Sunday, May 19, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on June 16th, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 15 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 16, Issue 15

R Lawson Gamble's new book brings paranormal FBI investigator to the Central Coast


Local author R Lawson Gamble’s fascination with the Western United States began long before he moved to Los Alamos in 2009—he’s a lifelong consumer of Western novels and history. But it wasn’t until his move to California that he felt compelled to begin his own Western tale.

“Writing the novels, it didn’t really occur to me until I got out here and tried to write a short story, and it didn’t end up being so short,” he said. “I came out here and just loved it, there’s an aura of the outlaw bad-guy West that is very much alive out here.”

R Lawson Gamble will sign copies of his latest book at a launch party happening on June 20 at Bedford Winery in Los Alamos.

Gamble lives in Los Alamos, not far from Solomon Pico’s infamous canyon hideout, a subject the author also delivers talks on. The retired teacher is releasing the third installment in his Zack Tolliver, FBI series with a launch party on June 20 in Los Alamos at Bedford Winery, where he will sign copies of the new novel, Zaca, and talk on the character and the new book.

The series follows a rookie FBI investigator fresh out of training and on his first murder case, which takes him to a Navajo Reservation in Arizona. This is where the protagonist Zack Tolliver meets Eagle Feather, an expert tracker who helps Tolliver learn how to track and realize just what he’s tracking. Navajo mythology blends with modern-day investigative techniques as Tolliver and Eagle Feather work to find a paranormal perp.

The second book, Gamble explained, continues the adventure in California, predominantly in the Bay Area, but it’s not until the latest volume, Zaca, that Tolliver finally makes it close to Gamble’s home on the Central Coast.

“Zack Tolliver, he comes out for what he thinks is going to be a fun gig on the coast,” he said. “He comes to speak at Allan Hancock College, a presentation for a criminal law class.”

R Lawson Gamble set his latest book in the Zack Tolliver, FBI series on the Central Coast, pulling in plenty of local ties to the fictional tale.

A local farmer approaches Tolliver after the presentation, looking for the investigator’s help. The farmer, forced to strike up a deal with local cartels and aid in panga boat runs, notices mysterious disappearances from among his workers, and while afraid to approach local authorities, recognizes Tolliver’s expertise with otherworldly phenomena. Tolliver also meets Dr. Susan Apgar, an anthropology teacher at the college who helps shed some historical light on the mysterious kidnapper.

The investigation takes Tolliver all around the Central Coast, from his lodgings at the Santa Maria Inn to Chumash sacred land, including the peak the book’s named after, Zaca Peak. Gamble didn’t know his character would make it so close to home when he penned the first book in the series, The Other, in 2012, but the story’s narrative panned westward naturally in the following sequels.

“I never set out to write a series; it was just the book I set out to write at the time,” he said. “I will try to keep the series going, but I will continue to write other things I enjoy writing.”

Gamble authored another book released this year, Los Alamos Valley, which is part of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. The author organized images and research and wrote a detailed history of the little town for Arcadia. He also has a children’s book currently in the works.

He’s a member of the local group the Word Wizards, which includes local novelists, poets, and other writers who gather weekly to share work and offer critiques. The input of the group was helpful in refining and tightening the prose and plot of Zaca, the author said.

Meet the author
R Lawson Gamble holds a launch party and signing of his new book, Zaca, on June 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Bedford Winery on Bell Street in Los Alamos. More info:

“They all have very different opinions on things, and chapter by chapter, as I shared the book with them, I got more discouraged,” he said. “But after a bit of time I started a rewrite, and I got all excited about it again. … For me, it’s just like the excitement I get when reading a new author: I enjoy watching it form and seeing where it goes.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne never knows where a story will go either. Contact him at

Weekly Poll
How should the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District improve its A-G completion rates?

Align graduation requirements with university entrance requirements.
Ensure that students and parents are well aware of A-Gs and what they are before high school.
Improve support services and summer school classes for students who fall behind.
Completion rates are fine as is. Not everyone wants to go to a four-year college!

| Poll Results