My latest book release is not a wrestling book. It’s a science fiction novel about a man whose ex-girlfriend from another dimension shows up and tries to kill him. I know it sounds far-fetched, but it’s actually just the tip of the iceberg of a story that involved multiple worlds, time travel, a pro wrestler (surprise, surprise), and a silver screen legend named Thelma Todd. The book is also dedicated to the late, great pro wrestling historian J. Michael Kenyon, a man I bonded with talking about old wrestlers, including the Black Panther Jim Mitchell, and surprisingly, Thelma Todd.
For those not familiar with her, Todd became a star near the end of the silent film era and was one of many actresses to make the transition from silent to “talkies.” She appeared in a number of comedy films with Zasu Pitts and made two features with the Marx Brothers, Horse Feathers and Monkey Business. She was beautiful and extremely funny and would have had a long and successful career had she not died so young under tragic and mysterious circumstances.
Todd was found dead sitting in a car in the garage of the home of a friend, not far from a restaurant she owned. It was believed she had died from carbon monoxide poisoning and the question became: was it murder? A grand jury heard testimony from friends and witnesses who had seen Todd the night of her death (a list that included pro wrestler Lord Lansdowne), but they ultimately ruled her death to be “accidental with possible suicidal tendencies.”
J. Michael Kenyon was one man who didn’t buy the suicide line. Not only was there no evidence for suicide, other clues left behind and overlooked pointed to murder. JMK regaled me with some fantastic stories about visiting the crime scene, walking the hill from the house to the restaurant below, and examining the evidence for himself. It was an obsession that, just like his love for wrestling and baseball, he took very seriously.
The Thelma Todd subplot began as part of my way of parodying a modern convention in science fiction. A lot of sci-fi writers enjoy lacing their work with references to the 1980s, so I created a character who was instead obsessed with the golden age of cinema. Are not only meant to not only poke against convention but (hopefully) inspire readers to watch a Marx Brothers film or at least look up the story of how Orson Welles lost control of The Magnificent Ambersons. When JMK passed away while I was still working on the book, it seemed only fitting to dedicate it to his memory.
If you’re not a fan of sci-fi, that’s cool. To each his or her own. But if you like sci-fi mixed with humor, especially if you have a fondness for Turner Classic Movies as I do, you should give this one a read!