Author Interview: Walter Rhein

Some of you may already know: I’m the curious sort. I read things, then my mind can’t help wanting to find out more, wanting to dig deeper. Such was the case when I ran into a man who sends me a picture of himself standing in front of Machu Picchu who then goes on to tell me he lived in Lima, Peru.

Let’s see what else Walter Rhein has in store.


– In the picture you provided, it appears you are either a very large man or you were visiting a model of Machu Picchu. In either case, you’re dressed quite spiffy. Where did you Peru, Lime, Walter Rheinbuy your cool red hat? Do you have any interesting anecdotes relating to this crimson head gear?


I am a very large man, thanks for noticing, and I happen to be visiting the full sized Machu Picchu in that photo. One of the hazards of living in Peru is that you end up going to Machu Picchu every year. I’m writing this email from Peru in fact, so please excuse any spelling errors or weird symbols that might appear in the text (the keyboards aren’t exactly the same down here, and sometimes you get formatting errors…plus everything is underlined red because the English language isn’t spelled correctly when the computer is reading in Spanish).


Interesting that you’d ask about the hat. I don’t know if you can read it, but along the side of the hat it says “Ski Like Landgraf!” It’s a commemorative hat for the Birkie Founder Dave Landgraf (whom I interviewed for the intro to “Beyond Birkie Fever”). Dave was very much “Mr. Birkie.” He skied the first 38 races and always managed to finish in the top 200 even when he reached retirement age. Considering that the race has blossomed to about 8,000 participants, many of whom are elite skiers who come from all over the world, Dave’s achievement was pretty remarkable.


Sadly, shortly after I interviewed Dave, he was hit by a car and killed while training on his bicycle. I decided to come up with a positive way to remember Dave, so I settled on the phrase “Ski Like Landgraf!” which we put on hats and sold (all the proceeds go to a foundation run by his daughter). They are super bright so that they stand out in an ocean of bright colored clothing (ski racers dress brightly). To date we’ve sold about 300, you can get one at


If you get one of these hats, the rule is to take a picture of yourself wearing it at unique locations around the world. These images are published on CyclovaXC. It’s a nice way to remember Dave, and it kind of feels like you’re taking him on a tour of the world.


– The title of your book “Beyond Birkie Fever” is a reference to the “American Birkebeiner” cross-country ski race. I’m Canadian, so I’m familiar with the Iditarod sled race. Please give us your best explanation as to why winter sports races have such unusual names.


Well, in the case of the “Birkebeiner” it’s a Norweigan word. I don’t have a clue about the Iditarod…maybe the cold temperature causes people’s brains to freeze? I know it’s been said that’s happened to me.


– According to your bio, you wrote you book “The Bone Sword” because you wanted to see more people getting their heads chopped off in fantasy. How many people are decapitated in your novel? How many by the titular sword?


Gosh…now that you mention that I’m trying to remember if anybody did get decapitated in “The Bone Sword.” Actually I think I was just using the word “decapitated” because it’s a bit more mainstream. If I were to describe the horrible tortures that actually do take place in the book, they’d never publish the interview. Plus, I don’t have time to go into the correct detail in an interview, so book form is better. Suffice it to say the book gets bloody. There’s a guy on Goodreads who said it was the most violent thing he’d ever read (and I First Blood, Sylverster Stallone, Walter Rheinwasn’t even trying for straight violence, there’s actually a plot!). I’ll start off the sequel with a decapitation.


Actually, speaking of all this makes me think of the body count for “First Blood” (Rambo I). Do you know what it is? Most people think it’s 20 or 30, but amazingly only 1 person is killed in “First Blood.” The only redeeming thing about that number is that the murder weapon happened to be a rock (rock causing fall if you want to get specific). The big scene that throws everyone off is when Rambo goes through that entire squad of police officers and gives them all non-lethal injuries (I could have killed them all…don’t push it! Let it go! Letit….GOOOO!).


My point is that a book can be good and violent even without decapitations. Yes, a lot of people die horribly in “The Bone Sword.” It’s awesome.


– You mentioned having two other novels in the works, tell us a little about them


I’ve got another fantasy in the works with Janet Morris of Thieves’ World fame. It’s a post-apocalyptic story about an escaped slave in a world where reading is prohibited. It’s kind of like a cool version of “Brave New World,” but with decapitations, and people who get their heads beaten in with lead pipes.


The other book is a humorous travel memoir about my first seven years living in Peru. The book is written as a flashback. You see, there was this one time I was on a bus in Ecuador that got stopped by terrorists touting AK-47´s. They climbed on board the bus and had all the men get off. As I was walking off the bus, my life flashed before my eyes. That´s more or less the structure of the book.


– The main character in your novel “The Bone Sword” is named Malik. Is he any relation to iconic film director Terrence Malick? If you had to pick one of Mr. Malick’s films you considered his best, which one would it be?


Yeah, it’s the same guy. I dropped the “c” to avoid the lawsuit, but it’s him. I once sat by Mr. Malick on an airplane and he drunkenly related the whole novel. “The Bone Sword” is a true story.


Looking over his filmography, the only one I’ve seen is “The Thin Red Line” and I didn’t even watch all of it, just caught the last third at 3 AM after some tough beer and tougher pizza. It wasn’t all that good as I recall, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the pizza and not the film that caused my stomach to churn. There’s your answer.


– Name your 3 favourite books and what you would have done differently if you wrote them.


“Danny the Champion of the World” by Roald Dahl–My change would be to allow them to keep all the pheasants in the end.Roald Dahl


“Ham on Rye” by Charles Bukowski–My change would be to double the amount of drinking and screwing that takes place.


“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien–My change would be to extend it to 1,000 pages so that somebody could make a trilogy of three hour movies about it without having them be an embarrassment.


– You lived in Lima, Peru for 10 years. What was our least favourite Peruvian dish? Custom? Place?


The food’s frickin´ good in Lima, but I don’t like it when I catch the olive in the Tamale, so I’ll say that. The worst custom is the way they constantly honk their horns down here, oh, and I’m not all that fond of the Pan flute players either. The worst place is the immigrations office in Brena, although I’ve never had any good times at the American Embassy either.


– Speaking of Lima, it is spelled the same as lima bean, but pronounced differently. This is called a heteronym. Give us examples of three other heteronyms and please use them in sentences so we know you’re not cheating.


I wound a piece of rusty barbed wire around his neck and gave him a nasty wound.


I refuse to eat your refuse.


and…you asked for it…


She realized she had contracted a venereal disease when her pussy became pussy.


– If you had the opportunity to interview one author, living or dead, but you could only ask them one questions, who would it be and what would you ask? Why that person and that question?


I would interview Mark Twain, and ask him why he chickened out on the ending to “Huckleberry Finn.”


– Anything else you’d like to tell my readers about yourself and your books?


First of all, thanks for having me, I greatly appreciate it! If any of your readers want to learn more about me, the best thing to do is drop by  I also run a group on Facebook called Heroic Fantasy, Janet Morris contributes there quite a bit. Lawrence Watt-Evans is also a member, but he thinks it has too much individual promotion. Also, if anyone wants a review copy of something I’ve written, send me a message at Thanks again!






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