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Back to Basics

I had a great time in 2019. Not only did I meet some amazing people and share some fantastic histories with my readers, I had a chance to bridge the gap between wrestling and fiction. I released four short novels in conjunction with independent wrestlers, including Ella, Charlie Kruel, and the Bomb Shelter. I also produced a collection of short stories inspired by 19th century wrestlers and a pure science fiction novel that may… okay, does have a nod to pro wrestling in it.

All that said, in 2020, I’m getting back to what built Eat Sleep Wrestle. I’m releasing one biography by Jimmy Wheeler and two autobiographies co-written by me over the next several months. I am also planning to take on the story of Dangerous Danny McShain in partnership with his nephew Danny Daymon, and I am determined to make some headway on the story of Wee Willie Davis.

I’ll throw this out as well… if anyone has memorabilia or information about Elvira Snodgrass that has yet to com to light, please reach out. I’m not 100% sure there’s enough information out there to fill even a short book, but she remains a huge fascination for me.

Eat Sleep Wrestle is here to honor the past and celebrate the present. I want to turn wrestlers, referees, and promoters on to the stories of the past as well as fans. There’s much we can learn from those who made the business great. There are gimmicks and ideas that haven’t been seen in decades that are due for a revival. And there are unsung heroes, like McShain, Davis, and of course Jim Mitchell, whose stories need to be told.

Okay enough stalling. Back to editing Tracy Smothers’s book.

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Coming in 2020

Happy New Year again, wrestling fans. Here’s what Eat Sleep Wrestle has in store (so far) for 2020:

Babe: The Story of How Alphonse “Babe” Bisignano Turned Out Alright

Up until now, almost everything ESW has published has been written or co-written by John Cosper. This winter we are proud to bring you the first book by Professional Wrestling Historical Society founder Jimmy Wheeler. Alphonse “Babe” Bisignano, aka Babe Carnera, was an Iowa pro wrestling legend. He was also a boxer, bootlegger, a restauranteur, a promoter, a cook book author, and an icon in the city of Des Moines. This is a colorful story about an unsung hero of the past history buffs will really enjoy.

If You Don’t Buy This Book, Everybody Dies!

The long awaited Tracy Smothers autobiography is on the way! We have been hard at work on this for months, even during Tracy’s cancer treatments, and it’s going to be a doozy. It’s the longest book yet from ESW, and it’s jam packed with your favorite Tracy stories and many you’ve never heard.

Scott Romer’s Autobiography

No one else can tell you stories about rubbing shoulders with Dick the Bruiser, Mel Brooks, President George H. W. Bush, Muhammed Ali, and Israeli intelligence because no one has lived a life quite like photographer Scott Romer. He has seen sport legends, Hollywood royalty, and world leaders through the lens of his camera, and his life story is a real page turner.

In addition to these books, I have at least three more projects in the works to be announced later!

I have just two personal appearances scheduled so far for 2020 that I can announce, but I’m excited about both. In April I am headed to ASW in West Virginia to see Gary Damron’s promotion in action. I’ll be there April 18 to see Mad Man Pondo and Tracy Smothers inducted into their Hall of Fame, and Hurricane JJ Maguire is coming with me!

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, I’ll be returning to Waterloo in July for their annual pro wrestling induction weekend. I had a fantastic time back in 2018, and I am looking forward to bringing more books and more of Jim Mitchell’s personal effects to display for fans in attendance.

This is only the beginning. Looking forward to what else 2020 brings my way!

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Well, That Was a Busy Year

So 2019 was a busy year. During the last year Eat Sleep Wrestle published seven books:

Two novels with the Bomb Shelter: A Scattered Timeline and Curse of the Undead Bride.

A novel with Charlie Kruel.

A novel with Ella.

I wrote and released wrestling music impresario Hurricane JJ Maguire’s autobiography.

I wrote and released Grappling by Gaslight, a short story collection about wrestling in the late 1800’s.

And I finally released the biography of wrestling’s first African American superstar, The Black Panther Jim Mitchell.

In addition to all that…

I attended my first Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion and presented Dr. D David Schultz with the Male Wrestler Award.

I got “Colonel” Stu Gibson inducted into the New Albany High School Hall of Fame.

And unrelated to wrestling, I released a science fiction novel I really, really like called Die Alan Die.

2019 was busy.

2020 is already looking to be just as busy. There may not be as many books, but there will be a lot happening. I’ll post more about that in a few days. In the meantime, you can save 20% on your entire order when you shop here and use the coupon code “2020” at checkout. Coupon code expires January 10.

Happy New Year, wrestling fans.

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Grappling By Gaslight is now available!

Sometimes Amazon makes me wait. Sometimes they surprise me.

