Friday, June 10, 2011

B.J. Campbell & True Tales of Cougar Bob

Post Falls Author B.J. Campbell turned a wealth of stories about her adventurous husband and outdoorsman extraordinaire, Cougar Bob, into an exciting collection of cliff-hanging tales.

Being married to Cougar Bob is a stroke of luck for me as a chronic writer. He has tales to tell. My husband is colorful and doesn't realize it, and his routine adventures give us conversation topics for dinner. Usually at a point in his stories, I say, "You did what?" Then I write the plot on a paper napkin. - BJ
I was bummed last weekend when a family obligation kept me from visiting one of my favorite local authors, B.J. Campbell, when she made an appearance at the Rathdrum Farmer's Market, not far from my home. I regretted missing the chance to visit with her and to hear some snippets from her book.

Here's what she shared with me about her visit to Rathdrum:
For the occasion, I read a very short scene from "Hazard Pay," where Bob volunteers to cut the top out of a fir tree angled over the rim of the Moyie Canyon to make way for a transit shot for the bridge. Then Alex Henkoski, guitar player with the North Idaho Hat Band played a couple sets of great bluegrass at the Market, followed with his reading of excerpts from the "Cougar Bob Review." I can't speak for anyone else, but I had a fine time.
Although I missed B.J. in person, I decided to throw a blog spotlight on her and I'm positive you'll enjoy getting to know both her and Cougar Bob. I suggest you spend some time reading past issues of the "Cougar Bob Review," like I did. You can find them on B.J.'s website at One of my favorites, "Campbell Goes Politically Correct," the lead story in the November 2010 issue, is hilarious; and the supporting photo of Cougar Bob is a hoot.

In the past year and a half, B.J. has scheduled book signings from Spokane to Sandpoint, and all points between; often with the hero of the stories, Bob himself, at her side. Although his health limits his participation, Cougar Bob enjoys signing books and sharing tales of his exploits with old friends and new acquaintances.

A Sandpoint native, Cougar Bob and B.J. are looking forward to their next scheduled book signing at the Corner Book Store in Sandpoint, on Wednesday, July 13.

Close Calls is the perfect book for the outdoor sportsman in your life - or just anyone who enjoys tales of bravery told with humor reminiscent of fellow Sandpoint native, Patrick McManus.
Sit by the fire and enjoy Cougar Bob's Mountain Man stories galore. There'll be plenty of true tales told of deer hunting, whompus cat trapping, raccoon treeing, coursing hound chasing, bloodhounds man-trailing, and predator call practicing before breakfast. - B.J.
In case you can't make it to Sandpoint in July, you can pick up a copy of CLOSE CALLS: True Tales of Cougar Bob at the following local stores:
In Coeur d'Alene: Black Sheep Sporting Goods & Hastings
In Rathdrum: Rathdrum Star Office--8086 Main St
In Spokane: Hastings & Auntie's Book Store

The True Tales of Cougar Bob
By B. J. Campbell
ISBN: 978-1-936178-04-9
Published 2009 by Gray Dog Press
Price: $14.95

Courageous North Idaho long distance runner, Robert L. Campbell, contracts polio in the Navy, right out of High School. Will he ever run again?

In one of the book’s twenty-six short stories, he shows his determination to walk without braces, and once again to work as a hunter/trapper. People who know him, dub him Cougar Bob, because he’s the State & Federal Wildlife agencies’ go-to hunter/trapper of menacing animals. He faces life-threatening blizzards, swims the rivers at ice flow, is dropped into the Moyie Canyon at the end of a rope, tracks an escaped killer with his man-trailing bloodhound, and takes a cougar with his pocket knife.

Those who know him wonder: How does Cougar Bob escape to live another day? A good way to find out is to read CLOSE CALLS: The True Tales of Cougar Bob.

For more information, or to purchase a copy, go to:

To learn more about B.J. herself, be sure to read her interview with Cathy Stucker, below. You'll learn what inspired her, how she found a publisher, and valuable insights from this talented writer.

B.J. Campbell Interview
Author of CLOSE CALLS: The True Tales of Cougar Bob
"The Cougar Bob Review"
by Cathy Stucker

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Close Calls: The True Tales of Cougar Bob is a collection of stories about North Idaho native, Robert L. "Cougar Bob" Campbell. People know Cougar Bob as the man who climbs trees and takes cougar and bear with his pocket knife, if necessary. They might know him as the trapper who, at Idaho Fish and Game's request, caught the Bayview Cougar, after it killed livestock and stalked children at the school bus stop. They may have heard of his swimming the Lochsa River at ice floe to set road survey points on the opposite bank.

Naturally, most of the book's twenty-six stories feature a narrow escape.

