Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BLUFFTON in the Blogosphere

Today is pub day for Bluffton! Support your local indies if you can!

Review copies have been floating around for weeks now and a lot of nice reviews have popped up on the Internets. Here's a round-up:


Bookends (Booklist):

Green Bean Teen Queen:

Guys Lit Wire:

Out of the Past:


International House of Geek:

Outside of a Dog:

Lemon-Squash Book Club:


Kirkus (star):

School Library Journal (star):

Shelf Awareness (star):


Wall Street Journal:

AND I was honored to be a guest blogger at the Nerdy Book Club. I wrote about research and luck:


BONUS POINTS: You can enter to WIN a copy of BLUFFTON on the Nerdy Book Club site!

Whew! A heartfelt thank you to all who took the time to write about my book!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Road to Bluffton, Part 2: Vaudeville

Vaudeville. The entertainment form of the early 20th century. Variety was the order of the day. For one small price, you would get several acts in a single bill. Singers would be followed by jugglers. A tap dancer might be next, or a an actor reciting Shakespeare. There were knockabout comedians, illusionists, musicians, and contortionists.

Vaudeville was not a talent show. These performers were seasoned professionals. They honed their crafts and polished their acts through years of performances. Many of these performers went on to further fame in radio, movies, and eventually television. Jack Benny, Bob Hope, George Burns and Gracie Allen... even Cary Grant (when he was still Archie Leach).

I had a great time learning about vaudeville for Bluffton. It left me with a great admiration for the performers and a desire to hop in a TARDIS for a trip back in time.

Nora Bayes
If you are interested in learning more, I recommend No Applause — Just Throw Money by Travis S.D.  which is a pretty good overview of the various performers and circuits. I was lucky enough to find a copy of Bernard Sobel's out-of-print book A Pictorial History of Vaudeville at Philadelphia's Book Trader. That book really brings the past to life. Good stuff.

Bill Bojangles Robinson was a huge star and a good friend of the Keatons. He taught Buster how to do the soft shoe dance years before he taught Shirley Temple on film. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Road to BLUFFTON, Part One: Buster Keaton

I don't even know where to begin.

Cops and The General were in heavy rotation at my house when I was a kid. This was the seventies: pre-cable, pre-internet, pre-DVD, pre-VHS, heck... even pre-Beta. We had the films on Super 8 so we'd watch in a darkened room as the projector click click clicked along. The General required a few reel changes. Occasionally, the film would unspool onto the floor. It was a bit of work, but it was well worth the effort.

We also had Chaplin (The Rink! The Cure!) and Laurel & Hardy (The Music Box!!) but Buster was special. His movies somehow moved better, faster. His gags were bigger, the stunts more elaborate. That unsmiling little guy, beset by the world, was funnier.

Fandom turned into admiration which turned into obsession. By college, I was searching used bookstores for anything I could find on Buster (again, pre-internet). Kevin Brownlow's masterful documentary A Hard Act to Follow was watched over and over until I feared I'd break my VHS set (I have a set and so does my dad, as a back-up. It's never been released on DVD but you can watch the whole thing on YouTube, which I recommend). Keaton was a genius -- the genius of the silent era -- and his personal story was equally compelling. I admired him, but I also liked him.

I wanted to write about Buster Keaton. By focusing on Buster as that extraordinary boy star of vaudeville, that legend in the making, I found a way to explore the talent and the person. I wanted to show that boy who I genuinely liked enjoying the "happiest days of his life" during those Bluffton summers.

If my book inspires one kid to watch a Keaton film for the first time, I've done my job. They're streaming on Netflix. They're on DVD and Blue-Ray. Many, including Cops and The General, can be seen in their entirety on YouTube.

Watch. Laugh. Marvel.

Buster was also a ukulele player. Yes, this is pretty much why I play ukulele, too.