With 8 novels, several stage productions, dozens of short stories and travel articles, and a raft of best-selling travel guides to his credit, Donald Olson was hailed by Quentin Crisp as “an amazingly versatile writer.” Born in Minneapolis, Olson studied English and German literature at the University of Minnesota. He now divides his time between New York and Portland, Oregon.
His first novel, a camp transgender Hollywood thriller called THE SECRETS OF MABEL EASTLAKE (Stamford, CT: Knights Press, 1986), garnered considerable attention in the U.S. and England. Quentin Crisp, writing in the New York Native, called Mabel Eastlake “a delicious parody of all the scenarios ever written about Hollywood.” London’s City Limits described the novel as “memorable.”
PARADISE GARDENS (Knights Press, 1988), Olson’s second novel, was nominated for the Benjamin Franklin Award in Literature at the American Booksellers Association (ABA). The novel was singled out for its “subtle perception” and “the elegance of its style.”
Olson’s third novel, A MOVIE, was published in 1990 (New York: Lyle Stuart/Meadowlands) but had been written in 1972, when the author was 22. The New York Native called this early experimental novel “first-rate reading… as vivid as any cinematic drama.”
In 1993, Bantam/Transworld in London published Olson’s novel THE CONFESSIONS OF AUBREY BEARDSLEY (translation and film rights available via RCL). Based on the life of the late-19th-century English artist Aubrey Beardsley, the novel – written in the first person – took Olson five years to research. The Sunday Times of London praised the book as a “skillfully sustained… account of the life of a brilliant misfit” and Francis King in The Spectator found it “an enthralling picture of literary ‘decadence’”.
Moving into new territory, Olson’s next novel, QUEER CORNERS (BridgeCity Books, 1999), was a fictional account of the violent anti-gay-rights battles he had witnessed in Oregon and elsewhere in the U.S. It was hailed by Quentin Crisp as “a riveting novel with an unforgettable cast of characters.” The best-selling American author Robin Karr-Morse said: “Sardonic but embracing, Olson’s wit skewers everyone – and leaves us waiting for more.”
In 2003, Donald Olson’s sixth novel, MY THREE HUSBANDS, was published by Kensington in New York. For this hilarious romp through the romantic foibles of a heroine named Venus Gilroy, Olson used the pen name Swan Adamson.
UK & Commonwealth rights have sold to Headline’s Little Black Dress imprint and they contracted for a further novel featuring Venus Gilroy entitled MEMOIRS ARE MADE OF THIS for which they hold World Rights (Russian rights have sold in this title).
Kensington published the official sequel to My Three Husbands, CONFESSIONS OF A PREGNANT PRINCESS in 2005. UK and translation rights available via RCL
Besides writing novels, Olson has worked extensively in the theatre and has had plays produced in the U.S. and Europe. Beardsley, his play about Aubrey Beardsley, was produced in Amsterdam (Stadschouwburg, 1987), at the Rotterdam Festival (1988), and in London (Stage One, 1992). Oregon Ghosts, his most recent stage work, enjoyed a sold-out run at Lakewood Theatre in Portland, Oregon, in summer 2003. Olson’s other plays include Tourists (Portland, 1997, 1991), The Garden Plays (Portland, 1993), and Blood (New York, 1986).
A prolific travel writer, Donald Olson is the author of several best-selling travel guides, including GERMANY FOR DUMMIES (New York: Wiley, 2003), the award-winning ENGLAND FOR DUMMIES (New York: Wiley, 2002; 2002 Lowell Thomas Travel Writing Award for “Best Guidebook”), LONDON FOR DUMMIES (New York: Wiley, 2001), Frommer’s GAY AND LESBIAN EUROPE (New York: Wiley, 3rd ed. 2003), MICHELIN GUIDE TO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST (Greenville, SC: Michelin North America, 1999), Fodor’s OREGON (New York: Fodor’s, 1998), and BERLIN (New York: Langenscheidt Publishers, 1991).
For many years he was the editor of and a contributor to Berlitz Travellers Guide To Germany. His travel stories have appeared in the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, National Geographic books, and many other publications.