HILLARY CLINTON GOT LEE MARVIN TO SEE THE LIGHT…OF DAY

On the face of it, there may not seem to be any connection at all between Hillary Clinton and Lee Marvin, but for me there certainly is. Although the seemingly endless wait to get a publisher interested in Lee Marvin Point Blank had me close to abandoning it several times, the ultimate timing of it could not have been better. Why is that? Because in the interim, I vastly improved my writing skills via the the occasional young adult biography I wrote for a company called Lucent Books. Without the constant flexing of those writing muscles, and the valuable lessons learned in the process, I would never have been up to the heavy lifting that got Lee Marvin Point Blank to see the light of day.
I came in contact with Lucent initially via a friend who wrote for them. Several series appealed to me but the one that caught my eye the most was People in the News. At the time, I was offered several possible titles and the first one I took was Adam Sandler. Why Sandler? Because the other choices was George W. Bush or Eminem. I was extremely reticent at first as other than SNL, there was nothing about Sandler I cared to write about. Luckily, I watched Punch Drunk Love and my admiration for that film and his performance got me through the project. It also taught me how to find an angle on a subject I may not entirely enthusiastic about.
Other titles followed in quick succession that I found much more palatable: Will Ferrell, Hilary Swank, Denzel Washington, Lawmen of the West for the History Makers series (Hey, I was branching out!) and also the first and second installments on Hillary Clinton. It was these two titles that drove the lessons home and ultimately made Lee Marvin Point Blank a better book. How, you may ask? Well, to start with, the publisher’s requirements for all the titles included a specific theme for each chapter in the subject’s life.

The covers of my Hillary Clinton young adult biographies, the 1st in 2008 (left) and the revised version in 2010.

The covers of my Hillary Clinton young adult biographies, the 1st in 2008 (left) and the revised version in 2010.

Some were easier to discover than others, although an additional title on first female Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, proved especially daunting in trying to break down the complex rules and inner workings of Congress. That aside, the private life and public career of Hillary Clinton was equally daunting, yet, also useful to Lee Marvin….

The table of contents for the original and later revised version of Hillary Clinton.

The table of contents for the original and later revised version of Hillary Clinton.

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank might notice the use of both familiar quotes as well as timely phrases in the chapter titles. Not that I didn’t already know how to do that but my ability for searching out and finding the RIGHT phrase had certainly improved. Then there was the introduction. By the time I got to Hillary, I discovered that instead of writing the intro first, and then having to go back and constantly redraft it based on the book’s content, I made the rule to myself to ALWAYS write the intro last.

Introduction to People in the News: Hillary Clinton.

Introduction to People in the News: Hillary Clinton.

End of intro and first page of first chapter.

End of intro and first page of first chapter.

It may also be obvious that in writing about a subject’s early life, the influence of one’s parents is almost impossible to overemphasize. However, keeping in mind the reader’s interest level should never be lost or wander to far afield from the subject itself, creating a tapestry that interweaves both the parents legacy and the subject’s thoughts and lessons from the parents, was something I found works best…..

Text and photos illustrating the impact Hillary Clinton's parents had on their daughter's life.

Text and photos illustrating the impact Hillary Clinton’s parents had on their daughter’s life.

By the way, I had no control over the pictures that were used but for the most part, I was very pleased with what was utilized. Oh, and another requirement was to include 2 sidebars for each chapter. Often it was simply a glossary of terms used in the text but for Hillary, I was able to branch and include specific anecdotes that didn’t fit the text but were too good not to include….

Two sidebars were required for each chapter and above is one of my personal favorites.

Two sidebars were required for each chapter and above is one of my personal favorites.

I should also note that in researching the life of Hillary Clinton, there was an awful lot of useless and baseless rumors passed off as fact that got to be very frustrating. The advent of social media has made it worse but when I was writing the book, I had to constantly come up against obvious conjecture passed on as fact. I drew the line when I read one author’s bio of Hillary who claimed you could see the devil himself when you look into Hillary’s eyes (!). Yet another permanent lesson was used in conjunction with Lee Marvin. Never even mention a rumor, even if it’s an attempt to debunk it. Gives it unnecessary creedence. Anybody read About Captain Kangaroo in my book?  I didn’t think so.
Anyway, I must have done something right because two years after the first bio came out, Lucent asked me to revise it with two new chapters and the chance to add to the original text of the first. Who could say no to that? The first addition was the presidential race of 2008…

Covering the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primaries in the revised Hillary biography.