The surprise this morning is that Grappling By Gaslight has shipped from the printing house a week early! I will have physical copies in hand tomorrow, so the book is now available for purchase on my website. Signed copies will be ready to ship out Tuesday, and if you use the coupon code blackfriday (which is valid through Cyber Monday 12/2/19), you get 20% off your entire order. Click here to order.

As for all you Amazon shoppers, well, the book’s already available! You can go directly to Amazon and purchase it now by clicking here.

Grappling By Gaslight is a collection of historical fiction short stories based on the exploits of pro wresting’s earliest heroes. From the circus wrestlers to the con men to the barnstormers, these trailblazers paved the way for generations of grapplers to come. Order now and get it signed!

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New Artist Supplies Grappling by Gaslight Cover

From day one, I’ve enjoyed working with independent artists and designers on the book covers for Eat Sleep Wrestle. It’s always been a point of pride for me, and many of my long time readers appreciate the variety and uniqueness of the book cover art we’ve commissioned.

Grappling by Gaslight is a project that has percolated for more than five years, and I wanted something special. I wanted original art that would capture the spirit of the stories within and the era depicted. I put out an open call on Facebook, and my friend Korey Dawson jumped on it.

Korey is proprietor of the most dangerous bookstore in the civilized world, Paradox City Books and Games. It’s a little place on Main Street in Rising Sun, Indiana, not far from the casino, and it’s so worth the extra drive from Cincinnati, Lexington, or Louisville if you’re ever in the area. You might want to message him first through the store’s Facebook page to make sure he will be open.

Korey is not an artist himself, but his friend James Grant is. Korey had mentioned James to me in the past as a guy who didn’t know how talented he was and needed someone to show him he could actually make money at this. Korey put us in touch, and I pitched James the idea.

A day later, Korey messaged me excitedly. “I’m sitting next to James, and you have to see this!” He sent me screen shots of two pencil sketches that became part of the final design. I knew I was going to get the cover I wanted.

James crafted a beautiful book cover that I cannot wait to see in actual print. I’m proud to say I was his first paid client, and it was well worth taking a chance on a new and talented artist.

I asked James where I could send people who admired his work and might wish it hire him for themselves. He says you can add him on Facebook and also visit him on DeviantArt. Click the links, and enjoy.

Thank you, James, and thank you Korey. I’m very excited about this book!

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New Book Announcement: Grappling by Gaslight

It’s fitting that I am packing up a copy of Bluegrass Brawlers just purchased from my website tonight. Fitting because the first wrestling book I ever wrote has been the gift that keeps on giving. Not only did Bluegrass Brawlers lead to opportunities to work with Kenny “Starmaker” Bolin, “Dr. D” David Schultz, Mad Man PondoHurricane JJ Maguire, and Tracy Smothers, it inspired three more books on its own.

By the time I finished Bluegrass Brawlers, I knew I wanted to write at last three more books: one on Heywood Allen, one on Jim Mitchell, and one about the wrestlers of the 1880s. I wrote a thorough history of Heywood Allen’s promotion in the book Louisville’s Greatest Show, and I released Jim Mitchell’s biography The Original Black Panther earlier this year. Now, finally, there’s a book about the circus wrestlers and barnstormers of the 19th century on the way.

Grappling by Gaslight is not a history, but historical fiction based on the real life stories from the time. It’s a collection of five short stories inspired by the exploits of Ida Alb and her sister Mademoiselle Marcia; former slave Viro Small; strongman Robert Pennell and his rival Charles Flynn; and many more. I wanted to capture the spirit of the times, allowing readers to see these legendary wrestlers through the eyes of the fans, and early reviews have been very positive.

Grappling by Gaslight will be available by Christmas through this website and Amazon. It’s a short book, less than 110 pages of actual story, but it’s laced with romance, humor, and even a dash of murder. It’s going to be a treat for anyone who loves a good rasslin’ tale.

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Because Six Books in One Year Wasn’t Enough

It’s been a busy year. I’ve released four wrestling novellas, one biography, and one autobiography in the last 10 months. I’m also hard at work on a spring 2020 release with Tracy Smothers that will blow you away.

I guess it wasn’t enough for me though. Three weeks ago, I started work on a long-dreamed of project. It took me less than a week to complete a first draft. A wrestling historian friend who will remain secret for now proofed the first draft, and it’s now in the hands of a second.

This is an historical fiction project, and like Black Panther and Louisville’s Greatest Show, it’s an idea that first sprouted back in the early days of writing Bluegrass Brawlers.

Title and cover reveal soon.

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Hurricane JJ Maguire Book Preview: Wrestlemania II

Hurricane JJ Maguire was the music to Jimmy Hart’s lyrics on more than 100 songs for WWF and WCW. He had a ringside seat – literally – for some of the greatest moments in the early days of the WWF and Wrestlemania, and his memoir, My Life in Heaven Town, is jammed full of stories about wrestling, music, and Hollywood. 

