Almost from the day he was born, Will Allen was a writer.

Growing up in Kettering, Ohio, he wrote anything and everything––literally hundreds of songs, poems, and stories, as well as dozens of short movies filmed on an 8mm film camera in those days before VCRs and camcorders. At Ohio University in the late 1970s, he conceived Campus, a comedy radio show, and personally wrote and directed each of the 102 episodes.

Swords for Hire was inspired by William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, one of Will’s favorite books by one of Will’s favorite authors. Other favorites included Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Mark Twain.

Will was diagnosed with melanoma, a form of cancer, in the spring of 1978. He fought the disease for two years, but ultimately the disease won. Will wrote Swords for Hire in the fall of 1979, giving copies to family members and close friends on Christmas day. He died exactly four months later, just a few weeks before his twenty-third birthday.

Comments from the author’s brother:

I loved Swords for Hire when Will gave it to us over twenty years ago, and I’ve read it many times since, but I had never thought about publishing it. Then a year or so ago, I read it aloud to my daughters, and as I spoke, the story and characters really came to life for me. It was then I realized that Swords for Hire might have a future much bigger than its original four or five copies.

Of course, my daughters loved it, and they were excited that their Uncle Will, who had died over ten years before they were born, had written it. But the real measure was the overwhelming reaction from some of my book-loving friends. After I distributed several copies, almost every comment was a superlative. People quoted their favorite parts or lines of dialogue. Everyone, young or old, loved the story and the characters––even the greasy-haired, worm-loving bad guy.

Swords for Hire proved itself when a preliminary printing won a national award in a contest held by Writer’s Digest Magazine. The results were announced in their August 2002 issue, over twenty-two years after the story was written. I think Will would be as proud of his story as I am. 

Paul Allen


CenterPunch Press