Clayton Bess and Robert Locke - back to back <empty>



Robert Locke worked for many years as a librarian at California State University, Sacramento, which hosts this website and also includes his books and plays in its Library's regular collection and its Archives. Robert Locke takes full responsibility for the information posted. The information on this page represents that of Robert Locke and not that of California State University, Sacramento.

Robert Locke. Hmm. Well, I am Robert Locke, yes, but sometimes I wonder because there is also this Clayton Bess fellow, and I suppose he must be accounted for here in this space, too.

But first let me describe this Robert Locke-Clayton Bess website you’ve ventured into, for whatever reasons you may have. The main purpose of the website is to allow you to get to know my works—that is, my novels, plays and my acting roles. I suppose I’ll have to throw in some autobiographical stuff and some photos, but really I often believe that my life is my work. Therefore I encourage you to click on the links to my books and plays to find out more about what drives me through my life.

Here on this homepage, however, I’ll tell you at least the why and the wherefore of my pen name. My father’s name is Clayton and my mother’s name is Bess. In 1982, with the publication of my first book, Story for a Black Night, I was afraid both of them did not have long to live because they were both having heart trouble. Putting their names on my book was a way of giving them immortality, I thought, and the greatest honor I had to award them for being such good parents to me all my life.

In any case, it seemed to me at that time that I didn’t really have any career as a writer ahead of me. During the ten years I searched for a publisher for Story for a Black Night and during the two years of delay after its actual acceptance for publication, that notion crystallized. So, it was no big deal giving away my own name to my parents. As it turned out, however, Story for a Black Night garnered starred reviews and even a few awards. So it was, after all, the beginning of a career for Clayton Bess, author of books for young people.

Just afterward, a completely separate career as playwright also finally began to open up. I had been writing plays and screenplays for years—to utter rejection by producers—but now my play The Dolly was about to be performed in San Francisco, with another production planned almost immediately afterwards in my hometown across the bay. For these productions, I wanted my own name as playwright, so that people who knew me from high school and college would come to see my work. It also seemed natural to me to keep the two writers separate since The Dolly was definitely for adults, and not at all for young people. (I’ve since changed my mind about that.)

And this is the how of my having two names attached to my writings. It would have been simpler if I had never invented Clayton Bess but simply let Robert Locke do his own writing and talking. But that’s the way it is.

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