This weekend, you can have the first crack at buying an autographed copy of Jim Merkel’s newest book, The Colorful Characters of St. Louis. Come to the release party for the book, meet some of the characters featured in the book, and have plenty of fun. It’s from 2-5 p.m Sunday, Oct. 2, at The Royale, 3132 South Kingshighway Blvd.For details, go to jimmerkelthewriter.com. See you there!
KMOX’s Kevin Killeen did his usual great job of interviewing me about my new book for his regular “Whole ‘nother Story” feature, which aired early Friday. Here’s the segment, as broadcast by the Player FM website.
Kevin’s interviewed me about all four of my books. I’ve known him since I started covering City Hall for the Suburban Journals in the early 2000s. That’s one reason why I keep writing books, so I can talk to reporters like Kevin again.
For months, I’ve thought that this Sunday (two days from today – mark the date), I’d hold a release party for my new book, The Colorful Characters of St. Louis. I’ve told everybody it’ll be from 2-5 p.m. at The Royale, which is just south of Arsenal, at 3132 South Kingshighway Blvd.
Now comes a man who suggests some thing else is afoot. I fear I should take him seriously.
“So this very unusual thing is happening at the bar on Sunday,” he wrote on his Facebook page Thursday.
A very unusual thing. Oh, my.
This is no ordinary man. He is Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, The Royale’s proud proprieter. He’ll be the host. More than that, he is one of the 80 Colorful Characters in my book. Even more, as fellow Reedy Press author and Colorful Character Amanda Doyle was quick to note, “Son, you’re not just a subject….you’re a cover boy, disembodied head!”
Steve knows things. His bar is a classy thing. He loves boxing things. He loves Democratic Party things. He absolutely adores classic car things. So he may be right. My event on Sunday may be just a very unusual thing. As they say this election year, you decide. Show up and tell me if it’s something other than a release party for my book. I’ve held release parties for my three earlier St. Louis books published by Reedy Press. I never thought there could be something different this time.
But don’t worry. You’ll still meet plenty of Colorful Characters, you’ll still be able to buy a book and have me sign it. You’ll still have the kind of food and drink people expect at the Royale. You’ll still have the most fun you’ve had since you read my last book. And that’s not just a thing.
I talked by phone today with Frank Cusumano of KFNS 590 about The Colorful Characters of St. Louis. Much of our on-the-air conversation was about sports characters in St. Louis. To listen to the conversation, press here.
As I’ve said before, an author’s job isn’t done when he finishes his manuscript. After the book comes out, he’s busy promoting the book and doing interviews. I’ve been honored this week to be interviewed several times about The Colorful Characters of St. Louis and my release party from 2-5 p.m. Sunday at The Royale, 3132 South Kingshighway Blvd.
On Tuesday, John Carney interviewed me for his program on KTRS. This morning, Seth Lemon of Fox 2 talked to me on Fox 2 News in the Morning. The link to that segment is here.
Also today, Kevin Killeen of KMOX 1120 also interviewed me for a segment of his “Whole ‘nother Story” program. Get up early if you want to see it. It’ll be on at 5:35 a.m. Friday and this weekend. Late risers shouldn’t worry. I’ll post it when it’s on line.
One more. Listen to KFNS 590 The Fan at 11 a.m. Thursday. Frank Cusumano will interview about the sports characters in my book.
Some run from violence, but the Rev. Kenneth McKoy walked toward it. Today he spends the late night hours leading groups walking around some of the bloodiest parts of St. Louis. He would have been safer had he remained as pastor of Blackwell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Webster Groves. But God had other plans, as I tell in The Colorful Characters of St. Louis.
In 2009, a young man he knew was brutally murdered. He felt he had to do more. In 2012, he got permission to organize the Progressive African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in a violent part of northwest St. Louis. Since McKoy organized the church in 2012, he’s officiated at six funerals of gunshot victims. His own son was shot four times but survived.
In 2014, he found himself at protests against the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. “I remember thinking how many black men have been murdered since this whole Ferguson uprising,” McKoy said. “That’s when I just decided that I’m going to dedicate the rest of my life to street ministry.” With that decision made, McKoy and some other friends from the clergy started their walks in 2015.
To make the walks safer,, they started with prayer, wore their collars, and donned bright yellow safety vests. But they weren’t completely safe. At first, McKoy received two or three death threats a week. In their first year, McKoy estimates, the walks stopped three murders. That’s not enough to halt a crime wave, but is enough to keep him walking.
Bob Uecker bombed in six years as a Major Leaguer, but cashed in afterward by joking about it. As a movie star, comedian, late night talk show regular and Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster, he showed the comedic timing he lacked as a .200 lifetime hitter. Let’s face it. As a ballplayer, he stunk. But he had one thing going for him: he was the Cardinals’ championship tuba player in the 1964 World Series against the Yankees. For all of the above reasons, I included him in The Colorful Characters of St. Louis.
The Cardinals acquired him in a trade with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964. He played backup to Catcher Tim McCarver, who went on to be a nationally-known TV baseball announcer.
Uecker didn’t play during the 1964 World Series, but that didn’t mean he didn’t play at all. Before one home game, he noticed a lonely tuba in the left field corner. A player for a Dixieland band had left it behind while he took a break with the rest of the band. Uecker picked it up and started catching balls in it. A picture taken of him at the time shows him apparently playing the instrument. The Cardinals got a bill for the repair of a dented rim. Uecker happily paid part of it.
The Cardinals brass traded him to the Phillies at the end of 1965. His career mercifully ended with the Atlanta Braves in 1967. “Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues,” he wrote. “To last as long as I did with the skills I had, with the numbers I produced, was a triumph of the human spirit.”