Short Resume

Bio Article

ALLEN APPEL


12100 Northwood Dr. Upper Marlboro, MD. 20772


(301) 627-6580

(301) 502-0901


Allen Appel is a writer who lives near Washington, DC, with his wife and two children. He is the author of the following books:

Fiction

Time After Time - Carroll and Graf, 1985; Dell, Laurel Edition 1986; mass market 1989. Chosen as Best Book of the Year, YA category, 1985, National Library Association.

Twice Upon a Time - Carroll and Graf 1988; Dell, 1989. Nominated, Best Book of the Year, National Library Association.

Till the End of Time - Doubleday, 1990, Nominated Best Book of the Year, National Library Association.

Hellhound - Avon, 1994

In Time of War - Carroll and Graf, 2003

Non-Fiction

Proust 's Last Beer - Viking Press, 1982

From Father To Son - St. Martin's Press, 1993

From Mother To Daughter - St. Martin's Press, 1995

Thanks, Dad - St. Martin's Press, 1994, new edition, 1997, new edition 2007

Thanks, Mom - St. Martin's Press, 1994, new edition, 1997, new edition, 2007

From Mother to Daughter: Wisdom From the Kitchen - St. Martin's Press, 1998

On the Birth of Your Child - St. Martin's Press, 1999

Dog's Guide For Pups - St. Martin's Press, 2000

Thanks, To My Husband - St. Martin's Press, 2002

Thanks, To My Wife - St. Martin's Press, 2002

My Hero: Military Kids Write About Their Moms and Dads – St. Martins Press 2008


He has participated in extensive print, radio, and television promotion, written many newspaper and magazine articles, is a member of the Author's Guild, and the Mystery Writers of America, and is a reviewer and interviewer for Publisher's Weekly magazine.

 
 
 

Long Article From Who’s Who In Young Adult Fiction

Allen Appel


Personal

Surname is pronounced “apple”; born January 6, 1945, in Bethlehem, PA; son of Allen R., Jr. and Irene (a homemaker; maiden name, Trippett) Appel; married Sharon Conway (a publicist), 1980; children: Allen R., IV, Leah Helen, Charles David. Education: West Virginia University, B.A., 1967.


Addresses

E-mail— appelworks@email.msn.com.


Career

Photographer, illustrator, and writer. Member--Mystery Writers of America, Authors Guild.


Awards, Honors

Recognition as one of year's best novels from American Library Association (ALA), 1986, for Time after Time; nominations for ALA Best Book for Twice upon a Time and Till the End of Time.

             

Writings

Fiction

Time after Time, Carroll & Graf (New York City), 1985.

Twice upon a Time, Carroll & Graf, 1988.

Till the End of Time, Doubleday (New York City), 1990.

(With Craig Roberts) Hellhound, Avon, 1994.


Nonfiction

From Father to Son: Wisdom for the Next Generation, St. Martin’s Press (New York City), 1993.

Thanks, Dad, St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

Thanks, Mom, St. Martin's Press, 1994

(With Sherry Appel) From Mother to Daughter: Advice and Lessons for a Good Life, St. Martin's 1995

(With Sherry Appel) Wisdom From the Kitchen,  St. Martin's, 1997

(With Sherry Appel)  On the Birth of Your Child,  St. Martin's, 1998

Old Dog's Guide for Pups, St. Martin's Press. 2000


Other

(Illustrator) Proust's Last Beer, Viking, 1979.


Also the author of the screenplay, “The Ebony Streak.” Appel’s works have been translated into Chinese and Korean.


Work in Progress

Two mystery novels; gift books for St. Martin’s press; screenplays.


