SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - As a child, Michael McClelland, assistant professor of English at Wittenberg University, used to get in trouble for spending so much time reading. He would smuggle books in his backpack at school, and while other kids were outside playing, he would escape to worlds unknown with Tarzan, Pogo or creatures from outer space.
That love of reading, especially fiction because of its ability to transport people to places found only in their imaginations, prompted McClelland to pursue a career in writing, a smart move considering the success of his first novel, "Oyster Blues."
Originally published as an online book or e-book by PocketPCPress in 2001, the novel claimed the No. 7 spot on the Amazon.com best-seller list in 2001. A hardback edition quickly followed, distributed by Simon & Schuster, and by October 2002, "Oyster Blues" was named the featured selection of the Literary Guild and the Mystery Guild. Book Sense, a trade organization of more than 1,100 independent bookstores throughout the United States, recently listed it as one of its best books for November and December.
The book also continues to garner accolades from reviewers around the country with Jane Adams on Amazon.com calling it "one of the wittiest romps through territory previously claimed by plenty of other writers from Carl Hiaasen to Dave Barry."
Nancy Rutland, owner of Bookworks in Albuquerque, N.M., hails "Oyster Blues" as the "comic sea-salty novel that Tom Robbins and Carl Hiaasen might have concocted while sitting around a table sucking down oysters and tossing back shots."
A former journalist with UPI and the Florida Freedom chain of newspapers, McClelland wrote "Oyster Blues" following a freak encounter with parasitic yellow flies near a lake outside Tallahassee, Fla. While trying to break free of the swarm, McClelland was forced into an awkward run back to his car, complete with numerous stops to swat the flies surrounding his legs. Though uncomfortable, McClelland couldn't help but see the humor in the situation as he pondered what the people who live in that area must have been thinking.
From that experience, along with selections taken from his master's thesis in creative writing, "Oyster Blues" and its two endearing characters, Jane Ellen Ashley and Happy Harry Harper, were born.
"It's just overwhelming," McClelland said about novel's positive reception. "I almost fainted when I opened the box of galley proofs the publisher sent and saw the cover."
Already approached to write another novel, tentatively titled "Cedar Crazy" and scheduled for publication late next year, McClelland, who ideally likes to spend two to four hours writing a day, is grateful for the support he has received at Wittenberg, where the book continues to circulate around the English department. One of his colleagues even asked him to autograph a copy for her.
"She wants to give it as a gift to her husband," he said. "Everyone has just been so supportive."
McClelland, who received his B.A. in English, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in creative writing from Florida State University, joined the Wittenberg faculty in 2000. He is scheduled to sign copies of "Oyster Blues" from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1, at Waldenbooks in the Upper Valley Mall.
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