American author Richard R. Becker is a rising star with his debut novel, Third Wheel. Set in 1982 Las Vegas, Becker presents a unique spin on the coming-of-age genre with gritty, realistic storytelling. This isn’t your typical young adult affair. It’s an adult ride, start to finish.
Inspired by his family’s move to Las Vegas in the late 70s, Becker taps his country’s fascination with drugs, guns, and violence. The story is narrated by 14-year-old Brady Wilks, the youngest of a drug-dealing, trouble-making friend group. It’s one of their older friends with a Mexican drug cartel connection who gets them into trouble, he wants to move up by selling heroin instead of weed.
The run-in with drug cartels and some surprise visits by the Mob hook readers and turn Third Wheel into a page turner. But that’s not what makes the story so memorable. It’s everything else about Brady Wilks.
A young, troubled outsider becomes an enduring underdog.
Many readers aren’t fans of protagonist Brady at the start. They don’t like him all that much, and that’s okay. Brady doesn’t like himself, either.
All that changes as readers learn more about how the kid got there. His dad died young, and his nan stepped in to raise him. Then she died, too, leaving Brady nowhere to go except with his mum. His mum is a hard case, thinking tough love will fix Brady up. Except the kid doesn’t need fixing. He needs someone to love him.
Without support at home, Brady makes friends with an older teen who lives next door. They get along splendidly until Alex shows up. Alex is a drug-dealing punk who sets out to shove Brady out of the group. He’s just as mean as the mum.
Then Brady meets a girl who seems to like him. There’s only one problem. She’s eighteen years old, and Brady lied about his age. Sooner or later, the other shoe will drop — poor kid.
Becker is an expert at exploring the human condition.
Third Wheel is Becker’s first novel, but not his first book. His first book was a collection of short stories called 50 States, those “states” referring to the United States. In 50 States, he deftly told short stories that captured his country’s different lifestyles and cultures over 70 years.
The book became an Amazon best seller and won four literary awards. It was a great accomplishment because most book publishers aren’t keen on short stories. Becker delivered 50 of them, including looks inside the American mind during the civil rights movement, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and COVID pandemic.
The short story collection earned some attention in the U.S. and the U.K., with reviewers helping the upstart author get some attention. 50 States did well enough that Becker followed up the collection with a 10-story companion to 50 States, called Ten Threads. It was available exclusively on Kindle before he settled into his first novel.
Becker may be new to literature, but he’s not new to writing.
Becker’s first book may have been published in 2021, but he has been a writer all his life. He even taught writing classes at uni for 20 years. The writing was a different kind than fiction. He made his living as a copywriter and journalist and built a company. He once had over 40 writers and designers working with him on accounts like McDonald’s, Volkswagen, and the U.S. Air Force.
He did plenty of work with nonprofits, too, including the United Way, Amnesty International, March of Dimes, Doctors without Borders, and The Gesundheit Institute. Before he won literary awards, he won awards for copywriting, radio advertisements, television commercials, and advertising campaigns.
The advertising industry in Las Vegas honored him, too. Between 1998 and 2001, he received top honors for his work in the industry and community. The most prestigious was a Community Achievement Award in Communication from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Later, he emerged as one of the front runners for teaching social media to marketers and helped create a global blogger initiative called Bloggers Unite.
What is he doing now, and where can you find his work?
When he is not writing books, Richard R. Becker still runs a consultancy in Las Vegas. He is also a high school softball coach and serves on a parks commission for his city.
You can learn more about his newest book, Third Wheel, on a dedicated book page.The novel is also available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CFZGXN5S and Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0C2MZ737L. He is on several social networks that you can fi