My lengthy and ongoing research into Lee Marvin Point Blank yielded some unexpected benefits, for example authoring several Young Adult titles for Lucent Books, such as Lawmen of the West for their History Makers series.
How it came about, was more serendipity than Kismet. In need of a job after being laid-off from the small publishing company I worked for, the wife of one of the brothers in The Bastard Sons of Lee (BSOL) informed me of the writing she was doing for Lucent. She then put me in contact with an acquisition editor there and we discussed possible titles in their various series. Lo and behold, I discovered they had several young adult biographical series that needed authors so I jumped at the chance to do Lawmen of the West for their History Makers series.
It might seem an odd choice for this Brooklyn boy, I grant you, but I figured being a a movie fan might help me enjoy exploring the lives of some of the individuals often depicted on screen. What the series required seemed daunting at first but then again, what new project isn’t? The form of a multi-biographical series actually dates back to Plutarch in the 1st Century, who wrote volumes within the theme of comparing leading Romans to ancient Greeks. Not too daunting a challenge, right? Each chapter needed to have not only a worthy individual who’s life is briefly explored, but most importantly, a specific theme within that life that has to be emphasized throughout the span of that lifetime. Such a requriement not only gave me pause, it nearly had me giving up!
Luckily, once I began exploring the possible inclusions, the theme actually seeped into the work itself. As noted in the table of contents seen above, the subtitles told the tale of the themes within. I chose the subjects, did the research, wrote ’em up and then created introduction(s) and bibliographies. The only one I had to drop (due to length), was Alan Pinkerton, the Scottish immigrant who helped create the Secret Service following Lincoln’s assassination and the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency, the one with the big eye on their business cards.
There was some necessary obvious choices, such as the likes of Wyatt Earp, first and foremost. In researching his legacy I not only discovered how reluctantly he became a lawman (the perfect theme) but also how vindictiveness made him more like Michael Corleone than Matt Dillon. His later years were also just as intriguing but less written about, as well.
Along the way, I developed personal favorites. Topping the list for me was Bat Masterson.
Not only a legendary lawman but a spinner tales in which he probably never did really kill anybody but created a reputation that entered a room long before he did. His final days as a NY sports writer was yet another fascinating twist. Bitter at the end of his life, the day he died he was found slumped over his typewriter with what could have been his epitaph freshly typed onto the page: “There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours. I suppose the ginks who argue that way hold that, because the rich man gets icier the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter, things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I’ll swear I can’t see it that way.”
The creation of these researched biographical sketches taught me much about what life writing is all about. The themes fleshed out and executed within, kept me in good stead in researching and writing about Lee Marvin and other figures since. It also proved that biographies had changed MUCH since I was a kid. For example……