William L. Sullivan
William L. Sullivan is the author of 23 books and numerous articles about Oregon, including a monthly "Oregon Trails" column for Eugene Weekly (Click here to see recent articles) and features for the Gannett newspapers, notably the Eugene Register-Guard and the Salem Statesman-Journal (Click here for a sample article about Hell Hole).
A fifth-generation Oregonian, Sullivan began hiking at the age of five and has been exploring new trails ever since. After studying at Deep Springs College in the California desert, receiving an English degree from Cornell University, and studying linguistics at Germany's Heidelberg University, he earned an M.A. in German literature from the University of Oregon. He has been happily married to the artist Janell Sorensen for nearly 50 years.
Sullivan's hobbies include backcountry ski touring (2-minute video), playing the pipe organ and harpsichord (1-minute video), reading foreign language novels, and promoting libraries. He co-chaired the campaign to build Eugene's downtown library, served on the Oregon State Library Board, and is president of the Lane Library League, a citizen group with the goal of extending library service to the 80,000 people in Lane County who currently lack service.
Sullivan organizes three author events each year -- the Oregon Authors Table at the Lane County Fair in Eugene in late July, the Oregon Authors Table at the Oregon State Fair from late August through early September in Salem, and the Authors & Artists Fair, a fundraiser for the Lane Library League at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene on the second Saturday in December.
He and his wife live in Eugene, but they spend summers in a log cabin (tour the cabin in this 1-minute video) they built by hand on a roadless stretch of a remote river in Oregon's Coast Range. Sullivan's memoir, Cabin Fever: Notes From a Part-Time Pioneer (1-minute video about the book) tells the humorous and dramatic story of the 25 summers that he and his wife spent building the cabin. Learn more about recent adventures there in the log cabin chronicles.
In 1985 Sullivan set out to investigate Oregon's wilderness on a 1,361-mile solo backpacking trek from the state's westernmost shore at Cape Blanco to Oregon's easternmost point in Hells Canyon. His journal of that two-month adventure, published as Listening for Coyote (1-minute video), was chosen in by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission in 2005 as one of the 100 most significant books in Oregon's history. (Listen to Sullivan give an 18-minute talk about his career, including short readings from "Listening for Coyote" and "The Case of the Reborn Bhagwan".)
Sullivan hiked every public trail he could find in Oregon for his popular 5-book series of "100 Hikes" guides to Oregon's trails. He continually rehikes those trails, keeping his guidebooks up to date. Each new edition features a dozen new trails, updated information on museums and rental cabins, and a 32-page color section that includes a wildflower identification guide. All of his "100 Hikes" books are updated every year or two to keep pace with changes due to storm damage, fires, construction, and changing fee systems. Titles in that series include:
Sullivan's series of mystery novels began with The Case of Einstein's Violin (1-minute video). In the book, an Oregon schoolteacher sells Einstein's violin case on eBay and finds herself pursued through Europe by international spies in search of a
missing formula for quantum gravity. The second in the series, The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute, is a thriller set in Portland. Read an interview with Indie Bookstore staff about the creative process behind this book. It is based on the notorious unsolved 1971 hijacking, when a man parachuted with $200,000 from a jet into the Northwest forests. The third book in the series, The Case of the Reborn Bhagwan, brings back the popular fictional Portland detective Neil Ferguson and his prescient, autistic daughter, to solve a murder mystery related to a revival of the Rajneeshee religious movement in Oregon.
Sullivan's historical novels about the Viking Age alternate chapters between actual archeological sites and the Vikings who were there a thousand years ago. The Ship in the Hill (1-minute video) begins the series in Norway. The Ship in the Sand tells of the Danish Vikings who conquered England. The Ship in the Woods follows the Swedish Vikings who founded Russia and Ukraine.
Sullivan's collection of fictional short stories, The Oregon Variations, include stories set in the counties in Oregon. Like the counties, these tales are all over the map, ranging from flash fiction to science fiction.
Sullivan's most colorful guidebook is Oregon Trips and Trails (1-minute video), a guide to the state's most beautiful places, illustrated with 800 color maps and photographs. The book has details for visiting 100 star destinations worth a journey, 65 hiking trails, and 250 places to stay -- including campgrounds, bed & breakfast inns, and quaint hotels.
The book Oregon's Greatest Natural Disasters (1-minute video) is an entertaining and provocative examination of the floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions that have affected people in Oregon during the past 13,000 years. Sullivan shows that these events are actually part of larger natural cycles.
Sullivan's first novel, A Deeper Wild (1-minute video), is based on the true adventures of Joaquin Miller, the swashbuckling Oregon Country gold miner, editor, pony express rider, horse thief, and county judge who won international renown in 1872 as the "Poet of the Sierras."
Sullivan edited three books by his father J. Wesley Sullivan, the late editor of Salem's Statesman-Journal. These books are Jam On the Ceiling (a collection of columns about life in Oregon), To Elsie With Love (a memoir of his 40-year marriage), and My Wife Has Alzheimers (a memoir of his wife's three-year battle with Alzheimers). All three books are being kept in print by William L. Sullivan's niece, the Eugene fantasy/scifi author Mary E. Lowd.
In 2021 Sullivan edited and designed two books by Oregon authors, "William Lovell Finley: Champion of Oregon's Wildlife Refuges" by Joe R. Blakely and "A Lane County Almanac" by David R. Wagner.