Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chicken Ranch report no. 25

I'm A Friend of Sheriff Jim bumper sticker, sold to raise money for Sheriff Jim Flournoy's legal battles against Marvin Zindler following the closure of the Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas.

IT IS DONE! After three years of research, dead ends, frustration and occasional triump (plus lots and lots of writing) I have completed the first draft of my exhaustive history of the infamous La Grange Chicken Ranch! Excuse me while I take a breather.

The final tally? A quick calculation shows a word count of roughly 112,000 words, which by my estimate is close to quadruple the content of any other book published about the Chicken Ranch (Larry L. King's The Whorehouse Papers is substantive, but focuses mainly on the development of the Broadway play rather than the history of the brothel the musical is based on). Believe it or not, I could easily have written another 20,000 words. Why didn't I? Well, a lot of that material is tangential, or focuses on details not wholly relevant to the overall story. Some anecdotes are repetitive, illustrating the same point something else did more effectively. Length and readability are definitely a consideration. I've already mentioned here that certain passages I quite liked had to be cut to improve the flow of the narrative. All the detailed information in the world is useless if the reader can't force their way through boring, tedious prose.

Here's the table of contents for the book. I'm not ready to announce a title yet, but this should be a fun little tease. Especially considering the fact that my initial outline when I began the actual writing nine months ago had just 12 chapters. That brings an added layer of truth to that first chapter, doesn't it?

Table of Contents

  1. A History That Grows in the Telling
  2. Faye Stewart, a.k.a. Jessie Williams
  3. Miss Edna
  4. Trixie, the Throw-Away Dog (and Other Societal Rejects)
  5. Hullabaloo!
  6. Big Jim
  7. Everybody Who’s Anybody
  8. What Doesn’t Kill Me...
  9. The Wagon Wheel
  10. Marvin Zindler, Eye! Witness! News!
  11. Wheels Within Wheels
  12. Not With a Bang
  13. Hell to Pay
  14. Didn’t See THAT Coming
  15. Enduring Legacy
The job's not over, though. Not by a long shot. I've got a short story I'm going to write this next week before attending Armadillocon in Austin, and that will give me a break from the Chicken Ranch and allow a little distance from the work. After that, it's time to jump back in for second draft revisions. Some chapters I won't hardly touch. Others, such as "The Wagon Wheel," are up for major, ground-up overhauls. Once the second draft is completed, I'll be ready to send it out to my beta readers for additional feedback. Hopefully by then I'll have a publisher.

Writing a book ain't all fun and games, kids. Writing fiction isn't any easier than writing non-fiction, and vice versa. Both forms can be stubborn and maddening and offer a whole lot of seemingly insurmountable challenges--just of a wholly different sort. But the mountain itself is climbed, I've reached the peak. It's all downhill from her.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Delicate Sound of Thunder
Chicken Ranch Central


  1. Robert Kleffman9:56 PM

    Kudos, Jayme. Be sure to advise when it is available. I do want to read... to see if Edna told you the same stories she told me. Your book is something she had wanted to write or have a "ghost writer" do for her for years. She first ask me to look for someone to do this back in the early 1980's. I'm sure she would have approved & applauded your accomplishment. Again, congratulations!

  2. Robert, my research turned up that Edna claimed to have contracted with Robin Moore, who co-authored Xaviera Hollander's "The Happy Hooker." She apparently repeated this several times in interviews around the time she opened her bar in Dallas. Do you remember anything about that?

    And I can tell you now she censored herself on several occasions. Not a lot, but when she didn't want to talk about a particular topic, the conversation went in a different direction!