Sidelights

Allen Appel takes his readers on fictional flights to Russia during the 1917 Revolution, to the Reconstruction America of Mark Twain, and to Japan during the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima. His time-traveling protagonist, Alex Balfour, at the center of his “Pastmaster” series, has won readers of all ages since publication of the first novel, Time after Time. Often classified as a science fiction writer, Appel is first of all a fiction writer. His professional historian-hero Balfour does not climb into an ornate time machine for his travels, nor does he take lessons in breaking the membrane of temporality. Instead, Alex Balfour steeps himself in a time period, falls asleep, and quite unwillingly wakes up in another world:


The headache was gone. Alex Balfour was lying face down in a shallow trench. The ground was cold and hard and smelled of clay and mold. He had just enough time to lift his head up out of the dirt before the first shell slammed into the earth. A howling rush of air and then the explosion. . . . His ears rang with it. He flinched as a flare burst high in the air with a flat pop and drifted slowly down, hissing, emitting a cold magnesium light that drenched his limited landscape, coloring it a pale, monochromatic blue."


Such is the way that the reader and Balfour himself are introduced to his latent abilities in Time after Time: waking up in medias res, in the muddy hell of World War I trench warfare. “An editor friend of mine told me never to try and explain the unexplainable,” Appel remarked to Authors and Artists for Young Adults (AAYA) in an interview. “So I don’t bother with trying to tell how Balfour does his time-traveling. He just does it.” And does it and does it. Balfour makes two encore appearances, in Twice upon a Time and Till the End of Time, shuttling back and forth between historical time zones like a frequent flyer.  A writer for the Washington Post Book World summed up the appeal of the trilogy of books in reviewing the first of the series: “Part historical novel, part science fiction, part love story.”


This “total adventure” is what Appel serves up in all the “Pastmaster” books, though it is also leavened with hard-hitting historical truths. As Gregory Benford noted in a Washington Post Book World review of Till the End of Time, the book is “a lively page-turner,” but “not without moral purpose.” Benford pointed out that “Appel is after larger game than the reader’s attention span.” It is this concern with historical accuracy and ethical questions that have helped to make Appel’s books as popular in the classroom as at the beach. Appel explained to AAYA that he “tried to put things into the novels that history teachers wouldn’t tell students.”


A West Virginia Upbringing

Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on January 6, 1945, Appel moved with his family to West Virginia when he was six. “I grew up and lived in West Virginia through college,” Appel told AAYA. One of three siblings, Appel formed an early love of reading. “My mom was always reading,” Appel recalled in his interview. “And I just naturally picked up the habit too, as did my brother and sister. We had a rule in the family: fewer than three people at dinner and it was okay to read at the table. We spent a lot of silent meals together.” At age 11, laid up with a high fever, Appel was introduced to the Tarzan books by his mother who had an entire set of Edgar Rice Burroughs in the attic. “I raced through them,” Appel said. “And from there I went on to science fiction. And soon I was reading everything. My sister is two years older and I would read the books she brought home. I read everything two years too early.”


Thoughts of actually becoming a writer himself were put on hold, however. After high school graduation, Appel attended West Virginia University, where he earned a B.A. in 1967. Thereafter he worked primarily as an illustrator and photographer. “I was self-taught in both,” Appel told AAYA. “I can’t draw to save my life, but I worked in collage illustration, often using my own photographs. I created something of a niche for myself, and worked as a freelancer for the Washington Post with their Sunday magazine sections.” One day, however, sitting at his desk at the newspaper, Appel had a sudden epiphany: “I looked around and everybody I saw in the room was a writer. And I figured they weren’t any smarter or imaginative than I was. Why couldn’t I become a writer, too?”


A Matter of Time

It was a rhetorical question that led Appel on a several-year pursuit to learn how to write. By this time he had already earned a book credit with his 1979, Proust’s Last Beer, which he illustrated and also conceived. A book describing how famous people died, this nonfiction debut gave him little in the way of education about how to construct fiction.  Appel, who is self-taught, simply sat down and began a novel about the crossing of a chimp and a human. “When the dust settled I had a book told only with dialogue. Not even a 'he said’ or 'she said.’ So I went back in for a second draft and inserted that sort of stuff. The third draft I actually got around to adding descriptive passages.” Though this first novel made the rounds of New York publishers, none were enthusiastic enough to buy it. Yet it served as an apprenticeship, or at least the beginnings of one.