The following is an excerpt from the book selected by JJ Maguire himself. It’s about his first trip to Wrestlemania, and it begins as many of his adventures begin, with a phone call from Jimmy Hart. 

Jimmy Hart called me up one day and said, “Maguire, I’m coming out there with WWF for Wrestlemania. I don’t know my way around LA,” said Jimmy. “The only other time I went out there was when I did a bikini beach movie with the Gentrys. Can you show me around?” I told him I would be glad to.

I picked Jimmy up at the airport along with one of the wrestlers he was managing: King Kong Bundy. Bundy got in the front seat, and I took the two of them to the hotel. They were sharing a room together, so we went upstairs and I sat on the bed while they got unpacked. We watched TV for a bit, and then Bundy decided he was thirsty.

“Do you and Maguire want a Coke? I’m going to go get a drink.” 

“Sure, Buns,” said Jimmy. “I’d love a Coke.” 

Bundy left the room, and the two of us went back to watching TV. It was pretty quiet in the hotel, and we were having a nice conversation when all of the sudden – CRASH! BAM BOOM! We heard a terrible noise and felt the floor shake. 

“Maguire!” said Jimmy. “It’s an earthquake!” 

“No, Jimmy,” I said. “I’ve been out here long enough to know what one feels like. That wasn’t an earthquake.”  

Jimmy’s face dropped. “Oh my gosh. That must be Bundy. Go down and see if you can find out what happened.” Jimmy didn’t want to get involved so lucky me, he sent me to find out what happened. 

I went down the hall and around the corner to where the vending machines were and saw a Coke machine overturned and smashed. This wasn’t the kind of soda machine you see today with the plastic front. This was solid metal, and it was in about forty pieces. It looked like an atomic bomb hit it. 

Bundy was standing there drinking a Coke. “What happened?” I asked. 

Bundy nodded to what was left of the machine. “That damn thing ripped me off, and I’m not taking it. I body slammed the machine.” 

I looked and saw Cokes everywhere. It’s a wonder none of them burst. 

“Hold your hands out, Maguire,” said Bundy. I held my arms out, and he loaded me down with about twenty Cokes, and he grabbed an armload for himself. We started walking back down the hall, and Bundy was handing them out to other hotel guests as we passed them. 

We walked back in the room, and Jimmy sat up. “What happened down there, Buns?” 

“The machine ripped me off, so I body slammed it. We don’t have to worry about running out of Cokes for the weekend.” 

“Okay,” said Jimmy, and not another word was said about it. We had plenty of beverages to last us the weekend, and we enjoyed every one of them. 

When it came time for the show, which took place at the Coliseum, Jimmy and Bundy took me with them. This was Wrestlemania II, and even though I didn’t work for the company, I had full access to everything. 

Wrestlemania II was a star-studded event, and I got to meet some great people that day… The biggest thrill for me that weekend was getting to meet the legendary Robert Conrad, who starred in the classic TV show The Wild Wild West. Robert Conrad was the guest timekeeper for Wrestlemania II in Los Angeles. I was such a huge fan of Robert Conrad growing up, meeting Elvis would not have been as big for me. Bob, as I came to know him, brought his grandson with him that day, and we walked all over the arena that night, from set up all the way through the show that night. We spent the whole day together, getting to know one another. 

What impressed me most about him wasn’t just as he was nice (he was!) but how massive he is in person. When he was getting his tuxedo on right before show time, I reached around him and gave him a hug from the side. I’ve since given that same side hug to wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan. Hulk is big, but I swear to you, Robert Conrad was even bigger around the shoulders! 

Bob invited Red and his son to come backstage later on that evening. The two of them were old friends, so much so that when he was alive, Elvis was jealous of Robert Conrad because he and Red were so close. 

When Wrestlemania II came to a close, I said goodbye to Jimmy and the WWF and went back to my work with Glen Glenn Studio. I was working a lot of hours at Glen Glenn with some amazingly talented people, but I had no idea that I would soon become a part of the growing entertainment juggernaut that was the World Wrestling Federation. 

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Lucha Libro a Smash in Indy

I have to admit, I had my doubts. It was Friday when I learned that the streets on either side of the Central Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library would be shut down Saturday morning. I was emailed a pass and given instructions for getting the police to allow me to pass through into the parking garage, but I knew that everyone who wanted to attend the Lucha Libro event would really, really have to want to get there to deal with traffic, road closures, and the parade.

My daughter and I arrived just before 9 am. Turns out we were one of the lucky few the police allowed to enter the garage. By 9:30, all vendors were being turned away and made to park elsewhere. The library staff was nervous. “The parade was supposed to be next weekend,” one of them told me. The guys who organized the event from La Sardina remained optimistic, but with only a handful of vendors set up and waiting by the time the building opened at 10 am, we were all wondering if the event would be a bust.

