Writing Shad’s Tale

Image“SHAD’S TALE” — Page 1

WASHINGTON — As I plunged into Cardinals history for a book several years ago, one of the minor stories that always felt like it had major possibilities was the legend spun by pitcher Flint Rhem. A righty with the Cardinals, Rhem went missing for several days in September 1930 while the team was in New York, set to play a key series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He returned to the team with this fantastic tale of kidnapping, thugs, and forced binging. It was all fiction, of course. Longtime Post-Dispatch columnist and Cardinals chronicler Bob Broeg wrote that Rhem had all the talent in the world but would drink himself out of the game. He certainly drank himself into this story. Still, it was fertile ground for writing. The gaps in memories are always fun to fill, and here were two days — two whole days — carved out of Cardinals history that were blank. What did Rhem do during his “kidnapping”? What could have Rhem done during his “kidnapping”? Maybe he really was ambushed by thugs and forced to chug grain alcohol for two days. Maybe there was a gambling element, because isn’t there always? Maybe he raced around New York saving cats from trees, apprehending robbers, and doing so much good that no one would believe him anyway. Or, as I thought when the opportunity to came to write this story, maybe he saved baseball.

Many months ago, I was asking at the comic shop about a local St. Louis group, Ink and Drink Comics, and the anthologies they had produced in recent years — sci-fi, romance, horror, wild west. A lapsed cartoonist with a comic sweet tooth, I always wanted to try my hand at writing a comic book story. It would be a Continue reading

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Et Tu, Mark

As I finish up some new entries for here — I’m making my way through the Curacao trip and all the notes I took there — I’ve been sorting through things (call them short essays… sashays?) that wrote in the past year. This is from late July 2011, and it’s fitting because in a month I plan to call in my first exemption from Book Fast 2012 and purchase the new Mark Leyner book.

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TOWER GROVE — In the wilderness of read, half-read and unread books that are piling up on and all around the bookshelves of my office, I found this morning a thumbed-over copy of a book that I abused in college: Et Tu, Babe by Mark Leyner. I’ve read stories of writers, like Hunter S. Thompson, who would retype their favorite books to get a feel for how sentences created rhythm, momentum, and the changes in tempo that powered a story. Judging by the dog ears in the book and Post-It notes that fell out of it when I pulled it off the shelf, that’s what I did with Et Tu. Guess that says a lot about what I was thinking at the time. I read some of the pages right out of the binding, apparently, and recently realized a quote from the book has been taped to my desk for, oh, about 18 years now. Continue reading