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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

HOM: Jerry, Ken & James Oliver

I got a bee in my bonnet in 1981 and sent off a letter to Ken Warner, the editor of Gun Digest, about guns, gun shows, and gun books. I pointed out that I knew from first hand experience that gun collectors and firearms enthusiasts were interested in books on firearms and hunting, and I pointed out that Gun Digest had never run an article on books in its thirty-plus years of publication. I put down a couple of pages of arguments and persuasion, listing why I thought the GD should run such an article and why I felt qualified to write it. I added a page with an overview of my proposed article, enveloped it, stamped it, mailed it, and waited. And waited. And waited. After a month or so, I decided the letter had gone into a circular file at GD and gave up on the project. That, of course, is when I got a reply from them. A one-paragraph reply on GD stationery: Dear Jim, Could you do your proposed article in 1500 words? Sincerely, Ken Warner I was sorely tempted to pop off a one-word response, "Yes!", but Jerry over-ruled me and made me expand it a bit, asking for more details on submission requirements and deadlines. Once that was mailed off I started dithering and procrastinating so Jerry assumed his BOSS role and parked me at my desk with a typewriter and orders to get busy. Surprisingly, the article almost wrote itself. I wrote of my own experience with books, starting with the James Oliver Curwood books I'd grown up with and expanding it into a treatise on collecting gun & hunting books. Eventually I finished it up and did the camera and contact sheet bit with my faithful old Pentax, figuring out some photos that might be of interest and even using the self-timer on the camera for some photos of me with my books. I triple-checked everything, packaged it up in an almost-professional manner, and sent it off to Chicago. There was another long wait, but when the next GD letter came, it was short & to the point. All Ken said was that his first dog was named Kazan and a check for $300 was enclosed. Since Curwood wrote Kazan the Wolf Dog I guess Ken was a fan of his too, and that may have helped me sell the article. It was quite a thrill. GD bills itself as the world's greatest gun book & I felt that qualifying for its pages was quite an accomplishment. Lyn was thrilled too, but for her the check was the big thing. I thought the money was nice, but I felt like a little kid who shot at the moon with a bow and arrow and plunked it dead center: I had done the impossible. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)