Over the next several years, Appel tried his hand at westerns and romances, penning five more unpublished novels, but gaining confidence in his craft as he went along. Then a fortuitous meeting with Kent Carroll, an editor just setting out on his own in publishing, led to the “Pastmaster” series. Working with the germ of an idea about spending one’s summer vacation not at the beach but in the Russia of 1917, Appel set to the task of crafting a hybrid novel--part sci-fi and part historical fiction. Like his protagonist, Alex Balfour, Appel immersed himself in the time period. “I’d never been to Russia, at that time the Soviet Union, and clearly had never been anywhere in 1917, so it was my job as a researcher to get the feel of the time and place right.” He reads histories, memoirs, and correspondence from the time. “I found out that Lenin had a lisp, something we don’t really think about when you mention the name of that revolutionary. So in my book he sometimes sounds like Elmer Fudd.” Photograph books of the time were also an aid in recreating scene. “But they were all in black and white,” Appel recalled. “I got the objects right, the look of the street and the things you might find in a drawing room, but I lost sleep over the colors. So I made a house yellow. What if houses weren’t painted yellow then? What if some expert found out?”


In the event, such details were lost in the urgency of plot; no experts on house paint stepped forward. Appel’s fictional world came across whole and clear. Balfour, a history teacher at the New School and a gourmet cook, awakens from an incredibly realistic dream of being in the trenches of World War I. He puts it down to nightmare, overwork, too much drink taken. Except that his jeans are smeared with the same red clay he saw in his dream. Balfour continues to dream, to go back to Russia during the first World War and the Revolution. Molly, his lover in the present, tells him that in fact at times he seems to disappear. Slowly Balfour begins to accept the fact that he is in actually time-traveling.


In the course of such journeys in time and quite by accident, Balfour becomes an unwilling participant in the murder of the mad monk, Rasputin, after which he reappears in the present to confront Molly in the monk’s sables. During further time travels he encounters Maxim Gorky speaking to workers and puts a word in the ear of the British consul about a spy named Mata Hari. But Balfour himself is arrested by the Czar’s police as a suspected spy, and spends weeks imprisoned. More meetings with famous men occur: Pavlov busy walking three dogs, and Lenin, spluttering his words.


His guide through all these adventures is the young American, Maxwell Surrey, whom Balfour knows from the present as the old man who cared for him after he was orphaned as a teenager. And most surprising of all, Balfour meets another time traveler--his own father, who is leading a band of ruthless Cossacks and is intent on changing history. He tells his son, Alex, that he must prevent the assassination of the Czar and his family, but Alex Balfour has suddenly had too much of history, and goes back to the present. However, nagged by his own morality, he makes one final trip to the past, having learned “that we are responsible for things. For ourselves, other people, events. That inaction can be as destructive as out-and-out evil.”


Upon publication of Time after Time, reviewers were generally positive if not enthusiastic about this first novel. Sybil Steinberg, writing in Publishers Weekly, felt that readers ready to withhold incredulity “will be rewarded by scenes of cliff-hanging and head-bashing, slaughter, torture and hairsbreadth escapes, . . . true romance and wholesome sex.” Steinberg went on to conclude that Time after Time is an engrossing read. A reviewer for the Washington Post Book World dubbed the book a “compelling journey back in time” and an “absorbing first novel,” while a contributor in Booklist called it “Riveting adventure, replete with romance and drama.” Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Perry Glasser commented that Appel’s novel was on one level “fine entertainment,” but more than that in its entirety. Glasser praised Time after Time's “vivid writing,” and called the novel “something of a historical novel, something of a science fiction novel, partly the story of a son’s bitter relationship with his father, partly a romance.  These features are “pleasingly balanced,” concluded Glasser, “with grace and skill.”


