Photographer Bill Ward is full of good stories.

So is his second book, "Beyond the River: Stories of Life Near the Arkansas."

He’s finishing up the writing now and expects to have the books for sale in time for Christmas.

In fact, he’s scheduled a book signing for early December.

The new book is on the heels of his first, "Conway: As It Was, As It Is," published in 2008. That book is filled with images Ward took recently and images from his time on the staff of the Log Cabin Democrat in the 1950s and 1960s.

He told the Conway Rotary Club on Thursday that while he was a journalism student at Arkansas State Teachers College, he made a deal with then-publisher Frank Robins that Ward would use his own camera, his own darkroom and get paid per photo used in the newspaper. The bonus would be that Ward got to keep the negatives.

Some of his best — most priceless — photographs, Ward discovered as he looked through his archives 50 years later, were "end of the roll shots."

"I’d go on assignment, have a few frames left on the roll, and I’d shoot whatever I saw: People, places," Ward said. "Little did I know those places would not be here forever."

In the early days, he explained, the only way to get a photograph in the paper was to send the print on the bus to an engraver in Little Rock and get it back the next day. A photo taken one day wouldn’t be in the newspaper until three days later.

"Frank Robins was a brilliant man," Ward said. 

Robins developed his own process where he could acid-etch the photograph onto a metal plate, giving the Log Cabin the ability to get a photograph into the same day’s newspaper.

"Mr. Robins had a fantastic idea," Ward said. "The county fair was approaching, and as always, the parade was at 1 p.m. on the first day. All the schools let out for the kids to go to the parade.

"I went to the roof of First State Bank, took three shots of the beginning of the parade, rushed the film back, printed from wet negatives. Frank made the etchings and we had the photos in the newspaper that hit the streets at 2 p.m.

"It was amazing. We were ecstatic. The public yawned.

"A great lesson was learned that day. I’m not sure what it was ..."

His new book will be filled with stories, as the title suggests, accompanied by photographs. He’ll tell and show where the Arkansas River begins in Leadville, Colo., how the river got its name, how it has developed.

Intertwined are stories about the last great Quapaw chief; Conway eateries like The Dandy Dog, The Mug, Clawson’s. 

He tells about a man who kept a diary while a prisoner of the Germans in the infamous Stalag 17; Sevier’s Tavern where Jessie James hung out; the Squirrel Fry at Falling Water Church; Silas Owen of Damascus who built houses of limestone that survive today and are on the National Register of Historic Places.

"I see the book as a metaphor of life on the Arkansas, filled with beautiful stories and a lot of romance," Ward said.

(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at and 505-1234.)