Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Time to Write a New Book

I've got an idea for a new book about Chaplin. This isn't easy. It seems just about every aspect of his life has been covered, many times over. It's almost in the same category as Abe. Do we really need another book about Lincoln? Still, authors find new angles.

That's not true of a biography I bought a couple of weeks ago, released in the United Kingdom, and containing nothing new. The author, Peter Ackroyd, has excellent credentials, but foremost among them must be the ability to read everyone else's books and stitch together pieces gleaned from their efforts. Which makes me wonder: Are there any new books to be written about Sir Charles? (I know of one in the process, by a friend of mine. She is on to a terrific idea but still has much work to do.)

So.... What's new? First of all, I immediately rejected the notion of "Charlie Chaplin for Dummies" and "Chicken Soup for the Little Tramp's Soul." He doesn't belong in a franchise collection.

Here are the six book ideas under consideration:

1) "The Charlie Chaplin Cook Book." Recipes that reflect an aspect of Chaplin's life and films. All recipes kitchen-tested. Includes Tramp Goulash, Pasta ala City Lights, Stewed Tripe (one of his favorite dishes), Plum Pudding (a British tradition), Boiled Boot Meuniere with stir-fried laces, Bean Soup Immigrant Style, Calvero Bolognese, Key Limelight Pie, and a Derby Danish.

2) "The Lost Symphonies of Vevey." During his final 24 years in Vevey, Switzerland, Chaplin, it is rumored, wrote four symphonies.  The scores still exist. Because Chaplin wrote the music for many of his films, he still felt the need after 1966 to compose, so he attacked the longer form of symphonies. Each symphony is inspired by one of his wives. Particularly noteworthy is the "Lita in Hell" work. This book will contain a CD with performances of those lost symphonies.

3) "Smile, Smile, Smile." The most famous song he wrote, from "Modern Times." This book contains profiles of every artist who ever recorded "Smile." A total of over one hundred. Includes vocalists such as Petula Clark, Elvis Costello, Josh Groban, Trini Lopez, Johnny Mathis, and Michael Jackson. Includes a CD with a rare recording by Marlene Dietrich, in German.

4) "Waiting On Charlie." A revealing insight into the artist as told by waiters from a variety of restaurants that Chaplin used to frequent. The men and women in aprons with order pads who saw the famous man at his hungriest. What he ordered, what questions he asked, if he used a knife and fork like the Brits do, how and if he tipped. And much, much more. Includes photographs.

5) "Chaplin: The Tell-Tale Hand." For the first time, the somewhat dubious science of graphology will be applied to Chaplin. His handwriting will be examined, which will reveal the motivation behind his films. It will also define his character, disposition, and attitudes. I will apply all three graphology approaches: integrative, holistic, and symbolic. This book could end up on the bottom shelves next to Weissman's psychological analysis of Chaplin, where it belongs. Still, a fascinating exercise and a possible best-seller among graphologists and mystics.

6) "Thursdays With Charlie." Through close examination of his letters, journals, tennis matches, film production schedules, and reservations at Musso-Frank's restaurant, I will document Chaplin's activities for every Thursday between 1921 and 1953. Quick math: That's over 1600 Thursdays. This book is sure to be a doorstop. 

Let me know which book most interests you. I'll be sure to let you know who the winner is, and when the book will be published. I'm already preparing my query letters to agents. 


  1. No. 2 is, in my mind, the most appropriate, since it deals with him as an artist in a fresh new way--hopefully.

  2. I like 2, as well, all though 1 could be loads of fun, especially to create truly palatable dishes for each. Not sure how one tenderizes shoe leather, or what one would use to suggest its texture. Portobello mushroom? With black squid angel hair pasta serving as the shoelaces? Hmmm...

  3. Put me down for No. 3. Or 4. Thinking you could do an ebook and get a cut from every song that gets downloaded from your book, or conversely, a free dinner from every restaurant you plug. Of course, the travel expenses to cash in on your free meal might prove prohibitive...

  4. I think the CC Cookbook could be a winner. Who's ever heard of one? Certainly not I. Although the seasoning used in MODERN TIMES might be cause for concern, I think the rest can be a very imaginative exercise and be a fun gift for anyone who even recognizes the name! Joe Delmore

  5. And the votes have just started coming in. Thanks for your interest... and your wonderful ideas.

  6. I liked 1, 2, 4 and 6...but I would probably buy 3 and 5 too...

  7. Hi Gerry! While the idea of any book about Charlie by you makes me SMILE, I would have to say my pick is # 6! I think it would be a great way to look at the most productive years of his life in his mostly off hours. Seeing him at work and play with friends and co-workers would give a fresh insight to how he let his hair down with those he trusted. Who knows, you might even get Billy Crystal to so it on Broadway as 1600 THURSDAYS! Write on, author!!

  8. Hi Gerry!
    Forget "The Charlie Chaplin Cook Book". It has already been done at least twice:
    1°) in French:
    A Table Avec Charlie Chaplin
    60 recettes vagabondes
    by Dixsaut, Claire
    Hardback edition with jacket (French)
    Ed Agnès Vienot 2012
    192 pages - illustrated

    2°) in Italian:
    Fame, Amore e Fantasia
    Ricette dalla vita e dai capolavori di Charlie Chaplin
    by Merenda, Germana
    Paperback edition (Italian)
    Il leone verde edizioni 2008
    135 pages - illustrated
    Yu can find those books here:
    Congratulations for your novel "Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin."

  9. I'm writing on partially on Charlie:

    It is about his work habits, pursuit of perfection and how he was able to produce the best product. Also about Gene Kelly and Steve Jobs and how they were all perfectionists willing to go the extra mile to be the best.

    1. Terrific concept, Stephen. Thanks for letting me know about it. Yes, Chaplin was the ultimate in the attempt to achieve perfection. Watch the documentary, "The Unknown Chaplin," if you haven't already.

  10. All of the above. I do agree with the above comment of wanting to know more about Chaplin's pursuit of perfection and his vision. Thanks for the post and feel free to drop by us too. We just did an homage to Sir Spencer.

  11. Tell me about the homage to Sir Spencer. What is it? Can I "see" it?