Today my guest is the New York Times bestselling nonfiction author and former journalist Jim Dent.
U. S. residents may comment on this post through August 14 to be entered to win a signed hardcover of Jim’s upcoming release,Courage Beyond The Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story. Subscribe via FeedBurner for extra points. Consider commenting on a sports figure that you find inspiring.
Courage Beyond The Game, which is Jim Dent’s eighth book, is based on the triumphant life of Freddie Steinmark, a former All-Southwest Conference safety at the University of Texas. Steinmark played the entire 1969 national championship season at the University of Texas with cancer ravaging his left leg. In spite of the horrific pain, and not knowing the extent of his injury, Steinmark rarely left the field that season. Six days following the “Big Shootout’’ against Arkansas, his leg was amputated. He remains a heroic figure at Texas, where the players “horn’’ his photograph as they head down the tunnel before games at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.
Dent’s book-writing career began in 1995. Still, some of his fondest memories were of covering the Dallas Cowboys for eleven years at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Times Herald.
Dent, who lives in Dallas, has covered seventeen Super Bowls and relishes the opportunity to chronicle the entire story of Super Bowl XLV. A Super Bowl in the Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth area has been his dream for decades.
When Dent came up with the idea to write and edit Super Bowl Texas Style, the first person he contacted was his long-time friend Layne Murdoch. The two began working together at the Times Herald in 1978. The bosses at the newspaper were impressed with Dent’s reporting and writing skills, and Murdoch’s expertise with the camera. Just as important, though, was their softball savvy. Dent played left-field with Murdoch was in center for the newsroom team. Batting third and fourth in the lineup, they led the team to three Media League titles. Maybe that’s why they got so many raises.
New York publishers said I would never succeed when I left behind my career in newspapers and radio and rolled the dice in the book business in 1995 with a controversial biography of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones entitled King of the Cowboys.
I almost proved them right. Sales figures for my first two books left them yawning in New York. My author status was about to collapse when I came upon a book idea that inspired so many rejection letters that my then-agent, Jim Donovan of Dallas, suggested that we invest in a shredding machine.
Nobody wanted to publish The Junction Boys. In turning down the proposal, one editor wrote, “this book is doomed to fall into the abyss of regional mediocrity.’’ The only big-time editor with half an interest was Peter J. Wolverton of St. Martin’s Press. So enthusiastic was Pete that he agreed to publish TJB if I first wrote an umpire’s autobiography, You’re Out and You’re Ugly, Too! I became neither rich nor famous off that one.
My advance for The Junction Boys was such a pittance that I had to drive a 1976 Caprice, purchased at a used car lot for a thousand bucks. In less than a year, I had left behind my $40,000 turbo charged Volvo for the ugly brown clunker. Not even my mother would ride with me.
Still, in my heart I knew that The Junction Boys would take off. Here was the story of Paul “Bear’’ Bryant busing the Texas A&M football team 300 miles to the flyspeck known as Junction on the western edge of the Hill Country. The coach’s hot-as-hell preseason camp managed to run off three-fourths of the team. The Aggies went 1-9 during that 1954 season, but rebounded two years later behind the core of the Junction boys to defeat the University of Texas in Austin for the first time in 31 years while capturing A&M’s first Southwest Conference championship in 15 seasons.
I quickly learned that sports books were my ticket out of poverty. The Junction Boys made the New York Times bestseller list. Along the way, I learned to write my books with a potential movie in mind. ESPN turned TJB into a national phenomenon on December 14th, 2002, with the most watched event in the history of the network. Thank you, ESPN. I sold the Caprice for two hundred bucks and bought a Cadillac.
By the end of next year, I hope to see two more of my books make it to the silver screen. Presidio Pictures recently bought the rights to Twelve Mighty Orphans and the company expects to start filming this fall. After recently starting Jim Dent Movie Productions, my partners and I hope to bring Courage Beyond The Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story to the big screen before Christmas of 2012. That book releases on August 16th. It is the story of All Southwest Conference safety Freddie Steinmark playing the entire 1969 national championship season for The University of Texas at Austin with cancer in his left thighbone. Not until after the season did he learn that almost an inch of the bone had disintegrated and that the leg had been held together by a steely quadriceps muscle.
If you happen to be in Texas next week, Jim would like to meet you at his author events in Lewisville on August 17th and Austin on August 19th.
The Lewisville “Book Blowout’’ will be broadcast live for four hours by “The Hardline’’ on KTCK, which will begin at 3 p.m. and last well into the night at the Royal Affairs Ballroom at 140 East Main.
The Austin event will be held at the UT Alumni Center from 7-9 p.m. on Friday night, August 19th. Several of Freddie Steinmark’s ex-teammates will be there along with noted Longhorn coaches.