“He was one of those characters like the Fonz … he was, in essence, cool. He was my inspiration.”
-author Daniel Wallace, Nealy’s brother-in-law
It was around 1979 — the dawn of the outdoor-sports industry — and William Nealy was looking for a place to climb. He and pal Tom Schlinkert returned to the Great Smokies Hilton following an afternoon of pub-crawling in downtown Asheville. They headed for the lobby, where a giant stone hearth offered a variety of climbing handholds and routes. Nealy planned to clamber up the fireplace, but a huddle of guests at its base sat in his way. Seated in the middle was a book editor named Bob Sehlinger.