Monte Schulz, son of late 'Peanuts' cartoonist, making name for himself as novelist
His full name is Charles Monroe Schulz Jr., which identifies him indelibly as the son of the world?s most famous cartoonist.
But the name he goes by is Monte, and he?s making his own name as a novelist.
After spending the past dozen years writing three related books at his home in Nevada City, Monte Schulz, 57, is on a West Coast promotional tour for the first book of the trio to be published, ?This Side of Jordan.?
He started in Southern California, then went up to Portland and Seattle, and doubles back to Northern California this week for appearances at Copperfield?s in Santa Rosa and Book Passage in Corte Madera.
?It?s weird doing this,? Schulz said by phone from Nevada City during a break between book shop dates. ?It makes me nervous, at every single stop. I just realized I?m not a very public person.?
Attendance has been good so far, by book signing standards, with 50 people showing up recently in Santa Barbara.
Asked if people come out to see the son of the man who created ?Peanuts,? Schulz replied, ?That?s a good question. I don?t really know what people expect. I should ask them the next time I do a signing. I don?t think anyone really cares. I think if I did a comic strip, I?d get a lot more attention.?
Whatever people expect, what they get is a serious, somewhat scholarly novelist. ?This Side of Jordan? and the two remaining volumes in the series are based on extensive reading and research, including some Schulz family history.
Set in the rural Midwest during the summer of 1929, ?Jordan? follows the travels of an unlikely threesome ? Alvin, a farm boy recovering from tuberculosis; Rascal, a clever and well-educated dwarf; and Chester, a ruthless thief.
On the surface, the connection between family history and the background of the book is not obvious, since Charles M. Schulz Sr.?s life, including his boyhood as the son of a barber in St. Paul, Minn., is well-documented.
?Dad?s cousins lived on farms in Wisconsin,? Schulz said. ?There are very subtle things that Alvin mentions here and there in the book that actually relate directly from stories I heard from Dad.?
In the book, Alvin, the farm-boy hero of the novel, often mentions his cousin, Frenchy.
?Cousin Frenchy is a real person, but he would?ve been Uncle Frenchy for Dad,? Schulz said.
Schulz grew up in Sonoma County, on his father?s Coffee Grounds estate near Sebastopol, and considers himself a country boy.
?I grew up in the rural part of the county, so in some ways, I?m describing the world I knew,? he said.
After receiving a bachelor?s degree in English from Sonoma State University, Schulz left Sonoma County in 1978 to get his master?s degree in American studies at UC Santa Barbara, where he still teaches a writing class once a year.
Schulz wrote his first novel, ?Down by the River,? while still living full-time in Santa Barbara. It was published by Viking Press in 1990. He bought his second home, in Nevada City, in 1992.
?Although I own property in the western part of Sonoma County, out by Forestville, I?ve never really come back to the county,? Schulz said. ?It has changed. When I was young, the train still ran through Main Street in Sebastopol. And since Dad died, Sonoma County is not really home any more.?