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Remembering R. L. Wilson

The late R.L. "Larry" Wilson (left) and the Blue Book of Gun Values author/publisher, S.P. Fjestad (right), shown holding one of Larry's biggest literary projects – the two volume set of Magnificent Colts which he co-authored with the late Robert M. Lee.
  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 Larry well. There were so many chapters in his Book of Life, and this is not intended to be a medium to explore or explain them. The following posts reflect what The Professor meant to his friends, colleagues, and family, and how much he impacted our lives. To find out a comprehensive listing of Larry's achievements throughout the decades, please visit and click on "Author".

In September of 1997, R.L. Wilson, photo journalist Dennis Adler, Luigi Chinetti Jr. (Luigi Sr. won Le Mans during 1949 in a Ferrari), and myself departed on a landmark trip to Italy. Our first stop was Maranello, and we were given access to the entire Ferrari factory, plus allowed to take a few laps on the famous Fiorano race track in a new Ferrari with paddle-shifting.

After that, we went to Brescia for an extensive tour of the sprawling Beretta complex, whose history dates back to 1526. Being the official group photographer, I sent everyone a large scrapbook with all the images after we got back. On December 29th, 1997, Larry sent me a very nice thank you letter. His last sentence was "That's what life's all about, in the long term – enjoying what is a relatively brief moment on this fabulous earth!" No one understood this better than Larry.

Publisher's note: If you would like to contribute a post for the late R.L. Wilson, please email it to Images would also be very much appreciated.
A Select Bibliography of R. L. Wilson   
R.L. Wilson & Defeat of Jesse James Days   
An Appreciation   
R. L. “Larry” Wilson, Mentor and Friend   
Memories of a Literary Legend Part I   

Memories of a Literary Legend Part I

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 bring $125,000+.

The article continues in Part II

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