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Gar LaSalle: The Widow Walk Saga

Jul 16, 2017 by

An Interview with Gar LaSalle: The Widow Walk Saga

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) First of all, could you tell our readers a bit about yourself, your education and experience?

Born in Seattle, graduated with dual majors of biology and theater, from Reed College in Portland.  M.D. from Cornell University Medical College, N.Y.; then, after surgery internship, received a Master in Fine Arts (film/animation/video) from California Institute of the Arts; after that completed Emergency Medicine Residency at USC and then UCLA.   My 1976 graduate thesis at CalArts Diary of a Moonlighter, was the first documentary ever produced about the new specialty of Emergency Medicine and played on PBS from 1980 to 1983.

I moved back to Seattle in 1982, practiced clinical emergency medicine, and co-founded an emergency medicine management group, Northwest Emergency Physicians.  We merged with Pacific Physician Services Inc in 1986 and did our first IPO in 1995.  In 1996 I co-founded TeamHealth, which is the nation’s largest provider of hospital based physician services treating over 18 million patients annually.  From 2001 until I retired in 2015, I served as TeamHealth’s National Chief Medical Officer, directing clinical risk prevention, supervising and teaching the company’s 1000 medical directors.  During that time, I also created 20 award-winning Patient Safety Fables, to teach our physicians and nurses about bedside manner and clinical risk mitigation.

Over the course of my career, I continued writing.  In 2005, I brought a screenplay treatment to a producer-friend who suggested I instead write it as a novel.  As retirement neared, I began researching and writing it in earnest.  The result, Widow Walk, has won many awards.  The first sequel, Isthmus, was a finalist for the PNWWA Nancy Pearl Award for fiction.

2) Now what got you interested in writing?

Have always been a writer.  Wrote several screenplays after graduating from CalArts.    I learned about the events in Widow Walk, while working as an emergency physician in Coupeville, Washington, which is about a mile from where the massacre occurred in 1857.  The story was so compelling that I decided to research it further.  Because the characters invented along the way were so interesting, I was encouraged and then decided to expand the family’s story into a saga.

3) Certainly the Civil War left many women as widows.  Why did you choose this topic to write about?

Despite the title of the first book, I am not really writing about widows as much as I am writing about the plight of women in general in the mid-nineteenth century.  They had few rights and many duties.  They were treated as chattel in a male-centric paradigm.  The main protagonist of the series, Emmy O’Malley Evers, always does the right thing, irrespective of the problems with which she is confronted or the sociopathy with which she must contend.  In books 1 and II, the antagonists are dangerous, troubled sociopathic villains, yet she endures and emerges in a very gritty way.  In The Fairness of Beasts, the third novel in the series, Emmy is again confronted by sociopathic behavior, but this time it is widespread — the type of which can only be unleashed when it is justified by war.   As a result of this particular journey in her life, she again must make choices that test her notions of love, duty and her relationship to a male counterpart.

4) Certainly slavery was one issue surrounding the Civil War- but there were many others- states’ rights, cotton, the bombing of Fort Sumter. What are some of the historical events or aspects that you explore in your books?

I write about the impact of purposeful “hard war” waged on a civilian population, the despicable opportunism that accompanies every war, and the degrees of separation that exist when one is directly in harm’s way versus that which exists when one is distant from it all.

5) During the pre-Civil War days, women and children were born into a certain society. What were the main values espoused by society at that time- particularly about women and marriage?

Women were confined within an intense set of expectations.  Men were given license.

6) It seems that readers can’t seem to get enough American history and seem to love learning about our country- to what do you attribute this?

I hope that’s true.  I am discouraged when I see statistics about how little the younger generations care about history.

7) Tell us a little about The Fairness of Beasts- just a teaser.

The Fairness of Beasts, a compelling new narrative of Civil War-era politics in Washington, D.C. incorporates family machinations, historical drama and riveting romance set against a backdrop of the universal struggle for freedom and human rights. Emmy O’Malley Evers and her family have journeyed from the Pacific Northwest and survived murder, kidnapping and a train heist to build a life with Emmy’s father, a Massachusetts Congressman elected on the Democratic ticket. In The Fairness of Beasts [Solipsis Publishing, October 24, 2017], readers discover that the family’s – and the country’s – journey is far from over.

Through this family connection, Emmy learns of army campaigns that will affect her fiancé, Rory Brett, whose home was commandeered by Confederate troops. When Emmy embarks on a perilous mission to save him, she leaves her children Jacob and Sarah in the care of her sister Kathleen. This proves disastrous and the children are plunged into a drama of their own, during which Sarah finds herself in the throes of young love with a clever and charming street urchin in the underground of Manhattan.

The Fairness of Beasts is a complex, tragic love story about a woman’s journey into the hells of war as she attempts to find her wounded lover, and the emergence of her 14-year-old daughter as the young teen explores the bewilderment that accompanies a first love.

A stunning novel that shines light on the dichotomy that occurs when the horrors of war crash up against the intensity and drama of everyday life. The Fairness of Beasts is destined for the cannon of must-read 21st Century literature.

8) Do you have a web site where readers can learn more about you and your books?

Yes, please connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or

9) What have I neglected to ask?

I’d like readers to know there are two more books from the series in the works, and Widow Walk has been “optioned” by actor/director/producer Tom Skerritt and Heyou Media for future film and/or TV series. Skerritt calls the book series the next Game of Thrones. Development for a pilot is underway.

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