Sunday, January 06, 2008

Telling Right From Wrong (Part 19)

Paul Gallico Was A Real Knockout

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Timing was everything for the late Paul Gallico, the novelist who wrote the love story "The Snow Goose" and who wrote the novel on which the two Poseidon Adventure movies were based.

They weren't the only hits associated with Gallico. In the most audacious move of his career, he once challenged Jack Dempsey to a boxing bout. A sports reporter (re-assigned from writing film reviews because they had ``insolent'' undertones) he was ordered to cover a Dempsey training session.

Eschewing tradition, he asked if he could step into the ring with the world heavyweight champion. There was a stunned silence.
"I'd been in the sports department for about a year,'' Gallico explained later. "I was hidden really, out of sight. I simply didn't exist. I thought if I wrote a first-person story, it would be a good feature. It would be exclusive. Nobody else had done it.''

The idea was a knockout. So too the fate awaiting the young reporter in the ring. Gallico made a point of keeping his left fist out defensively in front of him. He ducked one left hook but claimed he could not remember how he did it. "But I didn't duck the next one,'' he admitted. "I found myself on the floor. Everything went sort of black. The ring made one complete revolution clockwise and then went back, counterclockwise.''

So good was his account that it earned him his first byline, a rarity in that era. About a year later, he was writing a regular sports column for the paper. Fame was just around the corner, but he would have to wait a trifle longer for fortune. He aspired to fiction and in 1936, one of his short stories was snapped up by Hollywood for $5000, a handsome sum at the time.

He moved to Europe, gave up sportswriting and turned his attention to converting one of his short stories into a mini-novel. He called it "The Snow Goose" and the unusual love story, with its spectral culmination in Dunkirk, changed his life.

But Gallico downplayed his own talent. "I'm a rotten novelist,'' he once told a magazine. "I'm not even literary. If I had lived 2000 years ago I'd be going around to caves, and I'd say, `Can I come in? I'm hungry. I'd like some supper. In exchange, I'll tell you a story. Once upon a time there were two apes.' And I'd tell them a story about two cavemen.''

And that's precisely why I've chosen to share this story with you. I think there's so much inspiration in Gallico's words for every aspiring writer. When you come down to brass tacks, what is good writing? It's a simple, believable story.


imac said...

Most interesting story David.

So -- when are you stepping into the ring with Sultan lbragimov then??.lol:)

LauriesAsylum said...

[i] When you come down to brass tacks, what is good writing? It's a simple, believable story.[/i]

I couldn't have worded it any better!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Thank you, David, for the biographical brief. I really enjoyed reading it.

captain corky said...

I liked that post a lot.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post!!! :)

Lee said...

"Timing is everything." How true that is. Life happens when we are ready. And, like Gallico, we may not realize our readiness or our worth. Thank you for telling this story, David.


Seamus said...

Excellent point and well delivered!

Janice Thomson said...

Excellent and inspiring post David. It really is that simple yet many look for the unique or unusual because they don't understand what really makes a good writer. Thank you for that.

reader Wil said...

This is a very interesting post as I happen to be a great admirer of Paul Gallico. I read several books by him (Mrs harris goes to Paris, Mrs Harris goes to Moscow,Scruffy, The Snow Goose,Thomasina, Snowflake...)I enjoyed reading them all. And this piece of information you wrote about adds some more to my admiration for him.So you are from Australia! I have been 7 times in Australia since my daughter lives there. She lives near Cooktown. This year I will be going again with my other daughter and her family.

eric1313 said...

Exactly--fiction is made from the truth. We just weave it into the fabrics we need, and hope that the finished product is something that other's will enjoy.

The reward of writing is immediate to th writer. The later, if one is patient and lucky, greater rewards will result.

Nessa said...

You were right. I did enjoy this and found it very informative.

Amrita said...

I have 'The Snow Goose ' Great story. After reading this I dog it out and read it again.
I didn 't know The Posidon Adventure was written by PG

Kirti said...

Wonderful series! I love this last INSPIRING! Blogging has shown me that I can tell a short story, so why couldn't I tell a long story? Thank you, David, for your words of inspiration...I'm going to work on my novel this weekend!