blueprints richard heller

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TIMOTHY ACKER | LOOKING AT ‘BLUEPRINTS,’ BY RICHARD HELLER
Published Friday, July 11, 2014 | Kitsap Sun

This column is generally about perspectives seen in life.

It was fall in the Sierras, the book’s main character and the author’s alias, Alan Claymore, had been walking the John Muir Trail for two-and-a-half months with his dog, Curry. With the changing season, he started down, but changed his mind and began to ascend Mount Whitney.

Curry bit his leg, it bled, hurt, and forced him down the mountain. Halfway down, a storm hit and the temperature dropped to 20 degrees. “In the wilderness, I neither feel the pull of society or judgment so I wanted to continue the mountain trek, if I had I would have died,” Claymore said. The author lived the event.

“Blueprints” is a book about life, and especially Richard Heller’s life. He reports his most heart rendering moment: “death of dog by coyote.” His biggest mistake: “Not listening to my heart. I left teaching emotionally disturbed and autistic kids how to ride horses in order to try to please my father who asked, ‘When was I going to get a real job.’ I taught the kids physical balance and that kindness trumps roughness.”

Another big error, “Not taking the Colt 45 pistol that a friend insisted I take. He shot himself in the head three months later.”

Heller learned horseshoeing, very lucrative around the Los Angeles basin. He counted movie stars among his clients. He states that while some of the owners were difficult, the horses were generally nice. The hardest part was dealing with his own emotions while working on injured horses. “I wanted to do more than I could and get them out of pain. They recognized my help and counted on me.”

Heller said his life started out loveless and put him alone at 16. “You are either a sailor or survivor. I decided to sail.”

The book is about building, or sailing, whichever metaphor you prefer for making a place and life for yourself.

The writing is exceptionally well crafted, even though his schooling was thin. He told me that he only really learned to read and write by reading lines of scripts for actors in a park.

Heller also sculpts. His sculptures are intense, but handsome. The book is also intense and handsome — and painfully honest and personal. It is a start to look at your own blueprints for life.

Heller is married to the same woman since 1974. His wife, just retiring now, was one of the principals of Metagenics. They live in Gig Harbor, but keep an artistic hand-built house in the Hollywood hills.

Timothy Acker is a Gig Harbor attorney representing injured and traumatized persons.

richard heller

“With unblinking honesty, Blueprints offers, chapter by chapter, an unforgettable search for self that’s painful, humorous, loving and astonishing at every turn. Every story told is rich with human detail, wonderful surprise. Using the theme of remodeling a home, Richard Heller’s “Alan” gradually rebuilds himself and his world. We, as readers, are privileged to witness a life revealed with Heller’s authenticity and depth.” ~ Holly Prado Northup

richard heller

“A wonderful, odd book, it is the story of a ferocious heart determined to open to the world -- all of the world – no matter what the odds or obstacles. At turns deeply painful and very funny, tragic and goofy, Heller pulls the reader into a life fully lived:  What other author could say “hiking with a wound that’s not life-threatening always seems to lessen the pain” and know exactly what that entails?” ~ Ronald Sharrin Ph.D.

richard heller
“Early on in Richard Heller’s anecdotal and picaresque BLUEPRINTS, Heller’s protagonist, Alan, must ride and break a dangerous rearing horse; when they fall to the earth, Alan, unhurt, leans close to the horse and whispers: ‘You can no longer do this and I’m going to stay with you and help you’...and so Alan does – with this wayward horse. And so Richard Heller does – with this feral wild child of a book until, with the help of a variety of beloved horses, dogs, the great outdoors, a woman, a child, a house, and a remarkable array of American and Scottish friends, Alan finds his way back to the path. A path filled with the complexity of resentment and passion, rebellion and tenderness, where a wounded man, still searching, is on his heartfelt journey, headed home.” ~ Garrett M. Brown