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Matt Weinstock, March 14, 1960

March 14, 2010 |  4:06 pm

March 14, 1960, Peanuts
March 14, 1960, Peanuts

Writers and Riches

Matt Weinstock

    Readers occasionally inquire how a person goes about writing a book, getting it published and, it is assumed, becoming rich and famous.  There's no easy answer because so many factors are involved.  Writing and rewriting a manuscript is an ordeal in itself, requiring severe discipline.  Getting a publisher interested can be another soul-searing experience.  But assuming these two are accomplished, there's still no assurance the book will be successful.  Many good books die at birth and some bad ones make the best-seller list because of the exploitation.

    But let's see how the pros do it.

    Not long ago two experienced writers here, Day Keene and Dwight Vincent Babcock, were at the office of their agent, Maurie Grashin, a former writer.  Grashin had just sold a television series and was prodding them about getting busy on one of their own.  Half jokingly they kicked around a few unlikely ideas, then Grashin pulled an envelope out of a file and handed it to them.  It was a story he'd once started but never finished titled "Chautauqua."

March 14, 1960, Abby


became excited about it.  As far as they knew the background had never been used in fiction.  And you just don't find untapped Americana like that anymore.  Moreover the subject was a natural for them.  Day had been a leading man in tent shows in Midwest towns.  Dwight was born in a small Iowa town and remembered the itinerant Chautauqua.

    They did a great deal of research, collaborated on the writing and the book was sent off to a publisher.

    Meanwhile, Grashin sent copies to 14 movie producers.  His phone started ringing immediately and the bidding began.  There was talk of a musical.  After conferences they sold the motion picture rights to MGM for cash and percentages.

    All this took place before the publisher, Putnam, said yes.  Now the book, titled "Chautauqua," is out and threatens to get up there among the top 10.  Most likely it will stir controversy among Midwest people who remember the tent shows and may accuse Day and Dwight of tampering with tradition.  If they do, so much the better.

    That's the way it's done in the major leagues kids.


    THE OWNER of a Sunset Blvd. drugstore is a chronic horse player and uses the pay phone in the place for business calls as well as to place bets with his bookie.  As he came out of the booth the other day, after ordering supplies for the lunch counter menu, a customer glanced at the paper in his hand and ribbed, "That's an odd name for a horse -- Crate Lettuce!"


It's bad enough to be
    bedded by flu,
But must it fall on a
    weekend too?
        ED BOUMA


which there's a story going around about two bookies, being pursued by the gendarmes, who scamper into a church while  a service is in progress.  The minister says, "Turn to Page 61, we'll sing 'Hallelujah.' "  One bookie whispers, "What'd he say?"  The other whispers back, "We're going to sing 'Hallelujah.' "  "Oh," the other says, "I thought he said Hialeah."


emphasis on missiles, it's no wonder no one has thought of our real secret weapon in the event of trouble with you know who.  Mobilize our TV private eyes into a commando unit led by Mike Hammer, with Philip Marlowe, Peter Gunn, Richard Diamond and Johnny Staccato backing him up, drop them by parachute and they'd clean up almost anything in half an hour.  If necessary, there could be a second wave made up of western heroes, Matt Dillon, Paladin, Lucas McCain, Josh Randall and John Russell.  Better make that 23 minutes instead of half an hour -- have to allow time for the commercials.


    MISCELLANY -- Every weekday a bus carries students from the Palmdale-Lancaster area to Alemany High School in San Fernando and back.  Their classmates call them, "exchange students" . . . Desert rat Harry Oliver, noted for his tall tales, writes in Desert magazine:  "I never exaggerate, I just remember big."