Ralph Cates’s family came to San Diego from Arkansas in 1943. Cates was educated in the San Diego city schools and colleges, finally attaining a teaching credential from UCLA. His education was enhanced as a radio-radar technician in the army during 1964-65, at which time he remained on the US mainland.
His working background is in engineering, construction and teaching. He taught in the San Diego community college districts for 21 years. The construction and engineering experience gave him the opportunity to work and live in Southeast Asia, Dubai, and India for a year each, and Saudi Arabia for twenty months. He also worked for a year in Iran during the downfall of the shah.
On these overseas projects, he came into frequent contact with the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. At one point he befriended an Iranian Turkoman, who he later discovered was a lower-level cadre leader for the forces marshaling to overthrow the shah. This led to a harrowing altercation with SAVAK, Iran’s intelligence agency, the Iranian military, and the CIA.
Later, Cates realized while working on the oil and gas loading platforms in Ju’Aymah and Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia, that it was obvious the Middle Eastern oil supplies were vulnerable to terrorist acts. A concerted attack on the facilities would be a serious blow to the world’s economies, perhaps worse than the 1974 oil embargo. The experience with the embargo and the realizations directed his thinking toward writing a novel as a warning.
During the formulation of the manuscript for Black October, Cates drew heavily on his numerous four-year journal entries and more than a thousand 35-mm slides of the Middle East for first-hand accounts of Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. These sources enhanced the scenes in the book.
For the final four-year preparation of the manuscript, he referred to more than 45 books, mostly non-fiction, and scrutinized more than 2,000 current affairs articles from highly regarded periodicals.
The author has always been an outdoor activist. He raced motorcycles, scuba dived worldwide, and climbed prominent mountains in the California Sierra and Iran. To stay healthy he swims four to seven miles a week year-round and hikes. The author has completed the one-mile La Jolla Rough Water Swim nine times, four times since 2003.
Cates has two children, Chris and Tim.