It might take me a couple of years to finish. It's a long haul. We'll see what happens.
The next novel Jesse Bier '49 writes might involve two bank robbers and a stranger with a gun. He's still working out the details, but the project continues a literary career 93-year-old Bier traces back to his time at Bucknell University after World War II.
As a high-school student, Bier received scholarship offers from Bucknell and a handful of other institutions, but his plans for college were put on hold by the draft. He served as an infantryman in Belgium, France and Germany. When he returned home, Bier was attracted to Bucknell's peaceful campus in the middle of Pennsylvania.
"The whole thing was such a corrective to my tumultuous war experience," says Bier. "Bucknell contributed greatly to my emotional recovery." It was also where he studied with Mildred Martin, professor emerita of English, who solidified his love for literature. Bier credits her with his decision to pursue graduate studies at Princeton University, where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in literature. Bier when on to teach at various locations, including the University of Montana, where he is professor emeritus of English, and the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where he held the chair of American literature.
In the 1960s Bier's novels Trial at Bannock and Year of the Cougar garnered reviews in The New York Times. One of his short stories was picked up by Esquire. After that, Bier admits, his creativity felt depleted, at least for a while. In retirement, and with the encouragement of his family, he's returned to writing. In the last five years he's self-published a children's book, The Silly People's Orchestra (2015), and five novels, Transatlantic Lives (2012), The Cannibal (2013), Ocho Rios (2014) and After Dying (2016), completed a poetry manuscript and penned a handful of plays. (See the Mind and the Muse, Page 18, for more information.) Writing a novel at any age is challenging, but Bier, still a pool aficionado as well, isn't dissuaded.
"It might take me a couple of years to finish," says Bier. "It's a long haul. We'll see what happens."