From mid-summer, ’48 to mid-summer, ’62, Robert Wintner roamed the countryside of Southern Indiana stalking the giant crawdad, spotted salamander, baby catfish and assorted reptiles. His dog, Tuffy, led every outing, and, on a few occasions, his duck, Quacky, tagged along. Formative-years highlights included short-range explosives, horse racing, diamond peddling along the Ohio River, juvenile detention, camping with girl scouts and stealing raw material for two entries in the All American Soap Box Derby. These adventures are recounted in The Ice King, March, ’95. The Bookwatch said “a narrative voice at once powerful and lyrical, passionate and graceful.”
From The Indianapolis News, April, ’95: “We have one warning: Don’t read The Ice King in a hushed library—we tried, until waves of laughter rolled up and exploded—very unpopular in a library.”
Wintner calls ’62 to ’66 the slow years. “St. Louis is known for its writers seeking life elsewhere.” The next four years resulted in a document assuring Wintner and his mother of qualifying for the bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri, known for its school of agriculture. And the year after that resulted in lottery number 198, three higher than the last conscription to Viet Nam.
Adult life began in South Carolina. Hagan’s Trial and Other Stories, ’95, recounts Europe on a motorcycle, Mother’s bad marriage, glory at the track, sanity through acceptance and many tales of animal love. Publisher’s Weekly said, “Darkly comic, deeply ironic, these stories are a compelling chronicle. Wintner has a masterful touch, drawing his readers into each life with wit, irony and traditional story telling of the sort you’d hear rocking on an old front porch.”
Full time fiction writing led to a failed marriage in ’78, while honing style on a novel sent to New York, where it was deeply loved for two days. In the California phase, waning resources and potential called for desperate measures. Wintner sailed to Hawaii in ’83 on a racing yacht. WHIRLAWAY, ’94, recounts this misadventure. One reviewer regretted the gratuitous sex and drugs, in spite of “vivid passages depicting harrowing open-sea crossings.” Wintner also regrets the gratuities and hopes future passages are less harrowing if not less vivid. WHIRLAWAY garnered a lasting following among the charter boat fleet and was optioned for film rights by a Los Angeles production company. WHIRLAWAY was a “HOT PICK” at the Maui County Library for 15 years and also sold well at Dartmouth, where readers made the connection to SNORKEL BOB’S REALITY GUIDE TO HAWAII. Snorkel Bob’s began a year after the yachting trials and succeeded with a marketing program telling many stories. Snorkel Bob’s is the largest reef outfitter in Hawaii. The company also designs and manufactures Snorkel Bob Brand masks, fins and snorkels, now sold around the world. Robert Wintner is Snorkel Bob. The Reality Guide sold over 70,000 copies in four printings.
Meanwhile, two more short stories appeared in Hawaii Review, University of Hawaii. Wintner’s third novel, Horndog Blue, came out late in ’95 and was favorably reviewed, including a personal note from the ex-wife, who said, “I marveled at (Wintner’s) literary ability. Did I already tell you this? I may have but have forgotten.”
His fourth and fifth novels, THE PROPHET PASQUAL and HOMUNCULUS, were published in ’99 and ’00 by The Permanent Press, Sag Harbor, NY and so was his story collection, LONELY HEARTS, CHANGING WORLDS. Wintner’s sixth novel, THE MODERN OUTLAWS, was a motorcycle adventure that got rave reviews and was also optioned for theatrical production.
Robert Wintner’s next novel was TOUCAN WHISPER, TOUCAN SING, November, ’02, from The Permanent Press, NY. Toucan Whisper challenges social values and the sanctity of human life relative to stability in nature. Sanford J. Greenburg Scouting Report said: “The writing is what makes this story blossom: it’s incredibly sensual and lyrical, lush and languid, like the tropics themselves. Altogether Toucan Whisper, Toucan Sing is an easy, pleasing read for mind and senses.”
In a Sweet Magnolia Time, 2007, The Permanent Press, is a historically accurate narrative set in Charleston, South Carolina, opening on a funeral there. Judge Waties Waring, born and raised as a favorite son, rose as a lawyer to the Federal Bench, where he became the first judge in American history to rule that separate but equal is not equal. But was he liberally motivated? Or did sexual intrigue, divorce and social exile compel his justice? In a Sweet Magnolia Time was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Five reef photography books with compelling narratives on reef politics around the world came from 2010-2014. Some Fishes I Have Known, Every Fish Tells a Story, Neptune Speaks, Reef Libre and Dragon Walk established Wintner as a marine artist, providing imagery to drive the campaign to end the aquarium trade worldwide.
Wintner’s Reserve came in 2010 as “a case of fiction. Robust yet complex, these vintage domestics sparkle on the palate with innuendo and overtone. Fruity, nutty, buttery in part; the oak is constrained, the acid balanced with an easy follow and hardly a recoil in the pungent recollection.”
1969 and Then Some, Skyhorse, NY, 2014, is a memoir on the lingering influence of values formed from the 60s onward, with specific regard to motorcycles, drugs and romance. 1969 is a romp.
Brainstorm, Skyhorse, NY, 2015, is a memoir, recalling in vivid detail personal encounters with modern healthcare, in this case emergency trauma, in dealing with cerebral aneurysm and sudden-death prospects.
Reefdog, Skyhorse, NY, 2016, is a reef adventure, covering a dive leader’s exodus from Hawaii to Tahiti, from stability to adventure via hazardous events in romance and revenge. The play unfolds on Polynesian reefs and in LA showbiz before coming full circle back to Hawaii. Reefdog is fun for the whole family, rated PG 23.
Wintner recalls the day in 1955 when his father took him to Walgreen’s in Miami for a $2 mask & snorkel—the deluxe with the ping-pong ball—then down to the beach and into the shallows. The old man’s wingtips got soaked as Bobby put his face in the water. A 3" sand crab waved a claw in greeting, and Bobby looked up sputtering free of the snorkel to exclaim, “Oh, God! You can see everything!”
Robert Wintner has spent two weeks in New York. He has no advanced degree and got no endowment, fellowship, scholarship, sponsorship or grant to write anything. He never attended a writer’s workshop, worked as an intern, had oral, anal or conventional sex with a public figure or worked for a Hollywood personality.
Robert Wintner crossed two continents on motorcycles, sailed four of the seven seas and rose from ashes to success in a place Forbes Magazine called the most difficult business arena in America. Profiled in a dozen metro daily papers, interviewed on a hundred radio shows, he declined an appearance on Leno when asked to arrive in mask, fins and snorkel. He is committed to style, story, entertainment and lasting value. He is still a front-lines activist in reef defense around the world and lives on Maui with Anita, Cookie the dog, Yoyo, Tootsie, Rocky, Buck, Inez and Coco, the cats, and Elizabeth the chicken.