by S.P. Fjestad
Photo by Christopher T. Wilson
You never know when or where something/someone may change your life – you just have to be willing and ready to accept it,
because then it will happen sooner than later. For me it got started back in 1975, almost 41 years ago to the day, when my
brother walked into Victor Lundeen's, a book store and stationery shop in Fergus Falls, MN (my family's hometown), to try to
find his brother a decent Christmas gift. Somehow he ended up in the firearms book section and picked out an oversized book
with a red and yellow dust jacket entitled The Book of Winchester Engraving by R.L. Wilson. The sticker price was an
astronomical $50, but somehow Greg came up with the cash and his only brother/sister got a once-in-a-lifetime Christmas
gift – of course I still have it. Upon ripping off the wrapping paper on Christmas Eve, I immediately marveled at the highly
decorated and engraved Winchester rifles and shotguns adorning its pages, and dreamed about to getting involved in the creation
of a similar book someday and maybe even meet the author someday. Looking back, this book changed my life.
R.L. "Larry" Wilson passed away on December 10th, 2016 in his maxed out apartment on historic Telegraph Hill in San Francisco –
he was 77, and every day in his life had been an adventure. Recapping/recounting the swashbuckling life and times of R.L. Wilson
is a daunting/near impossible task for those of us fortunate enough to have known him well.
There were so many chapters in his Book of Life, and this is not intended to be a medium to explore or explain most of them –
there are simply too many for this application.
He was born in St. James, MN on June 24, 1939, right down the road from Blue Book Publications headquarters in Minneapolis.
Larry's literary career was nothing short of astonishing – almost surreal. His first book was published when he was only 22
(1961), and his last book, The History and Art of the American Gun was published late in 2015. Within that time period, Larry
averaged approximately one book every year, and they were all "scratch batches of cookies", each one requiring a lot of original
historical research. His academic approach and unrelenting appetite for integrating a ton of original research and documentations
into all his projects finally gave gun collectors the best and most accurate information they could get on America's major
trademark firearms, but especially on Colts and Winchesters. There can be no doubt that Wilson's carefully researched
publications are the primary reason that the finest Colt blackpowder pistols/revolvers are now selling in the low seven digit
range. Before Larry's landmark publications, Colt Walkers were selling in the $1,500-$2,000 range – now a rusty dug up will
The article continues in Part II