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Friday, March 2, 2012


Jim Woods

Writers and authors revel in the make belief that they are solitary creatures. The garret-dwelling and lonely creative entity is the persona to be presented to the public; it sells books, we hope. But actually the comradeship of the writing fraternity/sorority is widespread. It’s not that misery loves company but it simply takes a lot of people of diverse talent to produce a book. The author is simply at the forefront, and the behind-the-lines support is huge and often silent.

When I moved away from the Beverly Hills offices of Petersen Publishing Company where I headed a staff of half a dozen in-house sub editors and office assistants, I also relinquished access to an outstanding photography studio and staff, and the support of a Class-A typesetting facility, and entrĂ©e to more than five hundred world-class public, private, university and business reference libraries and almost an equal number of museums. That’s author support at its finest.

I quickly came to miss such support, residing, as I now was, at a remote ranch in southeastern Arizona from where I walked three quarters of a mile of dirt road to mail my monthly feature article and my specialty column to my new magazine employer based in San Diego. This was prior to the computer age and my research for any project was telephonic and tedious. I missed people contact, particularly those people in my own writing profession. Some years later I moved to the city, Tucson, and promptly finagled an invitation to join a rather large but local writing group.

One member of that group was Lyn Tornabene, authoress of the Clark Gable post-life biography, Long Live the King (Putnam, 1976). A couple of years after meeting her, and twenty years after her book was published, I ran across a copy of it at a charity book sale, and coaxed Lyn to autograph it for me. Of course I enjoyed reading the book just as I enjoyed having a copy of such a book by an author of my acquaintance—I have a shelf in my own library devoted to books by my friends. I feel a kinship with the authors of all my books but especially so for authors I actually know.

But in the case of Lyn’s book I was especially impressed by her acknowledgements that ran to two and a half pages and noted her thanks to at least a hundred people who aided her writing effort. Several of those are big name executives in the motion picture industry; many more are actors and technicians in the movie business; some were her research assistants and others were film historians, and there were the personal friends of Clark Gable who agreed to share their private remembrances of The King. Lyn did not forget to acknowledge her typist and her editor, and closed out by acknowledging her family members who put up with her Gable obsession and supported her in her work.

This particular example of one author and the aid she received from numerous outside sources just reinforces that we are not alone in all that we accomplish. Writing and publishing a book is not a single-person effort, but you could apply that to life as well. In fact, Lyn Tornabene’s book is prefaced by an admission from Clark Gable himself, in an interview with a reporter in October 1960, just a month before he died in November of that year:

You know, this King stuff is pure bullshit. I eat and sleep and go to the bathroom just like everyone else. There’s no special light that shines inside me and makes me a star. I’m just a lucky slob from Ohio. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and I had a lot of smart guys helping me—that’s all.
As authors, we have a right to be proud of our literary creations, but our published books require the effort of a lot of smart and talented guys and gals in bringing our work to the readers.

About the Author:
Jim Woods is an independent editor assisting book authors, small presses and corporations with line, style, and substance editing; applying his expertise to novels, short story collections, nonfiction and corporate image. Formerly, he was in-house Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with (then) Petersen Publishing Company, Beverly Hills; and satellite Contributing Editor with (then) Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego. His professional associations include American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and Outdoor Writers of America (OWAA). He is a world traveler, having set foot in more than six-dozen countries on six continents, and is a worldwide big-game hunter. In addition to the print and e-books noted above he has published some four hundred articles in Outdoor Life, Popular Mechanics, Petersen’s Hunting, Guns & Ammo, Western Outdoors, Southern Outdoors and other guns and hunting magazines. He lives and works in Tucson, Arizona. Find him on line at:


A story of South Africa by Jim Woods from Champagne Books

An American becomes embroiled in South African white supremacist politics in the role of hit man.

Lucas Mellor is a Texan whose business of brokering exotic automobiles for his upscale clients doesn't permit as many safaris he would like, and so he becomes susceptible to a proposal to become a paid assassin. His recruiter, Danie Schwardt, is a professional hunter by trade but also the clandestine leader of a white supremacist organization, in post-Apartheid South Africa. Once reluctantly on board with the plan, enticed by hunting Africa's most cunning quarry--man--Lucas stalks and studies his prey much as he would a trophy animal in the wild, locating where he roams and lays up and the confines of his territory. A subsequent assignment causes Lucas conflict; the intended target is a friend. Once again the hunter in Lucas must study his quarry's habits and bring him to bag. He just didn't count on the intervention by a determined investigative reporter. When one friend is marked as the intended victim, and another is exposed as the adversary, someone is going to be killed.


  1. Great article, Jim. There have been so many writers and editors who have helped me along the way, from picking me up when I was down to helping me a better writer, to polishing my work and getting it ready for prime time. I don't think I could have sustained writing without them.

  2. So well done, Jim. You are right it takes many skilled people to produce a book/a work of literary art.

    Good blog. See you on March 6, for the interview.

  3. Jim, such talent. But how right you are about all the people along the way who work with you to help. I could name so many that had a direct influence on my writing. Even my own dear mother has to receive a lot of credit. When a youngster has access to all kinds of books, the world becomes a wonderful place to visit, in your mind and in your heart.