Author Gordon Hesse,

A Modern-Day Odysseus

by Katherine Ward, Delaware Press Association Executive Director

A public relations specialist, communications consultant, author, and longtime  member of DPA, Gordon Hesse has developed creative content for local, regional, national, and international publications and websites. His work often has been accompanied by his photography and graphics.

Wearing his hat as an author, Gordon asks: “What if people thought you were a god?” He answers that question with words and images in Children of the Sky: The Odyssey of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, his latest foray in the world of publishing. In the ebook, Gordon tells of one man, the explorer Cabeza de Vaca, and his three comrades who, five hundred years ago, were perceived by Native Americans of the Southwest and Mexico to be gods with power over life and death. The tale illuminates the clash of Native American and European cultures, medieval warfare, the folly of greedy leaders, survival under extreme circumstances, and spiritual influences inspired by Psalm 133. Gordon based the book on research that spanned two decades and tapped more than 145 sources.

Research and Personal Discoveries Lead to eBook Publications

“The thought of publishing an ebook did not enter my mind,” Gordon says, “until January 2012, when Apple introduced iBook Authors templates and software for free. I already had shopped my manuscript in a few places, but like so many writers, I got tired of the rejection — and worse, the uncertainty. In a crowded field, had my work been given more than even a cursory look?”

Using the Apple iBook software, Gordon was able to more fully realize his version of historical events with a variety of photos and illustrations that give a greater sense of 16th-century culture and events. Originally conceived as a screenplay, his first ebook is interactive, with more than 46 photographs, illustrations, and maps. A sample, with many of the illustrations, can be downloaded for free on an iPad or an Apple computer with OS 10.9 or later and is now available from the  Apple iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle Store, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Book Store. More information is available at www.gordonhesse.com.

Gordon formed Level One Publications, LLC, for Children of the Sky and several other projects he has waiting in the wings. They include Cuban Blues, a book about his experiences in Havana prisons, a collection entitled "The Christmas Killer and Other Short Stories", and another book in development about two Estonian teenagers who were abducted by the Soviets and traveled across Europe during World War II.

The Quest for Romance and Adventure

Gordon’s own story is a fascinating odyssey. Raised in Roselle Park, New Jersey, and at the seashore resort of Lavallette, he attended Clemson University, studying architecture design for three years before majoring in English and fine arts. During and after college, he lifeguarded for ten years on three beaches in New Jersey and one in Florida. Inspired by his experiences of the beach culture and by the history of life along the Jersey Shore over the course of the previous 70 or so years, he wrote All Summer Long: Tales and Lore of Lifeguarding on the Atlantic (Jersey Shore Publications, April 2005). Reviewers called it “a wave of inspiration” (Asbury Park Press) and a “book [to] be propped open on a beach blanket [while it] throws sunshine on a subject few know about” (The News Journal).

“In a quest for romance, adventure, and experiences to write about after graduation from college,” Gordon says, “I hitchhiked from my home in New Jersey to Hawaii and lived there working as a bartender for several months before returning to the California mainland. The 1971 Simi Valley earthquakes in L.A. propelled me eastward, and I moved, undaunted, to Florida, where I found work as a mechanic’s assistant, lifeguard, and deckhand on a shrimp boat. Fatefully, that vessel accidentally motored into Cuban waters, leading to imprisonment of myself and three other crewmen. The Cubans could not decide whether we were paramilitary (we had military surplus), CIA operatives, marijuaneros [marijuana smugglers], or bumbling seamen. Those experiences are described in Cuban Blues, an account of my experiences in Cuban prisons in the 1970s, including solitary confinement, house arrest in a mansion, leading a prison riot with other Americans, a trial before Revolutionary Tribunal Numero Uno, and two hunger strikes that led to my release along with the other three crewmen.” Cuban Blues [was] released as an ebook in February 2014 (initially for iPad and Apple Computers).

“Returning to New Jersey after the ordeal in Cuba, I worked as a dockmaster and a crane operator, but becoming an investigator for the criminal courts in Ocean County gave me the opportunity to fulfill my passion to become a ‘gumshoe’ of sorts. In fact, I was more like a Fair Witness from Stranger in a Strange Land. The pre-sentence reports I compiled for the judges formed a foundation for much of my subsequent writing. I was promoted to director of a Big Brothers-type program for several years before leaving to pursue a 20-year career as a public relations and communications consultant for a medical center and, most prominently in Delaware, with the New Castle County Library System, Delmarva Power, the University of Delaware, and the YMCA of Delaware.”

Gordon, who enjoys living near utopian Arden, Delaware, welcomes reader responses to his writings via his website, www.gordonhesse.com.

Gordon Hesse