It was anything but a bust!

Lucha Libro was a first of its kind free event celebrating of Lucha Libre wrestling hosted in the gorgeous atrium of the downtown Indianapolis library. The event included vendors of wrestling memorabilia, arts and crafts related to Lucha culture, and of course, lots and lots of Lucha Libre wrestling. In spite of the traffic and parking situation, the crowd began to gather for the day’s festivities as soon as the doors opened. I don’t know where they parked or how far they had to walk, but no one seemed to mind. It was a beautiful day, and the families and fans that braved the traffic situation came ready to have fun.

The wrestling got under way around 11:30, about half an hour after it was scheduled to start, and fans were treated to some terrifically entertaining matches. There were plenty of masked men and luchadores performing death-defying aerials and acrobatic maneuvers, but there are some surprise treats that delighted the indy wrestling fans in attendance. Not only did Calvin Tankman put in an appearance, delighting the crowd in the “technico” role by squashing a “rudo” who insulted the crowd, we also got Dylan Bostic vs. Dale Patrick, a match my friend Randy (the guy who got me into wrestling books all those years ago) commented he would have paid to see.

It took the non-wrestling fans and kids a while to get into the spirit of things. The bi-lingual master of ceremonies, who did a tremendous job all day, brought the crowd along by explaining the good vs. evil nature of Lucha Libre and helping the new fans know how to play along. By the third match of the day people were beginning to get into the spirit, and when the first luchadore took to the air, flying over the top rope to land on an opponent, the gasp from the crowd was magical.

By the end of the afternoon, when technico Jake Omen won a title vs. hair match to save his long locks and win the Lucha championship, the crowd in the atrium had easily swelled to near 300. “Any independent promoter would kill for a crowd like this,” Randy commented.

Many of the fans who came early stayed for the full day’s activities, and folks who just happened to be visiting the library ended up sticking around as well. I had a fantastic time not only enjoying the wrestling with my daughter (who was seeing wrestling live for the first time) but sharing a table full of Jim Mitchell memorabilia with fans.

I don’t know if the library and the boys from La Sardina have plans for the future, but I would say the event was a smash hit. Here’s hoping this becomes an annual tradition.

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Hall of Fame Induction Sheds New Light on Stu Gibson

I just got back from the my alma mater, New Albany High School. I was in attendance at a banquet with Stu Gibson’s sisters Mary Lou Heinz and Linda Berger and my wife Jessica to induct Stu into the Hall of Fame. In my speech I told a story I have told many times before about a boy from nearby Jeffersonville and Stu’s car. You can click the link to read the full story, but here’s the paraphrase from my speech, as I was discussing Stu’s run in Louisville as a heel:

“While fans in New Albany and Louisville felt betrayed by Stu, hating Stu Gibson came easily to the fans of the Jeffersonville Red Devils. One night in 1952 when Stu wrestled at the Fieldhouse in Jeffersonville, a Jeff High freshman named Billy Tanner climb on top of the marquee sign in front of the gym and jumped onto the roof of Stu’s convertible, collapsing the top. Billy ran and hid with his friends to watch and laugh when Stu came out and saw the damage to his car.

“Three decades later, Billy told the story about Stu’s car to a work colleague, never suspecting that the work colleague was Stu’s brother-in-law. The next time Stu came into town, another lunch was arranged. When Tanner walked into the restaurant, Stu’s brother-in-law gave a signal. Stu caught Tanner in a headlock and said, ‘Do you know who I am? I’ve been looking for you for thirty years!'”

About fifteen minutes later a man named James Morris got up for his induction into the Hall of Fame. Mr. Morris was a staff member at New Albany for eight years, but he was a graduate of Jeffersonville High School.

“If you were to have told high school me I would one day be inducted into the New Albany High School Hall of Fame, I’d have said you were crazy. New Albany and jeffersonville hated each other back then. In fact we weren’t allowed to play each other in sports, except in state tournaments, because there had been so many riots.”

Then Morris added. “I remember Stu Gibson’s car. I disavow any role in the incident, but I saw the car!”

After the ceremony, Mary Lou and I made our way over to Mr. Morris, who reasserted he had nothing to do with the car but told us what he remembered. “I’ll tell you how they did it, though. We had a guy named Tiny Hall, who was probably 6’9″ huge guy. Stu had parked his Studebaker right by the sign. Tiny was the guy who lifted Billy up on the sign, and then Billy jumped down on the roof.”

Talk about serendipity.

Much congratulations to Mary Lou, Linda, and the entire Gibson family on Stu’s induction. Congrats to the innocent bystander Mr. Morris as well, and all the 2019 Hall of Fame class. What a great afternoon.