Further Travels in Time

Sales of this initial title were encouraging enough for Appel to continue with the intended series. For his next title, Twice upon a Time, Appel chose an American setting. “And I wanted to talk about what I consider to be the issue of our time--race,” Appel explained to AAYA. “I wanted to write about black people and Native Americans, both then and now. The moral issues were very important for me in the writing.”  In this second novel, Alex Balfour has come to feel truly alive and free only when he is in the past, yet still he receives no warning when such journeys are beginning nor does he have any overt control over his destination. Molly, his partner and a reporter for the New York Times, sets things in motion when she takes on an assignment to cover a story about one John Raven, a Native American who claims to be a direct descendant of Crazy Horse, the “Architect, or rather strategist, of the Battle of the Little Bighorn,” as Balfour tells her for background. Raven has shot two white men doing a land study on a South Dakota reservation, and Molly soon heads out to that state to interview him.


Studying up on the history of Native Americans and their struggles vis-à-vis the whites sets off a series of time travels for Balfour, journeys which at first seem to be unrelated to any one main event. Then Balfour finds himself taken back to the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1876 where he checks out the latest in technological advances and meets Mark Twain. Living with a group of emancipated slaves, Balfour conspires with one of them to release two captured Indians who are at the exhibit, and with Twain in tow, the five of them light out for the territories. Their trek westward includes a raft trip down the Mississippi. Meanwhile, back in the present, Molly is kidnapped by Raven just before the centenary of Custer’s Last Stand, and Balfour, lost in time, arrives at the Little Big Horn in an attempt to stop the slaughter that he knows will soon happen.


Once again, critics praised Appel for his historical reconstruction. Andrea Caron Kempf noted in Library Journal that “Appel again demonstrates his unique blend of history and science fiction in a riveting novel that says much about freedom and slavery and the innate dignity of human beings.” Kempf gave the book a “[h]ighly recommended” rating. Other reviewers applauded Appel’s blend of entertainment and history. Kirkus Reviews dubbed the novel a “high-speed, deftly handled sequel” which blends “time-travel, authentic backgrounds, and speculative fancy.” Publishers Weekly remarked that “Appel maintains a firm hold on the strands of his plot, keeping Alex’s sensibility consistently modern without becoming patronizing or sentimental toward the times.” “Suspense” and “period detail,” this same reviewer concluded, “will keep readers turning these pages.” High praise was given by Susan Jelcich in Voice of Youth Advocates, who commented that “Appel has created a perceptive, insightful, sometimes passionate blend of history, adventure, and moral responsibility.” Jelcich concluded that “Twice upon a Time is entertaining, worthwhile reading that packs a punch as it amuses.”


The third book in the series, Till the End of Time, finds Balfour transported back to World War II attempting to stop the Japanese from developing their own atomic bomb. Appel again has Balfour making the acquaintance of the high and mighty from history: taking tea with Einstein, meeting with Roosevelt, having an affair with Betty Grable, and even lending a hand to a young lieutenant named Kennedy as he saves the crew of his PT boat. The crux of the story deals with Balfour’s attempt to stop the destructive use of the atomic bomb, a mission on which Einstein sends him to Roosevelt. But FDR is too canny a politician to be limited in the use of this new weapon; he sends Balfour to the South Pacific on a fact-finding mission to get him out of the way. Meanwhile in the present, Molly is following a story about Japanese germ warfare that resonates with the historical tale which culminates at the bombing of Hiroshima, where Appel has set the Japanese atomic program (it actually was in Tokyo).


This novel seems at first to be a simple action gambol,” Benford noted in the Washington Post Book World, “but it raises issues seldom treated in our press.” Publishers Weekly found this third title in the “Pastmaster” series to be a “thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable adventure,” concluding that “insights into the effects of time on human nature and on one man’s actions attest to Appel’s continuing ability to keep readers glued to the page.” According to Kirkus Reviews, “Appel’s generous dollops of history are as painlessly informative, and the tale he spins as rousing, as ever.” Marcia R. Hoffman, writing in Library Journal, remarked that Appel “has assembled some believable and very human characters” in the bomb scene “which is exciting and well researched.”


The popular series came to an abrupt end, however, when Appel delivered his fourth Balfour manuscript, “Sea of Time,” to Doubleday, only to have it rejected because the subject matter supposedly would not have wide enough appeal. “That limited subject matter just happened to be the sinking of the Titanic,” Appel said in his interview. “I think maybe that editor was just a little bit wrong in light of the movie and the spin-offs that came a few years later. But at the time I was so angry that I just put the manuscript on the shelf and moved on to other projects. I still send it out to fans who write, asking about a sequel.”


