Jim Dent: Sports Books As Films

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.

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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.


Jim Dent: sports books

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.

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  1. Looking forward to this book. Big fan of Mr. Dent’s writing.

  2. I am a relatively new fan of Mr. Dent, but a big one. Can’t wait for his new book, as well as the movies.

  3. This book sounds compelling and wonderful.

  4. Sounds like an inspirational book. Thanks for the giveaway.

  5. This definitely looks like one to watch for – and one that I can actually interest my husband in! I am also an email subscriber.

  6. I just read an article about Freddie Steinmark in our Texas Co-op magazine this month. What an inspiring young man! I’ll be anxious to read Mr. Dent’s book about him.

  7. Mr. Dent, I’m curious about the response to your books from film producers. Do you actively seek out subjects that you believe could make compelling movies? Do you think the response to The Junction Boys made it more likely these books will attract attention from Hollywood? Also, do you participate in writing the adapted scripts or do you avoid that?

  8. I’m sure our book club would be interested in Mr. Dent’s new book. I’ll suggest it at the next meeting. We all loved Twelve Mighty Orphans.

  9. Can’t wait to read the new book. I really enjoyed Twelve Mighty Orphans.

  10. I’ve never met a sports story I didn’t love.Twelve Mighty Orphans was excellent and I’m looking forward to Mr. Dent’s new book!

  11. I read Twelve Mighty Orphans and LOVED the book. I am very familiar with the Masonic Home and School through my husband and reading this book just brought some of the history to life. I’m glad to see they will be making a movie out of the book, I for one will go and see the movie!

  12. Mr. Dent, thanks for writing some very good books. Twelve Mighty Orphans is actually my FAVORITE book of all time, just barely beating classics like 1984 and Farenheit 451. I just knew about halfway through the book that I was going to love it and it was going to be one of my favorites. I’ve been telling people to read it ever since. I’ve also been saying it should be made into a movie. Do you know any information on the movie project with that? For instance, who is playing Hardy and who is playing the head coach? Really looking forward to the new book. I also liked The Junction Boys, Resurrection and The Undefeated: The Oklahoma Sooners and the Greatest Winning Streak in College Football.
    Keep writing them and I’ll keep reading them.

  13. Sounds like a good one. Thanks Stephanie for the heads up.

  14. So excited to see Twelve Mighty Orphans on the big screen!

  15. I loved The Junction Boys and recommend it! Looking forward to reading this one.

  16. Thanks, Mr. Dent, for being the storyteller who connects such inspiring stories to the rest of us who would have otherwise missed out.

  17. My favorite part of Jim Dent’s craft is that he tells the story and doesn’t seem to be trying. After reading The Junction Boys I felt I knew so much more about that era of college football than I could have ever garnered from old magazines or newspapers. In Twelve Mighty Orphans, Dent validated my love affair with Texas high school football. I so look forward to reading this next heroic story.

  18. I’ve loved reading The Junction Boys and Twelve Mighty Orphans. Jim Dent is one of the best sports writers in the country.

  19. I am not a great sports fan except for football. (I’m from Texas–how could I not be?) But I am a fan of books written about courageous sports figures. I’m excited to learn of Mr. Dent. As my old journalism teacher said, the best writing in magazines and newspapers is by sportswriters. For a sportswriter to turn to writing books is perfect for the reading public. And to make a movie of it–well that’s just as good as a Western!

  20. I enjoy Dent’s nonfiction work and after working in the sports industry appreciate his writing even more. I am looking forward to another!

  21. Really have to thank my co-worker Latsy for introducing me to Mr Dent’s writing in The Junction Boys. It was an interesting insight into football of the time period.

  22. Did you know that being the head coach at Texas was at one time considered a death curse? If you enjoy stories about Longhorns football you’ll love The Totally Biased Guide to Southern College Football by Pete Davis, available on Kindle for the price of a Whopper Jr. No Aggies were hurt during the writing of this book, but several were made fun of, repeatedly.

  23. Jim Dent is a great author in the sports field. Love Texas football and have enjoyed all his books.

  24. Can’t think of anyone who can better do justice to Freddie Steinmark’s story.

  25. I’ve not actually read any of Dent’s books – yet – but they are now definitely on my list. I’m a football fanatic, and love finding really good football books! This sounds inspiring and amazing :o)

    ((ps: I’m a new FeedBurner subscriber!))

  26. I thoroughly enjoyed Twelve Mighty Orphans and am looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. As a UT alum and football enthusiast I am excited to read about Freddie Steinmark–the synopsis gave me goosebumps, Hope to make it to Mr. Dent’s presentation.

  27. My best friend growing up in Austin was given an actual Freddie Steinmark jersey when he was a little kid. When he was a teenager, he actually wore it around!

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