Becoming The Thorne Smith Expert

by Michael D Walker on April 12, 2012

Becoming The Thorne Smith Expert

Note: This article was written in a slightly different version for the website http://www.ThorneSmith.net and can be accessed at: http://www.thornesmith.net/Thorne-Smith-About-Me.html

 

I’d like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about me and Thorne Smith because I’m sure you’re wondering;

“Who is this guy and why does he think he knows enough about Thorne Smith to do a blog about him?”

My name is Michael D. Walker and when I’m not busy working for Cirque du Soleil here in Las Vegas, I moonlight as a professional writer and researcher, among other things. At least those are the side jobs I admit to in public. Rumors about past careers in the music industry and the military are mostly true but I can’t comment on the stories of me being in the Betty Ford Clinic trying to kick my addiction to used bookstores and ice cream.

And for the record I am not Mike Walker, the goon who sold military secrets to the Soviets in the 1980s. Nor am I Mike Walker, the fourth heaviest man in the Guinness Book of World Records. And finally, I am not the Mike Walker who writes for the National Enquirer, although it would be fun to co-author a book with him just to see how the book cover would look: “Written by Mike and Michael Walker”. OK, enough of that, let’s get back to Thorne Smith…

I’d never heard of Thorne Smith until one fateful day the summer of 1984 when I pestered my good friend Jim Montgomery to read an essay I’d written for a college writing class. Jim had been kind enough in the past to read a lot of my furtive brain droppings so on this occasion he required a bribe that resembled a six pack of cold beer. The essay was supposed to be about greyhound dog racing but had turned into a surreal observation about everything at the race track except the dogs.

When Jim finished reading and laughing, he said “You know what? I’ve finally figured out why I like your writing. You remind me of Thorne Smith”.

“Who the hell is Thorne Smith?” I asked.

Jim took me into his library (yes, he owns THAT many books) and pulled out a dog-eared DEL REY paperback of TOPPER. He told me to read it and get back to him. The next thing I knew it was a week later and I was sitting in the middle of a used bookstore looking at the DEL REY paperback editions of NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS and TURNABOUT.

I’ve never been the same since.

Now it’s highly unlikely but you may have seen some of my writing in the magazines Video Watchdog and Scarlet Street. Back in 1989 the editor of Scarlet Street, Richard Valley, and I hung out on an AOL message board we were charter members of called the CHFB (Classic Horror Film Board). Richard posted a message there asking if any writer was interested in a very tough project. It seems he’d been through a variety of writers over several years and none of them had been able to complete the assignment: Write a mini-biography on Thorne Smith.

As you guessed, I took on the assignment. The next two years were pretty much spent digging through libraries and searching library holdings online. Chasing down old books became a new skill. Hoping to outbid someone on Ebay for old copies of NEW YORKER and LIFE magazines was my new religious ritual. The entire time I kept reporting my findings and insights to Scarlet Street’s Associate Editor, Ken Hanke. Before I knew it, Richard was asking if I could write up what I had found to that point. So, with Ken kindly acting as my sounding board and gracious line editor, I dove in and started putting it all together.

“Host To Said Ghosts: The Thorne Smith Story” appeared in Scarlet Street # 37 in the spring of 2000. It wasn’t perfect but it was a heart-felt and passionate look at Thorne Smith based on the info I had at that time. Soon my email box and phone brought unexpected accolades and more information from people who read the article and fell in love with Thorne Smith’s writing all over again. Some praise even came from people I’d been looking up to for a long time such as living legend Ray Bradbury and highly acclaimed editor Ellen Datlow. But the most gratifying was when Thorne’s grandson, Terry Conner, called and told me “Michael, you’re THE Thorne Smith expert. You found stuff even our family didn’t know about him.”

That praise brought tears to my eyes because more than anything I didn’t want to disappoint the family of the man himself. I knew it’d be tough writing about his legacy while not shying away from his all too human weaknesses such as alcoholism and inability to hang on to money. And it was a relief to receive such generous acknowledgment from Terry.

Like you and Thorne Smith’s relatives, I want to see him and his works continue to be enjoyed and remembered well into the future. It’s a cliche and a crime that you can’t find any of his novels in bookstores anymore. Often you can’t even find them in public libraries either. The thought of a world without Thorne Smith books in it saddens me and bothers me in ways I can’t even express.

So, that’s why I created the website http://www.ThorneSmith.net which I’m proud to say has become recognized by Turner Classic Movies, Thorne Smith’s family and many others as the Official Thorne Smith website. Because I continue to find more information about Thorne Smith, I decided to create this blog as a companion resource for fans of his work and allow us to interact in ways that weren’t available or I hadn’t considered when I created the website.

