March 14, 2010
The Top Secret Writer chaired a writing history panel at the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend. The session, at 11:30 A.M. was televised on C-Span2 and I watched it from the comfort of our living room.
Paul Hutton is so good at being an MC and the writers, Hampton Sides, Jeff Guinn and James Donovan were in top form as they discussed the ups and downs of writing history. All three have best selling books out and are working on new projects (Guinn is doing a Wyatt Earp book, tentatively titled The Last Gunfight but from his comments it sounds like he's expanding the theme to talk about southeastern Arizona in the O.K. Corral era and all of the misconceptions).
I met with Jeff in Prescott last year when he attended the annual Arizona History Association gathering at the Hassayampa Hotel. He struck me as a very smart guy and a good reporter. His book Go Down Together is a riveting true crime telling of the Bonnie & Clyde story with great tidbits. For example, did you know that when Bonnie & Clyde were gunned down, they found a copy of Walter Noble Burns' biography The Saga of Billy the Kid in the car? Guinn talked a bit about how both outlaws loved Jesse James and Billy the Kid and it played into how they perceived themselves and tried to position their life story, even though they were quite inept at being outlaws, literally robbing gum ball machines to eat.
Hampton Sides, who attended Yale and wrote Blood and Thunder a best selling bio on Kit Carson, and slated to be made into a movie, told a wonderful story about how deadly serious the professors at Yale were and how he never heard the word pleasure in his entire four-years there, and how he imagined a "corncob-ectomy" as being at the heart, or, would that be, the root, of the problem?
Hutton, as moderator, quipped that he had to stand up to deal with his corncob.
Pretty amusing, although for historians this is considered Chris Rock territory. Ha.
Sides, and Donovan (who, in addition to being a writer is also an agent) talked about how so much of academia has hijacked history and gotten away from compelling narrative (Hutton quipped that in his world it's almost considered selling out to even be published).
Made me proud to be a part of the discussion on the pages of True West magazine. In fact, I think it could be a cover story: "Hijacking History," perhaps written by Professor Paul Hutton?
No, first, he has to finish Mickey Free. Then the cover story.
Paul also gave True West a nice juicy plug, when he mentioned his Kit Carson cover story for us, "Why Is This Man Forgotten?" Thanks Top Secret Writer.
Tonight is the HBO premiere of the ten part series The Pacific which is a follow-up to Tom Hanks' and Steven Spielberg's Band of Brothers.
And speaking of hijacking history (and getting some of it back), here's a great quote from a feature in today's New York Times from one of the producers of The Pacific:
"People yearn in their lives for meaning. We live in a postmodern 21st century world where the meaning has been fractured. The United States is divided politically and culturally. Not only that, even the way narratives are told has been fractured. To tell a big, grand story like this, a crucible where the stakes are clear, the response to the stakes might be complicated. But I think we yearn for that. We yearn for the clarity of not just what happened and why we were fighting historically, but the clarity of narrative storytelling."
—Bruce McKenna, executive co-producer The Pacific
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