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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   

R. L. “Larry” Wilson, Mentor and Friend
by Charles Priore

I’ve done quite a few blogs not to mention a whole lot of other writing and it never comes easy. But this assignment is one of the toughest ever tackled and I’m still unsure as to where to get this going.

One aspect of this entry is that it is NOT going to be an obituary for Larry Wilson. There are quite a few out there now, some I have even edited. No, this is going to be a tribute about my friend and mentor Larry Wilson who died on December 10, 2016.

Many times my daughters have heard me utter that: “life turns on a dime” and that sometimes “serendipity” plays a major role in our life and careers. Such was the case with Larry Wilson whose videos were stored on a gift shelf in the Gould Library of Carleton College. A quick conversation with the Special Collections librarian yielded a name and an address in San Francisco. My thank you/introductory missive was unanswered for about three months, and then a phone call to my home from a gentleman with a bit of a grovel in his voice began speaking to me about guns and his time at Carleton College.

Larry’s eventual trip to Minnesota led to my meeting S.P. Fjestad, which led to a dinner at my home. The conversation spawned an idea that has never been duplicated again. The 25th edition of the Blue Book of Gun Values became the volume where a wide variety of people (from clergy to librarians), had their moment of fame and a story to tell about firearms in their lives.

This was Larry’s first-ever physical visit to Blue Book Publications. L-R. Charles Priore, S.P. Fjestad, R.L. Wilson.

Soon afterwards, Carleton College sponsored an exhibit and a formal lecture in the Library’s Athenaeum that was very well attended. It was the catalyst that Larry needed as he began to re-establish his humble beginnings here, and continue forward in his most prolific way.

There are many things one can say about R.L. Wilson. Indeed a book should be published to chronicle his many adventures and exploits, but only a few need to be discussed here. Two things we can say with absolute certainty is that he knew a lot of people and he was a perfectionist. Larry was instrumental in getting my story published in Shotgun Sports magazine regarding wing shooting in Argentina, and he played a crucial role in landing me the editorship to the monumental two volume set Magnificent Colts (co-authored by the late Robert M. Lee). That project was a really tough one. We faced many hurdles from an issue

with the photographer to copyright etc. but oftentimes it was Larry who slowed production, as he wanted to do a re-write or re-arrange an entire page. Frank Sinatra claimed that he did not have a single album of his own music anywhere in the home. The reason was simple. When Frank heard the song, he just knew he could have done it a wee bit better, and that knowledge upset him greatly. Frank meet Larry.

But R.L.’s perfectionism also showed in his public persona as well. Through a series of introductions he was able to make his way as an honorary bad guy in the Northfield, MN Jesse James bank robbery. Considered one of the top western re-enactments in the country today, Larry got to play the role of outlaw Clell Miller. In reality, Miller was shot off his horse, but that was a stunt for a professional; so Larry got gunned down in the street and made dead for the duration of the robbery. But here is the hysterical jolt of it. Amidst the gunfire and chaos, the horse nearest to R.L. let loose with a mighty intestinal explosion that plopped only a foot from his head. People were hysterical, but Clell Miller played the role to Academy Award winning perfection and never moved. Larry later transitioned to play the role of Nicholas Gustavson, a recent immigrant to Northfield, who did not speak English and was gunned down in the fracas that followed; another great performance by Larry.

One could tell stories for days about R.L. Wilson. He loved my daughters and they thought the world of him (their photograph is in Silk and Steel). He was very fond of my wife Harriet, and especially her culinary skills, as on one occasion he easily put down four massive waffles smothered with syrup and cream.

R.L. Wilson instructs the Priore girls on the basics of handguns. L-R Caroline Priore, R.L. Wilson and Anna Priore.

The phone in my office rang on December 9th. If ever there was a “one issue” voter it was he; and that of course was the Second Amendment. “We finally got rid of those cockroaches”, he yelled into the phone, “Our rights are protected for possibly two generations!” And from there we had a good old time talking about guns and the upcoming holidays. 

About 24 hours later he was gone. There is not really much more to say other than the fact that a small piece of me died the day I heard the news. My shock continues.

You shall never be forgotten my dear friend and mentor. Rest in peace.

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