All of the stories are true. The book's creative non-fiction format shows the action as close as possible to actual events. Most tales offer readers a chance to laugh, as do "Hound Music," and "The Brush Fit." Other stories carry serious themes, such as Bob's bout with polio in the Navy, "Bracing for Life," and his "Coming Home." Either way, readers of the book will get to know him.

News Flashes from “The Cougar Bob Review,” the twenty-year annual newsletter publication about the man’s adventures and character, appear between the short stories. The Flashes include such scenes as "Bear in Mind," the grizzly riding away in the bed of Bob's pickup after trapping man and dog in the cab. In another, "Tiptoeing Tips," Bob gives advice on how to stalk and pick up porkypines with his bare hands. Yet another, "Ballistics Decision Frozen in Time," features a rare a photograph of hell buried in snow and ice the day he changed his choice of ammunition.

Tell us something about yourself.

I'm an Idahoan and can't think of any reason to leave. Grew up in South Idaho, then migrated to North Idaho after I earned a BA in Biology and English at Northwest Nazarene University and married Cougar Bob. Taught high school English and Public Speaking, and coached Drama for a few years, then took a clinical research job at a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. Finished a Communications Masters at Eastern Washington University during that time. By the end of a long career at the laboratory with varied assignments, I owned my Technical Writing business, Write On, and quite a stack of Cougar Bob stories.

What inspired you to write this book?

Being married to Cougar Bob is a stroke of luck for me as a chronic writer. He has tales to tell. My husband is colorful and doesn't realize it, and his routine adventures give us conversation topics for dinner. Usually at a point in his stories, I say, "You did what?" Then I write the plot on a paper napkin.

The "Cougar Bob Review" evolved from a page-layout course I took at a local college. The course required a project for practice. My dinner napkin collection furnished a never-ending source of stories for the CBR. I recorded Bob's legends and sent the periodic CBR publication to family and five-hundred of my closest friends for about twenty years. I wanted to make certain his family, friends and other readers come to know him better than they might otherwise. I hoped they would see his spirit in the face of great saddness, like realizing after his polio, he probably never would break the World Record for the four-minute mile. But he focused on what he could do, like following jail escapees with his man-trailing bloodhound. His courage underlies every story.

Soon after the "Cougar Bob Review" hit press, I began to flag more news flashes that would furnish fun for the readers if they knew the whole story. Thus the short story collection grew.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher?

I chose Gray Dog Press with Publisher Russ Davis, whom I heard speak at a writers' group meeting. His attractive published books included a good representation of non-fiction on outdoor topics by Northwest authors. Close Calls: The True Tales of Cougar Bob seemed written for his Booklist. In an e-mail query, I expressed that thought. Publisher Davis agreed and bought my book.

*What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Find a publisher whose Booklist includes books of genre and theme similar to your book. For instance, investigate whether the publisher focuses on Western Novels, or Science Fiction Novels or Non-fiction Self-Help, etc. Your book will have a better chance of seeing print if it fits into a publisher's established plan.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

The thought of publishing stories appealed to me, but for years I did not submit any for publication. I wanted to avoid the agony of the publisher's rejection. I shared the Cougar Bob story, "Licked," with a friend of my husband's. Without telling me, he hand-copied and submitted it to a coursing hound magazine. The magazine published it. It was my first publication. After thus discovering a market for my output, I found renewed purpose in generating all those words.

How do you do research for your books?

Depends on the subject. A forty-minute phone Interview with logger/hunter Sweet gave me all I required for "The Brush Fit" --- definition, history, categories, styles and cures. In other cases, such as "Tanning Hides Requires Brains," in addition to the sixty-minute Interview, I handled leather made by different processes, read a couple of books, articles and information from online searches for a bit of background.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

Treat handwritten notes on dinner napkins with respect. Someday they could become a memorable story.


Jennifer Rova said...

Kudos to B.J. and Mary Jane for an interesting and entertaining interview. Loved the closing advice

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Great post Mary Jane. I love the idea of highlighting our area authors. B.J, your proactive, relentless book marketing is an inspiration to other authors.

Jessie Gunderson said...

B.J and Mary Jan thanks! This was fun and inspiring. I've got so many "dinner napkin" stories I could stuff a mattress. My friends tell me my life is better than fiction but I never got that or known how that would look as a book. I should take your advice and look at it fresh. :) We should chat sometime and maybe bring my dad.

Mary Jane Honegger said...

I think maybe those notes are one of the signs that you are a true writer. I too have a file of notes, memos, ideas, inspirations, and half goofy ideas that come to me and I write on whatever is handy - which, for me, appears to have been the back of checking deposit slips for many years. The difference between us and B.J. is that she did something with hers bit by bit and discovered a book in the process. That is truly inspirational to the rest of us. Getting together is always a great idea & good luck on taking a fresh look at your old notes. MJ