Monthly Archives: October 2014

Flim-Flammed By Flick

One of the Page Turners from the Past you’ll find here on the site is The Ballad of the Flim- Flam Man, by Guy Owen.  This wonderful novel became a movie and rather than detail you to death about the flick I’ll just step back and allow Wikipedia to work its magic.

Wikipedia:  “The Flim-Flam Man is a 1967 American comedy film directed by Irvin Kershner, starring George C. Scott, Michael Sarrazin and Sue Lyon, based on the novel The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man by Guy Owen. The film boasts a cast of well-known character actors in supporting roles, including Jack Albertson, Slim Pickens, Strother Martin, Harry Morgan and Albert Salmi. The movie is also noted for its jovial musical score by composer Jerry Goldsmith.”

Here’s what Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said, “The movie was shot on location, largely in Kentucky, and it gains a real feeling of authenticity. These are real crossroads stores and real wide-eyed rednecks, watching the city slicker shuffle the cards. And a lot of the episodes are hilarious. I announced some time ago, in connection with Casino Royal (1967) I think, that chase scenes had just about had it as laugh-getters in the movies. Wrong again. There is a chase scene in this one that’s a classic. The Flim-Flam man, dressed, as a minister, and his pupil, dressed as an accident victim, steal a car and lead the sheriff on a brilliantly photographed chase down the sidewalks and through the watermelon wagons of the South. There are also some nicely directed scenes in which Scott gradually overcomes the suspicions of his victims, wins their confidence, allows his straight man to win a few bucks and then, oh, so innocently asks a tobacco farmer if he’d care to speculate as to which card was the queen.”

With a tip of the cap to Paul Harvey now you’ll hear the rest of the story.  Roger Ebert may have loved it but the author of the book the movie was based on hated the film.  Like so many movies based on page turners, it strayed from Owen’s story.

And he was pissed.

I know because he was a great friend of mine, a mentor at NC State University and just one hell of a great guy.  I was writing for the Chancellor’s office at the time and took several creative writing courses from Owen.  How kind was he?  Well, he edited every word of a novel I wrote called The Sand Fiddlers, which, by the way considering the number of rejections I received from numerous New York publishers, was not (even with Owen’s touch) A PAGE TURNER.

Back to the Flim-Flam Man.  When George C. Scott was interviewed in the December, 1980, issue of Playboy the question was posed as to Scott’s all-time favorite part. The interviewer’s assumption being that it was, of course, Patton.  Scott surprised them by saying, “No, actually it was Mordecai Jones, the Flim-Flam Man.”

So, quite pleased with myself having found this little gift to take to my friend, I walk into his office and say, “Guy, guess what?  George C.  Scott is quoted in the new Playboy saying that his favorite part wasn’t George Patton, it was the Flim-Flam Man.”

“That’s nice,” Owen said, “Great actor but I hated that *#@**** movie!”

Dave Goren


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“I was a 10-year-old sixth grader when Ball Four was published, and after all of the benign baseball stories I had been reading since I was able to read, this one opened my eyes to the reality of sport. Sure, I enjoyed all of the naughty stuff and bathroom humor that 10-year-old sixth graders probably shouldn’t have been reading about, but I also liked the way Jim Bouton described the ups and downs of life as a major league baseball player. As I grew into a sports media career, Ball Four helped me understand that no matter how much fame and fortune athletes had, they were still human beings — some better than me, some worse than me, some just like me. The only difference? They have off-the-chart athletic skills.”

Dave Goren, Executive Director of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association & Hall of Fame Goren1

A Confederacy of Dunces

by John Kennedy Toole, Grove Press (1980)


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How to publish the Pulitzer Prize winning novel!

Create an incredible protagonist like Ignatius J. Reilly.  Simply come up with a 300-plus-pound Don Quixote, a physically and mentally objectionable middle-aged character, a stumbling, bumbling malcontent,a comedic genius of sorts, whose skewed psyche drives him to war with every living, breathing faction of society. An “equal opportunity  employer,” Ignatius hates everyone and everything — the middle class, the upper class, the lower class, rednecks, blacks, homosexuals, heterosexuals, movies, television, corporate America.

Drop this protagonist into New Orleans, a carnival-like setting where street life, rivers, docks and wharves beg the description of the written word. Take your readers to the French Quarter’s dives and topless bars and introduce them to genuine characters—drug dealers, porn pushers, bar tenders, whores, and undercover cops—locals who speak the dialect of the city in pitch-perfect Yat.

Read More »

David Wells

DavidWells41Ted0EE12L._SL500_[1]“I revisit Damon Runyon’s short stories all the time. First found them in my dad’s bookcase in high school. He had Guys and Dolls, Letters from Home, and Blue Plate Special. Nobody wrote characters like Runyon and his assorted misfits that hang out at Mindy’s on Broadway always made me laugh. Mostly it was the way he used dialect to capture the comings and goings of these dreamers and misfits. I still laugh at Butch Minds the Baby, Bloodhounds on Broadway and of course Nathan Detroit.”

For books of collected Damon Runyon stories, click here.

David Wells, actor in many films including Basic Instinct (1982), Bevery Hills Cop (1984) and Starman (1984), and principal, David Wells Acting Studio, Hollywood, CA.


Mike Gray

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“The gardening book that got me started many years ago in my backyard was The Self-Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour, Dolphin Books, 1980.

I took a plot of red clay and turned it into fertile Deep Beds growing a host of vegetables in a small space. Seymour suggests plants that do well in our climate along with things to do in the Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall gardens. Along with organic pest and disease control. After all these years I keep the book close by for reference. Best home gardening book I’ve ever read.”

Mike Gray, host of The Almanac Gardener, North Carolina Public Television

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Eyewitness to Power


Eyewitness to Power

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by David Gergen, Simon & Schuster

The secret to good and accurate reporting?


To the reporter, for a story to be well told and with accuracy, it’s the difference between a lock and a key.

And for his insightful book Eyewitness to Power (2000), David Gergen, who served as a White House insider during four presidencies—Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton—well, he had that key.

His access afforded him—almost like no other— an up close view of the trials, tribulations, flaws, and strengths of these leaders and the power brokers who advised them.

Were there some closer to these presidents than Gergen?  Absolutely.  Have cronies, confidants, adversaries, reporters, hacks and serious historians recorded/written accounts— from inside and out—about these American commanders-in-chief? Read More »