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Tattered Cover signing and Denver Press Club Book Beat
|Making the promotional rounds
in Denver for Olympic Affair
January 25, 2013: In the past couple of weeks, I made appearances at the
Tattered Cover (East
Colfax branch) and at the Denver Press Club to
discuss, answer questions about, and sign Olympic Affair.
The January 17 appearance was my sixth at the TC, and it remains a pleasure
and a thrill
to speak at one of the nation's top independent bookstores. (One
regret: I haven't ever appeared
at Powell's, which I used to haunt when we
lived in the Portland area.) This time, it was a joint "Evening
Fiction" appearance with Paul Levitt, the University of Colorado professor
whose terrific and panoramic novel, Stalin's Barber, also is
from Taylor Trade. Rick Rinehart
of Taylor Trade moderated the discussion.
Paul and I, in fact, both publicly thanked Rick for taking a chance
novels -- the first ones Taylor Trade has ever published. Until recently, in
fact, the TT Twitter
profile noted that it published books "in all genres except
fiction." Now, it says: "We are
the trade divisions of the Rowman &
Littlefield Publishing Group. We've got books in nearly every genre! Sorry,
no zombies, no vampires." Taylor Trade also published the paperback
version of Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming; plus '77: Denver, the Broncos
and a Coming of Age and Playing Piano in a Brothel.
After the signing portion of the program, as is the custom, we both signed
books for the TC, so autographed copies of both Olympic Affair and
are at the East Colfax branch.
Then on January 24, Bruce Goldberg of the Denver Business Journal,
the Denver Press Club's president, interviewed me for a "Book Beat"
program at the
DPC. Among those in the audience were fellow authors
Michael Madigan and Dennis Dressman, both former editors and
executives at the Rocky Mountain News, and they asked me questions
about my methodology
and the book itself. (Mike briefly was my boss
when I worked part-time at the News when I was
Screenplay versus book: Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming example
Same Opening, Different Style
I've found that writing screenplay adaptations
of existing works – in
of my own books – isn't agonizingly difficult. I've
done it three times and without going into details, all have been in or
are in "the loop."
I've had meetings, lunches, cocktails at the Beverly
Wilshire and (appropriately, as you'll see) breakfast
at the Hotel
Bel-Air, and a discussion in a Brentwood living room ... all of it. But,
no, you haven't seen any of those films on the screen. Yet.
I'm not saying writing an adaptation is
"easy," and it's based in part
on the recognition that any script is a starting point for the director
and it will undergo considerable change in the process. And in
some cases, that's putting it nicely.
From the start, the story is already in my head and the computer,
dialogue or suggested dialogue is in front of
me, and the biggest
challenge is avoid trying to simply put the book in screenplay
form. That requires
stepping back, taking liberties and – most
– deciding what to focus on and what to leave out
Third Down and a War to Go, the book, was about Wisconsin's 1942
college football team winning the national championship and
going off to war, with some not coming back. For the screenplay,
I tightened the focus, making it
more the story of three of the
Badgers' stars. The opening is different than that of the book, starting
captain and two-time All-American end Dave Schreiner
serving as a Marine in the Pacific and receiving a letter and a
informing him that his Badgers co-captain and lifelong buddy, bomber
co-pilot Mark Hoskins, has been shot
down on a combat mission and
is feared lost.
The Witch's Season, the book, was about a team modeled on my
father's Oregon Ducks of the late 1960s, the famous men on his staff
and team, and the tumultuous campus. The screenplay version
compresses the time frame, ending the
film right after Nixon's
election, rather than on his Inauguration Day. It leaves part of the
but with enough foreshadowing for viewers to fill in
the blanks themselves.
Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming was the most challenging,
perhaps because it's the one that I could envision being done as
rather than a film. For several reasons, I won't give away
the gist of the decisions I made, but I will say that I cut
out alot of
the story and back story and made it very specific.
