Bernhardt has sold more than 10 million books in several different countries throughout the world. He has twice won the Oklahoma Book Award for Best Fiction, in 1995 and 1999, and in 1998 he received the Southern Writers Guild's Gold Medal Award. In 2000, he was honored with the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award, which is given "in recognition of an outstanding body of work that has profoundly influenced the way in which we understand ourselves and American society at large." That same year, he was presented with a Career Achievement Award at the 2000 Booklovers Convention in Houston. He has also been inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame, the youngest author ever so honored. In 2009, he received the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award from the University of Scranton, making him the only author to receive both the Davis and the Cobb Distinguished Author awards.
Bernhardt is best known for his series of novels featuring idealistic attorney Ben Kincaid, but he has also written several novels outside the series, including the nonfiction novel Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness. Bernhardt spent over two years researching that book, which provides a compelling solution to the unsolved mystery of the identity of The Mad Butcher of Cleveland, generally considered America's first true serial killer.
Bernhardt is also one of the nation's most in-demand writing instructors. He hosts an Annual Workshop each year in Tulsa, the first weekend in June. Through the year, he leads five-day seminars and weekend master classes through the country. Successful graduates of Bernhardt's writing seminars include New York Times-bestselling author Aprilynne Pike, UK national bestseller Sarah Rees Brennan, and Oklahoma Book Award winner Sheldon Russell.
In addition to his work as a writer and teacher, in 1999, he founded HAWK Publishing Group. HAWK has published books by acclaimed authors such as Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist N. Scott Momaday, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Janis Ian, and PBS newsman Jim Lehrer. The primary focus of the company, however, has been to provide a publishing venue for the unpublished. Almost half of the company's more than 100 books have been first novels. Among other successes, HAWK published the first novel by P.C. Cast, now known for her highly successful House of Night series of young adult novels.
He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Thomas H. Gilcrease Museum of Western Art, the Advisory Panel for the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Advisory Council for "Nimrod: The International Journal of Poetry and Prose," the Publications Committee for the Oklahoma Historical Society, and the Selection Committee for the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award.
A former trial attorney, Bernhardt has received several awards for his public service. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his children Harry, Alice, and Ralph. On October 10, 2013, Bernhardt was a 1-day champion on Jeopardy, winning $20, 801. The next day he finished in second place.
"Ben Kincaid" Series
- Official Website
- Fantastic Fiction biography
- Writers Review interview (Internet Archive version)
- William Bernhardt: Oklahoma's Renaissance Man, Dottie Witter, Oklahoma State University Library Perspectives newsletter, Issue 28, Spring 2001