Rancho Santa Fe resident releases debut novel ‘Just an Ordinary Guy’


Longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident William C. Johnson released his first novel, “Just an Ordinary Guy,” about a man who goes undercover to gather information about the leader of a drug cartel.

William C. Johnson
William C. Johnson

Johnson, who once worked as a copywriter and served as CEO of two companies, said he’s always dreamed of having a book published.

“It was something I wanted to do at some point,” he said in an interview. “I felt I had to get through a lot of other things that I wanted to do before I tackled it. I tackled it much later in life than I expected, but I’m glad I did.”

Book cover
The cover of “Just an Ordinary Guy”

“Just an Ordinary Guy,” which Johnson described as a spy-thriller, started out as a short story that he wrote with the encouragement of a few friends.

“I just kept writing and those friends and a couple other friends read as I went along and eventually it became a book,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t really intended to get it published necessarily, but I was encouraged to do that.”

Johnson added that he modeled the main character, Rico, after himself. Using a more spontaneous style of writing, he “wrote him into trouble and tried to write him out.”

“My idea was to put a perfectly ordinary guy, somebody any reader could identify with, into extraordinary and challenging situations, put him through the ringer to see how he might handle it,” Johnson said.

But the story itself was largely drawn from his imagination. Rico is approached by a Drug Enforcement Administration who wants him to go undercover for a day to gather intelligence about a suspected leader of a drug cartel. When the plan goes awry, Rico has to rely on his own ingenuity. Other characters, such as the DEA agent who approaches Rico and Rico’s love interest, are at the center of the story.

“I hope that the characters have some depth and some color and are different,” Johnson said. “There’s probably nothing in the book that comes from my own experiences really, which was by choice.”

When he’s not writing, Johnson enjoys playing golf and spending time with his two children and five grandchildren. Johnson and his wife Fran have lived in Rancho Santa Fe for about 25 years.

He said he has other books in the works.

“It’s not a difficult read,” he said of his debut novel. “It’s hopefully an enjoyable read that doesn’t require a lot of heavy thinking.”

“Just an Ordinary Guy” is available online (including in hard copy and ebook. Publisher: Austin Macauley