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Sanibel resident’s 31st book released

By Staff | Nov 18, 2015

Author William Hallstead holds his latest book “Pursuit of the Weapon From Hell.” MEGHAN McCOY

Newspaper stories, conversations with others and reading books all contribute to the formation of ideas for one Sanibel resident whose 31st book, “Pursuit of the Weapon From Hell” was recently released.

“The school I went to required you to write something every week,” William Hallstead, born and raised in Dalton, PA, said of why he began writing. “It’s fun to write. It’s something you can do informally at home. It’s productive. You can use your imagination. It’s a great occupation for a retiree as long as you are half way sane and you can keep plugging away.”

He published his first book in the 1950s about a church’s history.

His latest book stemmed from reading about the Livermore Laboratory out of California who came up with an idea for a cruise missile that would carry hydrogen bombs from target to target at low altitudes using a nuclear powered engine in the 1950s.

“Then they realized it would leave a radioactive trail every where it went. The only way to get to Russia at the time was over friendly territory, so they would be poisoning the ground, which ended the whole thing,” Hallstead said. “It is based on that background. It is where I got the idea.”

The hero of his book works in an agency that is part of the Air Force, which is made up of mostly civilian protected people who track down these threatening instances.

“Part way through the book, they decide he should go to Mexico and disguise him as a husband with a woman spy,” he said.

The WWII veteran got his feet wet in a variety of careers before he began writing fill-time.

Hallstead served in the United States Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1945. He served in the 15th Air Force in Italy as a radio operator of B-24 bombers. He was in the reserves for 13 years.

“We were stranded in Greenland for a month. On the way over one of the engines went out on the bomber. We were carrying over and made an emergency landing in Greenland, sat there a month waiting for a new engine. By the time I got over into combat I went on one mission, the last one, the big one of the war,” he said.

After leaving the service he took flying lessons with his G.I. Bill and began working as a flight instructor at Scranton, PA Municipal Airport for four years. He then began a flight school with two other flight instructors using a 1929 Bird biplane, which lasted for about a year. His career then led him to crop dusting in Illinois before quickly changing again when he was asked to be the airport manager in Polo, Ill.

He said he “finally had to come down to earth so to speak” and worked for a consulting engineer designing highways in Baltimore in 1957. At the same time he began to sell articles on civil engineering projects to engineering magazines, which started the beginning of his writing career.

“I wrote more and more articles about civil engineering and then I tried articles in general magazines. I started to get hits,” Hallstead said.

With his success in writing articles, he decided to start his own magazine called Baltimore Scene that touched upon general interest for the Baltimore area. The magazine only lasted for a year because the Chamber of Commerce had a similar publication.

“I sold that off to a publisher in Washington,” Hallstead said. “That led to me being hired by the Rouse Company, which was building the city of Columbia between Baltimore and Washington. I was doing public relations for them. That made me into a salaried PR man.”

He continued to write magazine articles during that time period, resulting between 400 and 500 published works. Living for Young Homemakers was among one of the magazines he contributed to, which shared a boys life.

In the mid 1960s he tapped into another career working for Maryland’s Public TV Network where he spent time working as the director of development fundraisers and information services. He retired from there after 16 years.

Hallstead made his way down to Sanibel in the 1960s, a year after the causeway was built, for the first time. After he retired his wife insisted that they moved to Sanibel, which brought the couple to the island in 1986. During the early years of moving to the island, Hallstead was the board chairman of the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum for five terms.

“My wife, Jean (Little), was a shell collector,” he said of his wife of 63 years who died in 2011.

Once he retired he starting writing more. His most successful six books were written under the pen name William Beechcroft after the name of his family’s house, a small farm with small Beech Trees in Dalton.

“Those were my most successful books. They were all thrillers,” Hallstead said.

Throughout his writing career he has worn out two typewriters, two word processors and he’s on his second computer. He spends time writing every day on the third floor of his house in the Plywood Tower.

“It’s cluttered with just about everything,” he said of the space that contains a good amount of reference books.

Another book is already in the works, due to a contract he has with BlueWaterPress out of St. Augustine. The book’s title is “The Secret of Keystone City.”

Individuals can purchase his books through Barnes & Noble, Amazon and his publisher BlueWaterPress.

Hallstead has two children, William IV lives in Pensacola and is a salesman in the automotive field and his daughter Alyssa, who is nearing retirement from her own computer consultancy, is starting an alpaca farm in New York state.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.