The stories behind each of these books can be found in my autobiography, Every Midget Has an Uncle Sam Costume, published in the fall of 2002 by Barricade Books.
Each involves a provocative, fascinating person, or interesting aspect of our lives. Some will be among the series of reissued titles to be released by Barricade Books over the next few years, beginning with The CIAís Control of Candy Jones (original title: The Control of Candy Jones), scheduled for publication this fall in trade paperback format.
One of these books, The World's Best Bartenders' Guide, was another collaboration, this time with friend, and food and travel writer, Joe Scott. We decided to write a bartending guide that ignored the thousands of jellybean drinks that no one ever makes--and hopefully never drinks--and to focus on "real drinks," their origins, the lore about them, what celebrities favor, and including variations on recipes provided by bartenders from the bars highlighted in the book. Joe and I had a great time researching the world's 50 greatest bars, and the book stands, we say without modesty, as living up to its name, The World's Best Bartenders' Guide.
Of all the books Iíve written, Charlie and the Shawneetown Dame (originally published as War in Illinois) is a particular favorite of mine. Itís a dramatization of a true story from that insane period in our country's history called Prohibition.
The story tells of an Al Capone wannabe, CharlieBirger (he always pronounced his name as one word, with an accent on Charlie), who set up a rum-running gang of semi-literate locals in Southern Illinois. He soon had competition from East St. Louisí rough-and-tumble Shelton Brothers. Eventually they went to war using homemade tanks, and a bi-wing, open cockpit airplane from which sticks of dynamite were dropped on Birgerís fortified home. The situation got so bad that local law enforcement brought in the Ku Klux Klan, of all people, to restore order, and things went even further downhill from there.
The book is a wacky, violent tale of a real life gang that couldnít shoot straight. I loved every minute of the weeks I spent in Southern Illinois researching the book, and the writing of it.
Long John Nebel was the king of late-night talk-radio in New York City in the 60's and 70's. I was a guest on many of his shows, and we became close friends. When I approached him about writing his autobiography, Long John suggested instead that it be a biography by me. I originally titled the book Long John Nebel with the subtitle "The Biography of Radio Talk King, Master Salesman, and Charlatan." I used the term "charlatan" simply to indicate he was a man who wasn't always what he seemed. John made no changes to the manuscript, but said he was unhappy with the title. When I offered to remove the word "charlatan," he said, "That's not really necessary, but could we make it 'magnificent charlatan'?" Which we could and did.