EUGENE — It's quite a leap from waiting tables at a Cape Cod restaurant to assisting a world-famous author in the preparation of his last four books, but that's a recent chapter in the life story of Dwayne Raymond.

EUGENE — It's quite a leap from waiting tables at a Cape Cod restaurant to assisting a world-famous author in the preparation of his last four books, but that's a recent chapter in the life story of Dwayne Raymond.

Raymond — his middle name has become his last — grew up in Wendling, an all-but-gone company town near Marcola, and graduated from Mohawk High School in 1981.

Now he's written his own book, "Mornings With Mailer," about his nearly five years working as editorial assistant to Norman Mailer. The job ended with the older man's death in November 2007, at age 84.

"It hadn't ever occurred to me that I would write a book about my time with Norman," says Raymond, now 46. "But I had kept a journal of those years, and that proved invaluable later when I got the idea. I was with him for five or six hours a day, Monday through Friday, and sometimes on weekends. He became one of my closest and dearest friends."

The pair, plus Mailer's sixth and last wife (of more than 30 years), Barbara "Norris" Mailer, had two things in common: love of writing and food. Already an aspiring writer himself when he finished high school, Raymond immediately bolted for the East Coast, where he attended Lyndon State College in Vermont, studying literature and theater. Three years later, he bolted again for Europe. "I never knew if I would come back," he says.

But he did, to Boston, where he started "writing and working in TV and newspapers," eventually moving to Provincetown, Mass., "to become a writer." But first, he had to make a living, "so I became a waiter," he says. "A good waiter."

That's how he first met the Mailers. "I waited on him on a cold, dreary April night — he and Norris and another couple came in for dinner," Raymond recalls. The restaurant was The Commons, and Mailer ate "scallops over rice with lobster hollandaise — ridiculously rich," he says.

For years after that, they spoke when the Mailers ate at the restaurant and nodded in recognition when they met on the streets of P-town, as the denizens call the 3,000-person city on the very tip of Cape Cod. Then came a fateful encounter in the produce section of the local grocery store, where Mailer was looking "for the perfect banana," Raymond says. "That was very typical of him. But he told me he was looking for a research assistant to help with his latest book, and he asked me to come the next day for an interview."

It wasn't like any job interview he'd ever had, "and I never left for the next five years," Raymond says. "He was working on 'Castle in the Forest,' a fictionalized account of Adolf Hitler's youth, and he would read, make notes in the margins of what he was reading, and I would take that, make my own notes and do research about it."

To make the book authentic — "It was supposed to be in three parts, which would have taken him 11 years, but 'Castle' stands alone," Raymond says — he had to study everything, from the invention of the wristwatch to silent movies Hitler would have watched to beekeeping, a hobby of Hitler's father, "because Norman was absolutely adamant about detail."

Other Mailer books that Raymond helped produce include "Modest Gifts," "The Big Empty" and "On God: An Uncommon Conversation."

But his work also included the kitchen, where Raymond's expertise became a five-day-a-week habit, preparing and sharing breakfast and lunch with his employer and often putting dinner together for the Mailers to eat after he'd left for the day.

"I felt very lucky being exposed to him and his life," Raymond says. "The serendipity of it happening is amazing, and I never question it."

He wrote "Mornings With Mailer" from his perspective as a research assistant, friend and, in many ways, student. "I talk about the work and the writing, but it's really about family and relationships — and it's about a younger man learning from an older man to become a better man."

He also wanted to dispel, based on firsthand observation, long-held and sometimes unfriendly characterizations of Mailer "as bombast, misogynist and homophobe," Raymond says. "That's not true at all, based on my daily experience knowing him, his wife and his relationship with his nine children."

With his health declining precipitously during 2007, Mailer eventually gave in to pressure from his wife to return to the couple's home in Brooklyn, where medical attention was more available and sophisticated. Two days before his death, Norris Mailer called Raymond to Brooklyn to say goodbye.

"I last saw him about four hours before he died," he says. "Eight of his nine children, his sister, a nephew, Norris and a friend were there — we all knew what was going down, but there was no sadness in the room." Although Mailer couldn't speak because of tubes inserted following a surgical procedure to the lungs, he still held court, writing on a tablet that he wanted a drink of rum and orange juice.

"His son, Michael, mixed it, but Norman couldn't drink anything because of the breathing apparatus, so Michael swabbed it in his mouth," Raymond says. "Then Norman pointed to each one of us — he wanted us to pass the drink and share it with him — and we all toasted him. He was directing to the end; it was a happy and melancholy scene. I couldn't have written it."

The last of Mailer's sons, actor Stephen Mailer, arrived late that night and sat with his father as he died.

Since then, Raymond has finished "Mornings With Mailer," begun helping a woman in Texas write a book about her life and the struggles of a son mired in drug addiction, "and I have a novel that will be ready in six months, about a grifter with a conscience," he says. "It takes place in Portland and Las Vegas, in 1989. It started out as a short story 12 years ago, and when I finally put it on computer, I realized I had the beginnings of a novel. It's a bit of a page-turner."

He doesn't know what the future holds, but Raymond hopes Mailer's influence and example will keep him going as a full-time writer.

"I knock on wood that I won't have to wait tables any more," he says.