Covering the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primaries in the revised Hillary biography.

Because Hillary Clinton was in the beginning of her tenure as Secretary of State at the time the book came out, it became the concluding chapter of the book. Luckily, I did not have to deal with Benghazi, private e-mail servers, Wikileaks, and an entire host of other frustrating subjects…..

Covering the period of Hillary Clinton's life at the time of the book's release.

Covering the period of Hillary Clinton’s life at the time of the book’s release.

That’s not to infer that unpleasant subjects were not dealt with. There was still the financial records of the Rose Law Firm, the Whitewater scandal, Vince Foster’s suicide, Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, you name it! and I dealt with it. It’s just that what took place since the book came out was far too ridiculous, in my opinion, to have to contemplate.
If you’ve gotten the impression that researching Hillary Clinton has made me a fan, you would be right. For me, I personally have to make some sort of connection with who I’m writing about, even if aspects of the subject is unpleasant. I did with Hillary and came out the other end of that project a better writer and renewed respect for the subject. Sadly, things like Brietbart, the Drudge Report and other ultra-right wing websites and/or blogs have blurred the lines between fact and fiction. Luckily for me, another requirement of the publisher’s was to only use existing information that could be noted extensively in the book’s several bibliographies. No interviews were allowed. It ultimately allowed me to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, and make for a stronger story all the way around.
The end result was that by the time my agent, the late, great Mike Hamilburg had interested publisher Tim Schaffner in my Lee Marvin bio, I was able to provide the goods he asked for with renewed confidence. Not only did I have almost 20 years of exclusive research and interviews under my belt, when he asked me if I was familiar with the requirements and skill to write a biography, I was able to provide evidence of my work in the field. Granted, it was in the genre of young adult, but when he read the samples I submitted, he sent me a contract to sign.
Basic research, theme development, enlightening anecdotes, and more, all in the service of two Hillary Clinton biographies helped Lee Marvin Point Blank to see the light of day….. and make the NY Times Best Seller list! Best of all worlds? With a little luck, she’ll be the next President of the United States and some folks might rediscover Lee Marvin ALL over again.

 

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LEE MARVIN AT 91: IF HE WERE ALIVE TODAY

Lee Marvin at 91

Lee Marvin would have been 91 on February 19, 2015. Schaffner Press’s author of the bestselling, award-winning biography LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK was recently asked how the actor might respond to the world and pop culture of 2015.

Schaffner Press: Much has changed in the years since Lee Marvin passed in 1987. For instance, do you think he would have voted for Barack Obama?
Dwayne Epstein: Interesting question. I’d have to say that a lot of his fans may be surprised by my answer but yes, I think he would have voted for President Obama. It surprises people to know that his personal politics leaned to the left, since he really didn’t comment on that much during interviews. After the assassination of JFK he kept such opinions to himself. He didn’t show up at rallies or demonstrations as some celebrities did but he commented on such things to friends and family. He was very pro Civil Rights. In fact, one of his closest friends was the African-American athlete turned actor, Woody Strode. Strode told me that it was Marvin, not politically liberal costar Burt Lancaster, who got Strode top billing in The Professionals (1966). Towards the end of Marvin’s life I’ve been told he became a little more conservative but by today’s standards, such as with the Tea Party, I think even John Wayne might have been considered a liberal!

Relaxing between scenes on the set of The Professionals are good friends Woody Strode and Lee Marvin.

Relaxing between scenes on the set of The Professionals are good friends Woody Strode and Lee Marvin.

