Thank You, Mr. Schieffer

The Fort Worth Star Telegram issued four “Extras” on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy died. The driving force was a 26 year-old cub reporter by the name of Bob Schieffer.

nschiefferhat[I am personally grateful to Mr. Schieffer for another reason—but I’ll get to that in a bit.]

Bob Schieffer happened to answer the phone in the busy Star-Telegram newsroom about an hour after the news broke about the assassination. The caller—a woman—asked if anyone at the paper could give her a ride to Dallas. The young reporter was about to hang up, telling the caller that the newspaper wasn’t a taxi service, when the woman said that she was the mother of the man who had just been arrested in Dallas.

Bob Schieffer drove over to the home of Marguerite Oswald—mother of Lee Harvey Oswald—and gave her that ride to Dallas. Over the next few hours he was with her and able to phone in regular updates to his paper from the Dallas Police Station.  

It was what they call a big scoop for the young reporter.

These days, Mr. Schieffer is one of the elder statesmen of the news business, close CBS heir to Murrow and Cronkite.  Recently, his alma mater, Texas Christian University, in his beloved hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, renamed their excellent journalism school after him.

It was that love of Fort Worth that led Bob Schieffer to take an interest in a book I was writing a few years ago. It was about that town and one of its more “colorful” citizens—a famous preacher. And I’m deeply grateful to Mr. Schieffer for agreeing to write the Foreword to that book, The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America.

TheShootingSalvationistHere’s part of what he said about the book:

“For all the colorful characters who became part of Fort Worth’s history, surely none surpassed J. Frank Norris, the fiery fundamentalist preacher at Fort Worth’s First Baptist Church in pure outlandishness. His oratory and penchant for publicity brought thousands into his congregation and at one point First Baptist was among the largest churches in the world, a mega church before the phrase was coined. Unfortunately, for all his oratorical skills, Norris’ horizons were limited by several criminal indictments brought on by his tendency for violence.

In this book David Stokes tells the J. Frank Norris story.

If I hadn’t grown up in Fort Worth, I would have thought someone made all this up but no one did.

It really happened.”

Thank you, Bob Schieffer!

 

Maybe What Readers Want is Continuity…

[This blog written for VENTURE GALLERIES — please check out that great site! — DRS]

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Having spent years writing primarily non-fiction—history articles, a narrative nonfiction book, some current events and politics—developing my novel, Camelot’s Cousin, was a learning experience. But one surprise came after the book was published.

I began to hear this from readers: “So, David, when do we get to read the next story in your series?”

Next story? Series? Such a thing had never been even a blip on my writing radar until people starting reading Camelot’s Cousin. My plan was to move on to one of about a dozen new nonfiction projects, such as my recently book, Firebrand. I had always seen my books and stories as “stand alone” creations. One stop. One shot. File the material in a closet. Move on.

Then it happened—minor clamor for the next edition. At first, I resisted it. I have too many other things I want to write. The novel was a somewhat of a lark. I wanted to see if I could do it.

Then one night, when my wife and I were catching up on one of our favorite television shows, watching a few episodes recorded on our DVR—it hit me. When it comes to fiction, people enjoy continuity, and they want to know what happens next. This revelation came to me after I heard myself say, “Wow, I can’t wait for the next episode.” It was one of those head-slapping, should-have-had-a-V-8 moments.

So I began to envision a new story involving the cast of characters from Camelot’s Cousin. I am several chapters into it, and I am hooked. I still want to write that other stuff, but I can now see about four or five stories built around my lead character, Templeton Davis, the popular and successful host of a nationally broadcast radio talk show.

Walk on a roof edge

Now, some reading this blog—especially my author colleagues—will likely see my teachable moment as something all too obvious. They might be tempted to think, “Sure, David, we get it. You saw the truck and flagged it down. And then you made a great discovery—they have these vehicles that drive around selling ice cream. You can buy it right in front of your house. Dude—do you live under a rock?”

Edward R. Murrow once said, “The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.” I think all of us are like that to a point. It was just a couple of years ago that one of my daughters—32 years old at the time—figured out that the insignia on a New York Yankee baseball cap was actually the letters, “NY.” But then, I only recently noticed that the tune behind the song teaching children their “ABC’s” is the same as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

I don’t know how many books I’ll produce in the Templeton Davis series, but it will be fun watching the characters grow. Hopefully they’ll learn obvious things much quicker than the man with the computer behind the curtain.