Descendant, Fertile Ground, Extinct, and my next novel due out in January, Embryo.

8)  I recently read and reviewed your novel, NIGHTWATCHER, and was very impressed.  When did you write this book?

My first one in 1990

9)  How long did it take you to complete?

A little under a year.

10)  Where did you get the idea for this novel?

I'm not certain.  My sister had been murdered earlier, and I spent better than a year trying to get the accused--a powerful former husband of hers extradited to stand trial.  Finally did, and then, when I did start the novel, I used a lot of scenes from my investigation, work toward Extradition, etc., in the novel.

11)  Were any of the characters or occurrences in the book based on people or experiences that you knew or encountered?  If so, which ones?

As per above, there were some cops, and scenes of what happened to me during investigation.

12)  I have noticed that all of your novels are set in Mississippi.  In what way(s) has Mississippi affected the content or setting of your works?

I don't think it has per se.  I write about Mississippi because I believe it is easier to write about something with which you are familiar.

13)  Do you have a favorite author or is there any particular author(s) that you model your writing style after?

         I like a lot of authors.  Hope I don't model my writing after any.

14)  What author(s) do you think have influenced you the most?

None recently.  I used to love to read Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan of the Apes)

15)  Do you have any advice to students today that are considering a career in writing?

It's easier than you think to write.  Most people have a problem only in that they try to write like someone else rather than simply start writing the WAY THEY LIKE TO WRITE.  It's more confidence than anything else.

16)  I understand that your novel, EXTINCT, was to be made into an NBC Movie.  Was this ever completed and released?  If so, when was it first aired?

As to whether Extinct will ever be on TV,or anywhere else, your guess is as good as mine. It was originally "green-lighted" by the network.  That means the company that bought the option said "go ahead and start filming the story". A script was written, I met on the Mississippi coast with several people who had been hired to do the film,, including the director and producer, who came in from Los Angeles to scout locations.  The shooting of the film was to begin almost immediately.  Then the budget came back very high by TV standards.  It is my understanding that the typical 2-hour TV movie costs around 2.7 million, and Extinct's budget came in around 8 million, a budget at which some normally higher-budget feature films are made.  This scared people.  Bottom line, NBC put the film on hold, and then let their option run out.  I have had interest from other film makers.  I hear there are going to be a couple of "feature" films done regarding a megalodon. This might lead to another TV offer, and it might not.  Meanwhile, I have sold another of my books to Hollywood, Direct Descendant, and my next two books, Embryo, due out this month ( Jan. 99), and my one after that, are being looked at by several large and small studios.  I am aware a lot of books are sold, then never end up being filmed, but at least it looks like I at least keep getting shots.  The good news for me as far as Extinct is concerned  is that I got paid for it in advance, though it is not now going to be filmed by the ones who bought it.  Getting paid is all well and good, and I'm glad that happened,  but I naturally would like to see one actually end up being made into a film.   If anything else does sell,  it will be posted at my so-called publisher/best-selling author website that I mentioned above which has sample chapters of all of  my books, research I have done on stories, and bio, etc..  You can click on the below to go there: http://usr.metamall.com/~cwilson/index.html

Or, as I said, you can type in the address www.charleswilson.com

17)  Are you currently working on another book?

Always am working on the next book.  In fact, I have finished the one that will come out after Embryo.  It will come out in September, '99.

Note from Charles Wilson

18)  If you can reveal it at this time, what is the general plot and/or setting for it?  Do you have any titles in mind yet?

Publisher doesn't allow me to do that--though it is another science based novel of the type Embryo is.

19)  Do you have any additional information that you think would pertain to my project?

I guess you should look at website and see for yourself if you can think of anything.

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Related Websites

Southern Scribe features Charles Wilson interview called Featured Thriller Author Charles Wilson: Mississippi Mystery/Thriller Novelist by Robert L. Hall.

Southern Scribe reprints Thriller Author Charles Wilson Answering Questions
About Writing from writers' conferenc in 2000. Reprinted by permission of Charles Wilson.

Amazon.com has reviews from newspapers and readers of Wilson's Embryo with links to other books by Wilson.

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Bibliography

"Charles Wilson Biography".  ONLINE.  World Wide Web.  28 October, 1998.  Available http://usr.metamall.com/~cwilson/bio.html

Baughn, Alice Jackson.  "Extinct:  A Review".  Bookpage Magazine.  May 1997:  23

Harden, Clay.  "Wilson novels promoted as trend-setters". Clarion Ledger.  6 July, 1997:  3B

Patterson, J.C.  "Not so 'Extinct' mega-shark terrorizes coast in Wilson's latest"  [THRILLERS]. Clarion Ledger.  20 April, 1997:  3F

Pettus, Gary.  "Wilson's 'Extinct' to be TV Movie"  [TV DEAL].  Clarion Ledger.  11 April, 1997:  6E

ProMotion, Inc.  "Nightwatcher".  ONLINE. World Wide Web.  29 October, 1998.  Available http://www.bookpage.com/9705bp/sponsor2/nwindex.html

Wilson, Charles. E-Mail Interview.  November 1998

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Last updated in April, 2009
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