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Larry Hill's life was changed by a man in a funny hat.
Hill, a Chester resident, just had his third novel, "A Perfect Solution" published by the Strategic Book Group.
Hill was born in Harlem, New York but moved to Chester in his youth, attended Finley High for one year and ultimately graduated from Chester High School. He went to the University of South Carolina for a couple of years in the early 1970s. While there, he saw a professor holding class in a courtyard.
"He had his class outside because it was such a nice day. He was sitting on the ground with his legs crossed as he talked. He had a strange-looking hat on. It had a big feather in it. It was funny," Hill said.
The hat actually isn't as important as the head it covered. On that warm day in Columbia, Hill had his first encounter with famed poet and author James Dickey, who was then a professor at South Carolina. Dickey wrote "Deliverance" amongst more than two dozen other titles.
"That really inspired me," Hill said. "That really stuck in me and with me."
Hill started writing some poetry and a few plays. He continued to write, just for fun, during his time in the Marines and throughout his working career, which included a stint with Springs and time as an oil driller in the Gulf of Mexico. He went back to school many years later, graduating with a BA in history from Winthrop in 2009.
In 2002, Hill wrote his first novel, "A Promise of Whale Songs." In 2005, "Voyage of an Addict, Journey into Self-Destruction" was published and is still available now on Amazon.
His new book is a thriller that centers around the disturbed life of Gunther Heisman. Heisman is both the son of a fiery Baptist preacher and student of old Nazi propaganda.
"He goes completely insane and becomes delusional. He believes that Hitler is in his room and talking to him," Hill said.
The main character deals with internal conflict as his religious upbringing churns against his delusion that Adolph Hitler is instructing him to kill. Hill says his book looks deep into the mind of a killer.
"It's not a pretty sight," Hill said.
Having had three books published has fulfilled a dream for Hill. There is one more dream he'd still like to live out that does involve another literary icon, but no funny hats.
"I would love to meet Pat Conroy one day if I could," Hill said.