This is about a book. It’s about Paul Newman. It’s about a lot of things.
Mainly, it’s about how (if I want to do the Hollywood stretch) I almost wrote a script for Paul.
Or if you want to deal with reality, it’s about how I maybe almost talked to him on the phone.
Mainly, it’s about my writing, my western, my attempts to get it made as a movie, and my new efforts to bring out the ebook.
And it’s about a book by Gwendon Swarthout called The Homesman.
Some years ago one of the producers on the film UNFORGIVEN read my western, liked it a lot, and said to me, “You know, as I was reading this, I thought, this is the writer who needs to adapt THE HOMESMAN for Paul Newman.”
I read THE HOMESMAN and loved a lot of it–except for (no spoiler here, I’m restraining myself) how the female protagonist dealt with her loss near the end. And I knew, yes, I could write the hell out of this script, but not if Paul (he was Paul in my mind by this point) wanted THAT to happen!
And I wrote Mr Newman (well, it was official correspondence) and told him what I’d been told, and that I’d love to offer myself up for the task of adapting this book for him.
I really did that.
And–it gets worse. I did that knowing–KNOWING–that the script he’d been shopping around trying to get made for this project was supposedly causing all sorts of problems because everybody “knew” that despite whatever name was on the script, Paul had written it himself. And nobody wanted to say, “Paul, this script is bad.” So it didn’t get made, it kept getting passed around, and…
I wrote and offered my services as a screenwriter.
*takes a bow*
Yes, that is chutzpah.
Of course nothing came of it.
Until many months later, I came home from somewhere to find a message on my answering machine. A voice that said, “Call for Patricia from Mr Newman.” And when I didn’t answer, there were murmurs and then a voice continued, “Mr Newman wanted to thank you for your interest in The Homesman, but he isn’t looking for a writer at this time. If his plans change, he will let you know.”
I almost fell flat on the floor. ON the FLOOR, people.
First of all, it sounded distinctly as if–had I been home–I might have actually spoken to MR NEWMAN my own sassy self!
At any event, his asst had called to pass verbally, and so nicely and–
Well, I eventually started breathing again.
And that was the end of it.
So, I’d had a few people tell me that my book reminded them of Unforgiven (though my book was published first), and then this mention of my potential skill with the material in the The Homesman, and then…
Today I was looking for book comparisons for my new ebook, La Desperada, so I could say, if you like THIS you might like mine, it has been compared to Unforgiven* but my book has a love story and sex,” and somebody came back and said, “Unforgiven was written by a guy who was influenced by a novelist, did you know that? Gwendon Swarthout, who wrote The Shootist and The Homesman.”
As comparisons go, it probably doesn’t help me a lot, as these are books which I suggest very few of my target audience will have ever read.
And yet it felt very odd, like a voice from the distant past.
And it seems that if Gwendon Swarthout had ever written a western with love and sex somebody just might have said to him, “You know what, this reminds me a lot of that book by Patricia Burroughs….”
* I could tell you about the time my script got couriered to Carmel because Clint wanted to read it, but that would just be name-dropping.