Two of those three are non-fiction
books, and I found that the
experience of doing the screenplays – taking a true story and
imagining dialogue and scenes – helped greatly when writing Olympic
Affair: Hitler's Siren and America's Hero, which even more than the
other books is almost what I consider the novelization of a
screenplay that doesn't exist.)
Now, for an example: Although there are major differences between
the HHNC book and screenplay, I started both with the same 1985
"scene" – former Razorbacks defensive back Bobby Field, then an
director at UCLA, encountering former President
Nixon outside the Hotel Bel-Air. After this, of course, the
back to 1969. As it turns out, of course, while Nixon remembered
quite a bit about the events
of December 6, 1969 game in
Fayetteville, there was a lot more going on that he didn't know
Here's a link to the opening chapter in the book – actually, the
Prologue – on the Simon and Schuster web site.
Now here's the opening segment
of the screenplay. I can't supply
the popcorn and keep in mind that when I originally wrote it, it was
eight times as long before I was reminded it needed to be
snappy and set the stage for the flashback.
EXT. UCLA FOOTBALL PRACTICE FIELD, LOS ANGELES
Sprinklers spray as Bobby FIELD, late-30s, fit, and wearing a gray “UCLA FOOTBALL”
T-shirt, takes off at a one-time serious athlete’s stay-in-shape pace.
EXT. NORTH EDGE UCLA CAMPUS, LOS
ANGELES – DAY
Field approaches the campus entrance and sprints
across the street, entering Stone Canyon
MALE RADIO NEWSCASTER (v.o.)
Among the stories we’re following on KNX 1070: Reclusive ex-President Richard Nixon is
visiting his native Southern California, and he was spotted having dinner at Chasen’s last night
Paul Keyes, the producer of the old “Laugh-In” TV series. No word on whether
President Nixon reprised
his attempt at the show’s “Sock It To Me” catchphrase on the
show during the 1968 campaign.
RADIO NEWSCASTER (v.o.)
you have to say that right. It was a question.
MALE RADIO NEWSCASTER (v.o.)
(Bad Nixon imitation)“Sock
it to me?”
EXT. STONE CANYON BOULEVARD, BEL AIR – DAY
Field runs up the winding road. Hotel Bel
Air is ahead. Three Men in suits walk toward Field.
AGENT 1 and AGENT 2 are big and fit. The man in the middle
is Richard NIXON at age
72, getting morning exercise. Ten feet short of Nixon, Field puffs out a greeting.
HOTEL BEL AIR PARKING LOT, BEL AIR – DAY
Field has reversed his direction and is coming down the
hill. He spots Nixon again, next to the
hotel’s canopied entrance. Field detours into the parking lot and
slows to a walk. As the
Agents step forward, he approaches the former president and lifts his right hand in a
Mr. Nixon … Mr. President. Sorry to bother you, sir, but I decided I should introduce
Bobby Field. I’m the football defensive coordinator on Terry Donahue’s staff at
Sure. You had a fine season.
offers his hand. Field shakes it.
Thank you, sir.
matter of fact, in 1969, I was a defensive back for the University of Arkansas and you,
sir, came to our game in
A limousine pulls up. The DOORMAN opens the back door. Nixon doesn’t move.
Terrific game! Numbers one and two in the
nation. Texas with James Street running the
wishbone offense and throwing that long pass … Arkansas with
Bill Montgomery firing away
to Chuck Dicus … That fine Texas boy, Freddie Steinmark, visited me later at
House … I was in the stands, freezing, with Governor Rockefeller and George Bush and
Fulbright … and it comes down to the final minutes and it’s anyone’s game … and
Sir, we should go.
What a thrilling finish! And when it was
over, I went to both dressing rooms.
Yes, sir, this is the second time I’ve shook your hand. This time, I'm not crying.
Agents nudge Nixon into the car. Limousine pulls away. Field watches with the doorman.
That must have been some football game, him rattling all that off. He had a hard time coming
up with his wife’s name yesterday.
TITLE COMES UP: HORNS, HOGS, AND NIXON COMING