Born in Racine, publishes his first book focusing on black characters in the old west | entertainment



RACINE – William Greer’s first published book began as a 40th birthday present for his son.

The Racine native, who now resides in Madison, said it was a struggle to find a gift that would express a father’s love for his son, something more than a card, something to put the time and effort into.

“I wanted a gift that would show him how much he really means to me,” Greer said.

So he wrote a short story, a western starring a black cowboy.

“He was very moved by that,” Greer said. “He said, ‘Let her come. If you enjoy it, I like to read it.’”

After a while, Greer began sharing the short stories with friends and family, who encouraged him to turn them into a book, which he did.

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William Greer’s Walker’s Way is a historical novel that crosses paths with the western genre.

Greer published his first book – Walker’s Way – featuring the black cowboy he created as a gift for his son.

“I’ve always had a knack for writing, for putting things on paper,” Greer said. “I’ve wanted to write a book for a long time, but it wasn’t until I retired in 2016 that I found the time.”

With the publication of his book in 2020, he was able to cross an item off his bucket list.

Western film

Greer, who is now 75 and thinking about a second book, looks back to his childhood in Racine in the ’50s and ’60s, where he spent many Saturday afternoons watching westerns with his mother.

“I knew a lot about westerns from the perspective of a fan and a reader,” said Greer. “What I didn’t know was the role that African Americans played in the western saga, because in all the material I watched and read, there was very little mention of black men and women.”

He began researching and learned that blacks played a significant role in the Civil War and later in western migration and settlement, stories often ignored by Hollywood.

“It was a story that seemed largely untold to me,” he said. “I wanted to flesh that out for people, so I created a character that allows me to do that.”

The character was Joe Walker, a former slave who fled the South and fought for the Union in the Civil War and then helped settle the West. The story is nuanced and involves the struggle of black men and women who were “suddenly emancipated and had no idea what to do now that they were free”.

Greer said he did quite a bit of research for the novel. Although it’s a western, it could also be considered historical fiction.

“I’ve looked at what that must have been like for people who were part of this nation almost from the start, but who weren’t given the independence and agency to live their own lives,” Greer added.

He had to learn some things about history that weren’t taught in school, particularly in the ’50s and ’60s: the role of black men and women in the Civil War and the Buffalo Soldiersthe products of war were and helped settle the West.

Bass Reeves


Greer found out about it Bass Reeves“who was a prominent law enforcement officer in the mid and late 19th century, the first black to don a badge, covering territory west of the Mississippi.”

He also learned Nat lovewho was a famous cowboy of the era, known for his skill in horsemanship, and James Beckwortha famous miner.

“Joe Walker has parts of all these real men in him,” Greer said. “His boldness and journey reflect their true stories.”

Greer explained, “I wanted young black men and women, young black children, to get a sense that we played an important role in what is now called ‘taming the west.'”

“The people who tell the story are the people who shape what history is,” he said. “So it’s very important for people of color to be the storytellers, just like everyone else.”


Greer graduated from Horlick High School in 1965.

William Greer in his Horlick High School graduation photo

William Greer in his Horlick High School graduation photo, 1965. He remembers with gratitude his Horlick High School English teacher, Janet Fishbain, who encouraged him to continue writing.


He remembers with gratitude his English teacher at Horlick High School, Janet Fischbainwho encouraged him to continue writing.

Although she has since passed away, Greer credits her in acknowledging his book and the fact that he did what she encouraged him to do: keep writing.

In addition to Fishbain, Greer credits the team he worked with at the Chicago’s Cadence Group and Bethany BrownExecutive Director, especially for helping move the process forward.

“She gave me the validation and motivation to keep going,” he said.

Brown saw the book as something that would appeal to a wide audience, somewhat beyond the western genre.

As for the long process of taking his work from manuscript to published book, Greer described himself as “a baby in the woods.”

He was introduced to his editor, Katherine Don, who was collaborating on the project. She helped him take what he had written and develop it.

Greer said hearing the company liked his book was “both a blessing and a curse.”

“The blessing is that they like the concept,” he said. “The curse is that you now have to do the finishing work.”

The process took about three years; As a retiree, however, Greer didn’t necessarily have to work long days on the edit.

Still writing, he says, “I think I have a book or two left in me.”


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