I also am pushing forward with my plan for writing the first ever full length biography of Thorne Smith.  While there was a book about Thorne Smith published in 2010, it offered no new biographical information whatsoever. In fact, it primarily recited info from my mini-bio and a terrific masters thesis written by Dr. Joseph Blotner in the 50’s.  I’m not knocking the book, as it did offer some new info on the movies made from Thorne’s books. However, it still lacked any of the info I’ve uncovered in the decade since I wrote the mini-bio.  And I don’t mind admitting that the publisher of that book, Ben Ohmart, first offered me a contract to write the book. At the time, I was in discussions with Random House but, unfortunately, we couldn’t come to an agreement where I could complete the research I needed and meet Ben’s publishing schedule.

So, I keep finding new information and with your help maybe we can find even more. Together, I think we Thorne Smith fans can make it happen.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure~

Your Host to Said Ghost,

Michael D. Walker

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Margarita Slavkova April 12, 2012 at 8:26 AM

Michael,
I truly respect your noble goal to write a book about Thorne Smith. You passion is contagious. I am going to read some of his works today. You mentioned that you work for Cirque du Soleil. Are you a performer? I have a few Russian friends there.
Thanks

Reply

Clare Delaney April 12, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Great story of how you ‘found’ Smith, and what you intend to do – keep us posted!

EcoExpert

Reply

Suzanne Laramore April 12, 2012 at 10:03 AM

That’s a great story!

Suzanne

Reply

Neil Dhawan April 12, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Michael,

As usual, you entertain while you educate! I would like to reserve my advanced copy of the Thorne Smith Biography. You ARE the man for the job and your writing skills will, undoubtedly, bring this great man back to life!

To a Life of Success, Neil

Reply

Sonya Lenzo April 12, 2012 at 11:44 AM

There is a Betty Ford unit for used book nuts and ice cream addicts??? I am so surprised we have not met there…well some day soon, I suppose.
I have enjoyed the Topper movies and am now anticipating the rest of Thorne Smith’s works…and your biography as well!
Sonya Lenzo

Reply

G.E. Moon II April 12, 2012 at 2:17 PM

Michael,

This is incredible. I just went to http://www.ThorneSmith.net to have a look around there as well. I am truly impressed and I look forward to learning more about this wonderful author that you have introduced me to.

Yours In Health!

G.E. Moon II

Reply

Michael D Walker April 12, 2012 at 7:38 PM

Thanks for the kind words about the website Gary. It’s still a work in progress but I think it’s getting better as it grows.

Michael

Reply

Sabrina April 12, 2012 at 3:07 PM

Michael,

I hate to admit I’ve never heard of Thorne Smith until now. But I will be looking your website to learn more about him! Congrats on having a website that is considered THE Thorne Smith website. That rocks!

Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES

Reply

Dr. Wendy Schauer, D.C., R.K.C. April 12, 2012 at 7:27 PM

I am looking forward to learning about this man. He sounds fascinating.

Yours In Health!

Dr. Wendy

Reply

Lyle R. Johnson April 12, 2012 at 8:22 PM

Interesting story of your evolution to Thorne Smith.

I shall investigate … I know of some of his works, but I did not know they were his.

Live Long and Prosper
Lyle

Reply

Kevin Hogan April 12, 2012 at 10:04 PM

I have never heard of Thorne Smith until I read your blog. I have to pick up one of his works and read it.

Mark Hogan

Kevin Hogan Makes Reading Body Language Easy!

Reply

Cherie Miranda April 12, 2012 at 10:47 PM

You are THE Thorne Smith expert and have been for years! Even though I already know quite a bit about him, you always surprise me with something new. Your depth of knowledge about this wonderful author’s life and work is impressive.

Cherie Miranda

Reply

Body language of relationships April 13, 2012 at 12:40 AM

Michael, you always surprise me with all of the knowledge you have. Great Job!

Scott Sylvan Bell

Now go implement!

Reply

Dating Relationship Expert LA April 13, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Will the real MDW please stand up.

Thorne Smith has such a dry wit. As do you too, so I can see where your friend made the original association. It was apt.

Happy Dating and Relationships,

April Braswell
Singles Classes Los Angeles

Reply

Is Self Sabotage Holding You Back? May 11, 2012 at 11:43 PM

Michael,

Congratulations to you on being the authority on Thorne Smith and his work. It is great that you are sharing his legacy with so many people.

Author, Speaker, Chiropractor, Kettlebell Trainer

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: