Retired History Teacher Enjoying Success As A Writer

At age 58, Milton Burton may be getting his first novel published a bit late in life. But there's no doubt that success is sweet at any age. "It's very difficult to write 85,000 words from the character's viewpoint, not giving his name at some point," says Burton.

A main character without a name and two characters with very colorful names, Icepick Willie and Chicken Little, are just a few of the elements that grab readers' attention from the git go, in Burton's crime novel "The Rogue's Game".

"There actually was an Icepick Willie back in the 30's. He met his demise I understand in the California gas chamber as well deserved," he says. And there actually was a Chicken Little, a two-bit con man in Oklahoma who got his nickname from the old nursery rhyme.

Since the grand old hotels of Texas have long held a fascination for Burton, he sets his novel in the leading hotel of a fictitious west Texas town. "All these places have fascinating backgrounds and I'm convinced that if they could talk, each one of them would give you a Nobel prize wining novel," he says. Add a beautiful blonde, a long-running poker game, and an oil boom and Burton has a winner.

Burton's novel "The Rogue's Game" is getting a lot of attention. It's already in its second printing and there's talk of an upcoming movie. A retired history teacher who confesses he doesn't read many modern crime novels, Burton says some of the Shakespeare's best writings were crime stories... like Macbeth, Hamlet, and Othello. "Crime stories get you to the root of human passion quickly. They don't dither around, they don't and that's what attracts me to them," he says.

Burton wrote "The Rogue's Game" in only 23 days. His second novel "The Sweet and the Dead" is due out this spring, and two other novels are now in a bidding war among publishers. But like most writers, Burton has had his share of rejection slips. He advises would-be authors to "tell a good story in your own words, to take a good journalism course in your community college, but most of all not to give up." He says, "The most important thing of all is be persistent. I don't care if you write another 'Gone With the Wind', the first agent you send it to will turn it down."

But Burton also adds that such persistence pays off. "When somebody buys your book and reads it and they plunk down $24.00 and read it and then tell you or tell a friend this is a really good book, you ought to read it, it's just validation of an individual person and it feels good." And these days Milton Burton is feeling very good.

"The Rogue's Game" is published by Dunne/St. Martin's, and is available in most book stores.

Oralia Ortega, reporting.