I'd like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about me and Thorne Smith because I'm sure you're wondering;
"Who is this guy and why does he think he knows enough about Thorne Smith to do a website?"
My name is Michael D. Walker and when I'm not busy working for Cirque du Soleil here in Las Vegas, I moonlight as a professional writer and researcher, among other things. At least those are the side jobs I admit to in public.
Rumors about past careers in the music industry and the military are mostly true but I can't comment on the stories of me being in the Betty Ford Clinic trying to kick my addiction to used bookstores and ice cream.
And for the record I am not Mike Walker, the goon who sold military secrets to the Soviets in the 1980s. Nor am I Mike Walker, the fourth heaviest man in the Guinness Book of World Records.
And finally, I am not the Mike Walker who writes for the National Enquirer, although it would be fun to co-author a book with him just to see how the book cover would look: "Written by Mike and Michael Walker". OK, enough of that, let's get back to Thorne Smith...
I'd never heard of Thorne Smith until one fateful day during the summer of 1984 when I pestered my good friend Jim Montgomery to read an essay I'd written for a college writing class. Jim had been kind enough in the past to read a lot of my furtive brain droppings so on this occasion he required a bribe that resembled a six pack of cold beer. The essay was supposed to be about greyhound dog racing but had turned into a surreal observation about everything at the race track except the dogs.
When Jim finished reading and laughing, he said "You know what? I've finally figured out why I like your writing. You remind me of Thorne Smith".
"Who the hell is Thorne Smith?" I asked.
Jim took me into his library (yes, he owns THAT many books)and pulled out a dog-eared DEL REY paperback of TOPPER. He told me to read it and get back to him. The next thing I knew it was a week later and I was sitting in the middle of a used bookstore looking at the DEL REY paperback editions of NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS and TURNABOUT.
I've never been the same since.
Now it's highly unlikely but you may have seen some of my writing in the magazines Video Watchdog and Scarlet Street. Back in 1989 the editor of Scarlet Street, Richard Valley, and I hung out on an AOL message board we were charter members of called the CHFB (Classic Horror Film Board). Richard posted a message there asking if any writer was interested in a very tough project. It seems he'd been through a variety of writers over several years and none of them had been able to complete the assignment: Write a mini-biography on Thorne Smith.
As you guessed, I took on the assignment. The next two years were pretty much spent digging through libraries and searching library holdings online. Chasing down old books became a new skill. Hoping to outbid someone on Ebay for old copies of NEW YORKER and LIFE magazines was my new religious ritual. The entire time I kept reporting my findings and insights to Scarlet Street's Associate Editor, Ken Hanke. Before I knew it, Richard was asking if I could write up what I had found to that point. So, with Ken kindly acting as my sounding board and gracious line editor, I dove in and started putting it all together.
"Host To Said Ghosts: The Thorne Smith Story" appeared in Scarlet Street # 37 in the spring of 2000. It wasn't perfect but it was a heart-felt and passionate look at Thorne Smith based on the info I had at that time.
Soon my email box and phone brought unexpected accolades and more information from people who read the article and fell in love with Thorne Smith's writing all over again.
Some praise even came from people I'd been looking up to for a long time such as living legend Ray Bradbury and highly acclaimed editor Ellen Datlow.
But the most gratifying was when Thorne's grandson, Terry Conner, called and told me "Michael, you're THE Thorne Smith expert. You found stuff even our family didn't know about him."
That praise brought tears to my eyes because more than anything I didn't want to disappoint the family of the man himself. I knew it'd be tough writing about his legacy while not shying away from his all too human weaknesses such as alcoholism and inability to hang on to money. And it was a relief to receive such generous acknowledgment from Terry.
Like you and Thorne Smith's relatives, I want to see him and his works continue to be enjoyed and remembered well into the future. It's a cliche and a crime that you can't find any of his novels in bookstores anymore. Often you can't even find them in public libraries either. The thought of a world without Thorne Smith books in it saddens me and bothers me in ways I can't even express.
So, I'm going to do what I can to make this website a success and push forward with my plan for writing the first ever book biography of Thorne Smith. I keep finding new information and with your help maybe we can find even more. Together, I think we Thorne Smith fans can make it happen.
Thanks for joining me on this adventure~
Your Host to Said Ghost,
Michael D. Walker
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