Author Glenn Stout is the longtime Series Editor of the “Best American Sports Writing” yearly showcase, AKA, every sportswriter’s bible and gold standard. Stout is also one hell of a writer and I’ve enjoyed and recommended a bunch of his books, most recently Young Woman and The Sea. His newest book, Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid has nothing to do with sports, but man is it good. How’s this for a great teaser: “Before Bonnie and Clyde there was Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid – smarter, more successful and better looking.”
I love it. And you’ll love the story. I’ve been fortunate to know Glenn as a Twitter pal for a while now, and when I finished this book I had some questions, so I asked him to join us for this week’s, Three Answers. This is some of the most thorough behind-the-book writing info you’ll get from an author and it’s awesome. Enjoy!
|Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid|
1) One of the things I love to do with this Q&A is get the story behind why you wrote the story. Can you share with the readers why you had to write this one and when you first came across the Tiger Girl and Candy Kid?
I came across the story in 2006 while researching Young Woman and the Sea, my bio of Trudy Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, and a story I had stumbled on back in about 2002 while researching a book on the New York Yankees. At the time, I asked myself “why haven’t I heard of her?” and that ended up becoming a book, and now, soon, a film by Disney+ starring Daisy Ridley. Same thing with Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid. I came across these intriguing headlines with these unforgettable nicknames, started reading and wondered “Why haven’t I heard of them? Who were they?” The more I read the more interested I became.
Margaret and Richard Whittemore were not minor figures. For a time they were as famous as any two people in America – front page of the New York Times over 40 times, front page news for months coast to coast – yet were utterly forgotten. And their story had everything; romance, mystery, drama, violence, true crime – and it intersected with the essence of the Jazz Age, telling a story left untold by Fitzgerald, of how the decade impacted working class young people confronting a rapidly changing world that seemed to offer absolutely everything… but easy access to it. They unfolded like a classic gangster film, except it took place before any of those films were made – it helped inspire the genre. The story simply demanded to be told; I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and everyone I knew got sick of me talking about it. I tried to pitch the book then, but the 2008 recession hit and while there was substantial interest, no one bit. But the story wouldn’t let me alone, and against the advice of everyone – loooong story there – I pitched it again in 2018. So it’s been a 15-year process to publication.
2) When you’re writing a book that takes place in the “Roaring Twenties” the time period becomes a character. You do an excellent job of weaving in the pop culture, fashion and societal times with the story. How do you go about creating that world? Do you research the period separately or fold in things as you go? What’s your favorite part of that era that you wish was still around today?
Fortunately, several of my other books had intersected with the Jazz Age, so I was already comfortable in the time period. But their story was SO much within that time period, and affected by it, that I had to provide the reader with that context, because it’s not necessarily the decade they know from “The Great Gatsby.” So before writing, and as I wrote, I read period history, listened to period music, watched the movies made during the era, just steeped myself in all things Jazz Age for a few years. My goal was to deliver necessary context organically, embedded in the actions of the main characters as the story demanded, rather than draping Wikipedia-style facts over the top, which is so often the case. The daily print journalism of the era was vitally important to that. The reportage, which I use extensively, provides a vibrant portrait of the era. I would have loved to witness cabaret culture during the era, the nightclubs and nightlife, where it was “anything goes.” Of course, it might have killed me!
3) In the course of your research on Margaret and Richard, was there one fact or anecdote or piece of their story that totally shocked you? That when you uncovered it, you did a double and triple take?
There are many – the overt unfairness of the judicial system, the horrific violence embedded within the penal system, how easy it was to be a criminal, the intersections Margaret and Richard had with other notable people of the era, like Rudolph Valentino… but the most shocking thing of all is that their story had been utterly and totally forgotten. They were bigger than Bonnie and Clyde – smarter, far more successful and better looking – yet had fallen through the cracks of history, being relegated to a few incomplete and incorrect paragraphs in a handful of books. Still, I was petrified someone else would stumble on the story as I did and become hooked – I had a “google alert” on their names for about 15 years – yet no one ever did. That still stuns me. Buy Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid here.
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Jon Finkel is the award-winning author of Hoops Heist, The Life of Dad, Jocks In Chief, The Athlete, Heart Over Height, “Mean” Joe Greene and more. His books have been endorsed by everyone from Mark Cuban and Tony Dungy to Spike Lee, Kevin Durant and Chef Robert Irvine. He has written for GQ, Men’s Health, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times and has appeared on CBS: This Morning, Good Morning Texas, and hundreds of radio shows, podcasts and streams.
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