The write people

During the very first “Rocky” movie, while Burgess Meredith was dying, some medical types were working on him and one of them said, ‘Blood pressure 50 over 100, start CPR.’ Doctors, nurses, EMTs, and plenty of other people who saw that show either laughed or cried. It was one of the most blatantly stupid lines ever put in a movie. The first number in a blood pressure reading (the systolic pressure) cannot be lower than the diastolic pressure, and you don’t start CPR while a patient has any readable blood pressure at all. So, whoever put that line in the movie had no idea what they were talking about. That kind of thing happens all the time, but it’s usually not so obvious. It happens more often in books, when the author doesn’t know the subject. And in books it happens most often when the subject is guns. To a reader, this pretty much ruins things. Clive Cussler is one of my favorite writers, but he doesn’t know anything about guns, and it shows. But at least Cussler writes about other stuff, and the guns are superficial. Stephen Hunter, on the other hand, wrote a book about a Marine sniper, and he knows so little about guns that he referred to a Remington model 1,100 as a pump gun. It makes a huge difference to a reader when the writer knows the subject. That doesn’t happen often where guns are concerned, but there is one book published recently in which the author definitely knows guns. It’s called “The Gun That Wasn’t There,” by Russell Smith. Russell was the chief of police in San Angelo when I met him, and he had been in law enforcement for 20 years. He is also an outdoor writer, which is not common among police officers. But that combination allowed Russell to write a book few others could have written as well, the true story of the “Caveman Bandit” who shot Pelham Bradford, the Pumpville, Texas postmaster, and Bill Cooksey, the Terrell County Sheriff, in 1965. Russell spent two years gathering facts, searching through archives, and interviewing the people involved to amass the information required to chronicle the nonfiction story, and his meticulous efforts show in the finished product. Since Russell grew up in Uvalde, where some of the events took place, he was already familiar with the sort of folks with whom he was dealing. And his law enforcement history and communication abilities enabled him to give the story a special authenticity. Russell Smith is a “been there, done that” kind of guy and that comes through in “the gun that wasn’t there.” You won’t find a more fascinating true Texas story, or one written as clearly and exhaustively. I only hope Russell doesn’t stop with one book. Another fellow who knows what he’s talking about is Ralph Winingham. Ralph has been writing about the outdoors for years, and his forte is cooking. So when his first wild game cookbook, “Old Boots & Bacon Grease” did well, he decided to write another one. For some reason he called it “Revenge of Old Boots & Bacon Grease.” The new cookbook is, like the first, more than just a cookbook. It contains plenty of recipes for all kinds of game, fish, and fowl that can be used over a campfire or on a range, plus some great ideas for bread and desserts. But the whole book is interspersed with stories of hunts and episodes of campfire cooking. Ralph’s cookbooks are the only ones I’ve ever read. When Ralph gave me a copy of “Revenge” I told him I was going to actually try some of the recipes, but my kids have indicated that might not be such a great idea. They may be right, but if you enjoy cooking or reading or the outdoors, you need Ralph’s cookbooks. He knows what he’s doing, even if I don’t. Which brings us to Captain Sally Moffett, who has forgotten more about kayak fishing than most people will ever know. Sally’s new book, “Saltwater Kayak Fishing the Texas Way,” is an A to Z look at how to catch fish from a small boat along the Texas coast. Since kayaks are quickly becoming the craft of choice for savvy anglers along the shallow bays and estuaries down south, Sally’s book should do well. Having fished with Sally personally, I can tell you there’s more to it than dunking worms. But I can’t tell you like Sally does. Anyone interested in kayak fishing needs her book. No guarantees, but even I might catch a fish now. In Tom Clancy’s newest book, one of the chapters began with this line: “The sun rose promptly at dawn.” If the “50 over 100” line from Rocky takes the prize for dumbest movie line, Clancy’s strange sunrise wins the bonehead award for literature. You won’t find that kind of nonsense in a book from Russell, Ralph, or Capt. Sally’ ‘Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who cooks, shoots and fishes with varying degrees of inefficiency. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex. 76856 or “The Gun That Wasn’t There” can be purchased at Hastings, Cactus Book Shop and 4 Paws in San Angelo, or from Russell Smith at “Revenge of Old Boots & Bacon Grease” is available from Ralph Winingham at or (210) 240-6149. “Saltwater Kayak Fishing the Texas Way” can be ordered from Salt Grass Press, P.O. Box 291, Fulton, Tex. 78382 or

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