Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chicken Ranch report no. 28

La Grange Chicken Ranch brass token (fake)
I'm happy to report that since we last spoke, I have completed the revisions to my second draft of the Chicken Ranch manuscript and distributed it to first readers. I am now awaiting their valued commentary, and also waiting on word from a prospective publisher, who promises to get back to the on that Any Day Now.

This is a somewhat odd time for me. After working on this book for more than three years, it's a tremendous relief to have the bulk of the work over and done with. Yet at the same time, I'm still not through with it entirely. I'll still have one big revision to go though once I hear back from my first readers. Organizing and preparing the photos and graphics I have still demands my attention, and that's something I'm stubbornly putting off. And then there's the conference paper. Oh, boy, is there ever. I'm going round and round with this thing, which I'm presenting at the East Texas Historical Association's Fall Meeting. One would think that since I've already written 400-plus pages on the Chicken Ranch, a mere 10 page paper would be child's play. One would be wrong. I've spent an inordinate amount of time on the abstract alone--and all the abstract amounts to is a short paragraph describing the paper overall. I really, really need to finish it up ASAP, but this paper is going nowhere fast.

In that aspect, at least, it shares a lot in common with Chapter 13: Hell To Pay. For those who aren't long-time followers of this Chicken Ranch saga, Chapter 13 is the first chapter I wrote more than two years back. I wrote it as a sample chapter because it was the first chapter I amassed enough material for. It's gone through more revisions than the other chapters, had undergone the first reader process and is in pretty much finished form. Yet the second draft work on it took longer than pretty much any other chapter. Why, you may ask? Well, two years back, I hadn't settled on an end note format. I essentially jotted down a general reference note for each one, and planned to come back later to flesh them out. Ugh. Coming back two years later, I discovered I left out the author in many cases, page numbers in many more, and all manner of things were wrong and didn't mesh with the style I'd settled on for the rest of the book. So sparse were my notes I had to go back to the library and spend hours sifting through microfilm trying to hunt down missing info. It's all good to go now, but man, was that a tedious less for me to learn!

One other interesting bit of information I uncovered in these latter days of book work and research is that I am not the first writer to work with Miss Edna on producing a definitive history of the Chicken Ranch. In 1978, author Robin Moore--who partnered with Xaviera Hollander to write the best-selling The Happy Hooker--announced that he, along with his occasional writing partner Fred Halliday, had reached a deal to tell the Chicken Ranch story:

It's got nothing to do with the Broadway play," Moore said. "We're mining a new motherlode of gold--we hope.

"We hope to, expect to and plan to bring from her a whole new series of ideas," he said.
Miss Edna herself confirmed the discussions, although she went so far as to say they'd already signed the deal.

"It's going to be a history of the Chicken Ranch," Miss Edna said. "I'd only read one book about a madam, and I didn't like it. It was A House is Not a Home, you know, about Polly Adler. She said she never hustled herself. I can't believe that. So I never finished the book."
The strange thing is, after 1978 nobody ever mentioned this book deal again. They just abandoned it at some point, without explanation. I wish I'd known this when I interviewed Miss Edna myself, because I would've asked about it. If Moore had written his book, it's a safe bet that I wouldn't have spent the past three years down the rabbit hole. Unfortunately, Moore died in 2008 and Halliday in 2010, so I can't ask either of them. If I can figure out where Robin Moore's papers are archived--some university, most likely--then there might be some insight to be found there. Nothing to be of any use for my book, most likely (and at this stage, I'm not looking to do any more rewrites) but I'm still curious to find out what happened to the definitive story of the Chicken Ranch that never was.

Now Playing: Dave Brubeck The Best of the Dave Brubeck Trio
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