Although he was born in Newark, New Jersey, on April 24, 1934, Russell always wanted to be a cowboy. He was bedridden with asthma and pneumonia for many of his childhood winters. Books became his companions. He read of cowboys and south sea islands and India. During the summers he and his dad would slip away to the movies to watch Lash LaRue and other early cowboy heros. At his grandfather’s farm, Lucky, the pony, would be waiting for him.
Russ majored in political science and literature at Seton Hall University and minored in philosophy, religion and education. He earned some income during college by writing short stories for other students while working full time in a bakery. In 1958 he entered Seton Hall School of Law, graduating in 1961 with a J.D.
Russell waited ten years to take the bar exam during which time he worked as an insurance adjuster, a job he loved and found very challenging. He investigated fraud and hijacking cases along with the mundane work of settling auto accidents. In the course of his work he met a couple of writers who encouraged him to continue with his writing, while telling him that it was hard to make a living as a writer. He married and became the father of four children. Finally, he realized that he would have to produce more income and the only way to do that was to take the New Jersey Bar Exam which he passed on the first try.
In 1979 his wife left Russ and their four children. He obtained custody of the children and raised them while practicing law. Despite the usual, and some unusual, teenage problems, all four children are successful in their careers and three of them have given Russ a total of seven grandsons.
In 1987 Russ married his present wife, Virginia, and in 1992 they moved to a farm in south central Kentucky. It was quite a change from the rat race of northern New Jersey and took some getting used to. Instead of standing in a long line at the bank, the time was spent looking at the most recent photos of the teller’s children. Life slowed down, giving Russ the time to start writing again. After many starts and stops he put together a book of short stories about some of the animals he had known and how they impacted his life. Some helped him through depression. Others helped combat cancer. Still others gave him hope. These stories are told in Tears and Tales: Stories of Animal and Human Rescue.
The drive to be a cowboy is still with Russ. He horseback rides both on his own trail system and around Kentucky. He and Virginia own two Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses – the kind that are gaited and smooth to ride. Russ also rides a Standardbred ex-race horse whom they rescued. Red Leader’s story is going to the editor this winter.
Russ and Virginia also have three other Standardbreds along with two rescued dogs, Sweet Pea and Spunky, and a number of rescued cats. You can read about Spunky and Sweet Pea in Russ’ book.
Russ is continuing to work on various writing projects when he is not out plowing, disking and sowing fields for hay for the horses, or fixing fencing broken by horses or deer. His next book consists of three long stories. In each story an animal plays an important role. Russ also is working on a series of short stories about some of the people he met while growing up in Newark. Each of his writing projects is based on something that really happened but then Russ uses his imagination to embellish the story. It is hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins.
Tears and Tales
This is a book of short stories about animals that I have rescued and how they have impacted me. Some helped me overcome depression resulting from colon cancer and the resulting chemotherapy. Other animals taught me the power of love and still others helped me to grow up. People who have read the book have told me it is "cathartic" and that they have "laughed and cried".