Speaker Series: William Dietrich

William Dietrich

William (Bill) Dietrich’s historical and action thrillers have been translated into 28 languages. Dietrich is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, nonfiction author, and college professor of environmental journalism. He has won the Washington Governor Writer’s Award and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award.

He currently is exciting readers with his Ethan Gage Adventures, a series featuring an imperfect American adventurer who is not only a protege of the late Benjamin Franklin — but also a gambler, sharpshooter, treasure-hunter and romantic, who manages to get into plenty of trouble with women. Ethan’s story entwines with Napoleon Bonaparte’s, whom he first meets in NAPOLEON’S PYRAMIDS and is later allied to and odds with in THE ROSETTA KEY and THE DAKOTA CIPHER. The series continues with THE BARBARY PIRATES, THE EMERALD STORM and THE BARBED CROWN.

Dietrich also wrote the Roman-era historical novels HADRIAN’S WALL and THE SCOURGE OF GOD as well as the earlier thrillers ICE REICH, GETTING BACK and DARK WINTER.

His book-writing began with THE FINAL FOREST: The Battle For The Last Great Trees of the Pacific Northwest and NORTHWEST PASSAGE: The Great Columbia River. A collection of nature essays that first appeared in The Seattle Times is titled NATURAL GRACE. He wrote the text for the Art Wolfe photo book ON PUGET SOUND and essays for books on Skagit and Whatcom counties and Fidalgo Island, his home stomping grounds in the state of Washington. He writes and speaks frequently on the environment.

Dietrich’s love of history and fiction was nurtured when growing up in Tacoma. He caught the journalism bug when studying at Fairhaven College and Western Washington University (WWU), where he married his wife Holly. Journalism jobs followed in the Northwest and Washington, D.C., including covering the eruption of Mount St. Helens for the Vancouver, Washington Columbian and the Exxon Valdez oil spill for The Seattle Times. Bill was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and the recipient of National Science Foundation fellowships that got him to Antarctica and the South Pole, which inspired his first novel.

His first book wasn’t started until he was 38, and the first novel — roughed out on an icebreaker — wasn’t underway until he was 45. Some men get a sports car in midlife; Bill wrote about Nazis.

In 2006 he began teaching and advising a student magazine called The Planet at his alma mater, WWU. He feels fortunate to have been able to bounce between the fiction and journalism worlds and to be reenergized by his students.

He and Holly live on the edge of Washington’s San Juan Islands within eyeball distance of three national parks, but Dietrich loves visiting great cities and crawling around old ruins. He has two grown daughters and can see bald eagles, herons, and raccoons from his office window.