Since the last of the “Pastmaster” series, Appel has embarked on numerous projects. In 1994 he collaborated with Craig Roberts, a retired helicopter pilot, policeman, and Vietnam veteran, to write the thriller, Hellhound, about a conspiracy by Iraqi and Palestinian terrorists to kill former president Ronald Reagan and destroy Southern California. A Russian colonel discovers the plot and teams up with a disgraced Los Angeles cop to try  and derail, or in this case ground the mission, by outmaneuvering the deadly Hellhound helicopter en route. Publishers Weekly noted that Appel and Roberts “make a good team and deliver an imaginative novel of clear, direct military suspense” with a “rousing climax.” Appel has also created a line of gift books, partly in collaboration with his wife, Sherry Conway Appel, in appreciation of parents. Additionally, he has largely left novel writing behind--at least for the time--to work on screenplays. His first endeavor, “The Ebony Streak,” tells the story of Marshall “Major” Taylor, one of the greatest athletes of his day at the turn of the twentieth century and one of the first black world champions in any sport. A bicyclist in a time of worldwide passion for the sport, Marshall held the one-mile speed record. Though cheered in Europe, Marshall faced bigotry in his native America, dying penniless and unknown. As Appel put it, “Marshall is the most famous athlete that America ever forgot.”


A full-time writer, Appel is brimming over with new plans and projects. But for many readers, it is still the “Pastmaster” series that makes his name known. “I receive fan letters all the time,” Appel told AAYA. “Lots of them are from young readers, too, ones who find truth in these books and write to me that they never knew history could actually be interesting. I think part of the draw of the books is that I never fudge. I never cheat. I don’t let Alex Balfour get himself out of trouble by suddenly going back to the present. He is in the past and in trouble and he has to deal with it. He has to save himself. There is a level of engagement that young readers especially respond to. I have young kids myself, and find that so often in books intended for younger readers that the writer cheats at the end. 'It was all a dream.’ The hero or heroine is saved by that device. With Alex Balfour the dream becomes reality. And reality can be deadly serious.”


Works Cited

Appel, Allen, Time after Time, Carroll and Graf, 1985.

Appel, Allen, Twice upon a Time, Carroll and Graf, 1988.

Appel, Allen, interview with Authors and Artists for Young Adults, conducted July 20, 1999.

Benford, Gregory, “What Is and What Might Have Been,” Washington Post Book World, August 15, 1990, p. 4.

Glasser, Perry, “The Professor Vanishes,” New York Times Book Review, January 26, 1986, p. 12.

Review of Hellhound, Publishers Weekly, May 30, 1994.

Hoffman, Marcia R., review of Till the End of Time, Library Journal, September 1, 1990, p. 253.

Jelcich, Susan, review of Twice upon a Time, Voice of Youth Advocates, October, 1988. P. 190.

Kempf, Andrea Caron, review of Twice upon a Time, Library Journal, April 1, 1988, p. 56.

Steinberg, Sybil, review of Twice after Time, Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1985, p. 83.

Review of Till the End of Time, Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1990, p. 85.

Review of Till the End of Time, Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1990, p. 893.

Review of Time after Time, Booklist, October 1, 1985, p. 189-90.

Review of Time after Time, Washington Post Book World, May 24, 1987, p. 12.

Review of Twice upon a Time, Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1988, p. 139.

Review of Twice upon a Time, Publishers Weekly, February 19, 1988, pp. 72-73.


For More Information See

Periodicals 

Booklist, September 1, 1990, p. 24; March 15, 1991, p. 1473.

Kliatt, spring, 1987, p. 19.

Locus, April, 1990, p. 35; September, 1990, p. 57.

New York Times Book Review, March 1, 1987, p. 34.

Washington Post, November 30, 1985; April 21, 1988.


On-line

Allen Appel's Web site is located at http://www.appelworks.com.


--Sketch by J. Sydney Jones