SP: What about Hillary Clinton?
DE: I’m scratching my head on that one. His first wife Betty was adamant in telling me that she believed Lee was a feminist. Of course, his public image certainly wasn’t of that ilk, especially in light of the infamous palimony suit. Maybe his lawyer from the trial, David Kagon, put it best when he told me, “Lee had the utmost respect for women….in all their various gradations.” If that’s the case, it still leaves me wondering what he would have thought of Hillary Clinton, at least in terms of what gradation he’d classify her.
SP: What do you think Marvin would’ve made of the war against terrorism and all the violence in the Middle East?
DE: At the time of Lee’s passing Middle East terrorism was only just beginning to make itself known to western civilization. In fact, his last film, Delta Force (1986), dealt with the subject, albeit as a live-action cartoon, thanks to the presence of Chuck Norris. However, in doing press for the film, Marvin was remarkably clear-eyed and cogent when he told the now defunct PREVUE Magazine, “”Before the problem of terrorism improves, it’s going to get worse. Americans don’t have a clue about what goes on in the Middle East. Terrorism is transferred into this climate, and people shut the problem out — they don’t want to deal with it.” He sure was on the money, on that one!

Lee Marvin & Chuck Norris in the 1986 live-action cartoon, Delta Force.

Lee Marvin & Chuck Norris in the 1986 live-action cartoon, Delta Force.

SP: Speaking of the problem of the Middle East, what do you think he would’ve thought of American Sniper as being called the “greatest war film of all time”?
DE: Honestly? He probably would’ve laughed at that, took a drag off his cigarette and then rolled his eyes. That’s no reflection on the film, which I myself haven’t seen…YET. It’s more about the statement. Everyone I interviewed told me that Marvin had a built-in bullshit detector and having been around Hollywood as long as he has, he knew pure ballyhoo when he heard it. Based on the subject matter, I can only assume he would’ve liked the film, if only in deference to its director, his buddy and costar, Clint Eastwood. Marvin had very strong opinions on such subjects, as you can gather and it’s a shame he’s no longer around for us to hear exactly what he would have thought of American Sniper.
SP: The cable TV series “Breaking Bad” proved to be quite a cultural phenomena. What do you think he would have thought of it and what part would he have played?

Schuyler White (Anna Gunn) apprehensively waits to see what husband Walter White (Bryan Cranston) will do next, as does son Walter, Jr. (R.J. Mitte) in Breaking Bad.

Schuyler White (Anna Gunn) apprehensively waits to see what husband Walter White (Bryan Cranston) will do next, as does son Walter, Jr. (R.J. Mitte) in Breaking Bad.

DE: On reflex, I’d have to say Walter White, the lead of course. Incidentally, I recently heard Bryan Cranston say in an interview that he grew up next to a movie theater and saw Cat Ballou so many times he memorized the dialogue. You never can tell who a Lee Marvin fan might be. But in answer to your question, there may be an analogy to Walter White and Walker in Point Blank. The show starts with White as a mild-mannered science teacher who becomes a meth dealer when he discovers he has cancer. Well, in Point Blank Walker is just an amiable fella doing a favor for a friend, as shown in flashback. It’s only after he’s been double-crossed and left for dead that he becomes this unstoppable avenging angel of death. He’s a professional thief in the novel, but that’s not stressed in the film. Walter White, Walker. Yeah, that works.

Walker's sister-in-law (Angie DIckinson) and syndicate boss (Carroll O'Connor) apprehensively wait to see what Walker (Lee Marvin) will do next.

Walker’s sister-in-law (Angie DIckinson) and syndicate boss (Carroll O’Connor) apprehensively wait to see what Walker (Lee Marvin) will do next.

SP: What do you think his opinion of say “Downton Abbey” would be and what role would he play?
DE: I think he may have liked it as it depicts the change from Victorian aristocracy to the modern era. Coming from the old South, his mother tried to raise him more like the Crawley’s than the servants, so even though his background was more akin to that, he actually despised the importance put on proper etiquette and such. Based on his film persona, he would’ve been a servant, probably, Barrows. His character is so sinister and has such a dark past, I think Marvin would’ve really relished playing him.

Not a lost scene from Downton Abbey but an early performance of Lee Marvin (center) on stage after the war at Woodstock's Maverick Theater.

Not a lost scene from Downton Abbey but an early performance of Lee Marvin (center) on stage after the war at Woodstock’s Maverick Theater.

SP: In the scope of current male actors, are there any Lee Marvins out there?
DE: There are actors who have similar qualities as Marvin, sure. I think Josh Brolin has some qualities, as well as Tommy Lee Jones, JK Simmons, Thomas Haden Church and Powers Boothe, but those are just qualities. I hate to sound cliché but there really was only one Lee Marvin…..and thank god for it!

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