Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mr. Martin and Me

On Tuesday, May 10, I attended with my wife, Megan, the 60th annual awards banquet of the Society of Midland Authors, a group founded in 1915 that includes published authors from twelve states: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio,  and Wisconsin. I was there to accept the top prize in the biography/memoir category for my book John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog.

It has been quite a spring for my biography of Martin. In addition to the Midland Authors award, the book has been honored with a silver medal in the biography category of the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards, received first place in the nonfiction book category for the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists' annual Best of Indiana Journalism Awards, and is a finalist in the biography category of Foreword Reviews' annual INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards. Not bad for a book that has yet to have any reviews on its Amazon page. And not too shabby considering that when Martin donated his papers to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., he cavalierly said to the staff there that probably nobody would ever write a biography about him. Wrong, Mr. Martin, very wrong.

The event was held at the impressive Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago on an evening where those in attendance could see the fog sneaking along the shores of Lake Michigan from the club's perch on the 22nd floor. Chicago was an appropriate site for honoring Martin, as it was a city that played such a key role in his life as one of America's great freelance writers. Although he grew up in Indianapolis, Martin realized that "Chicago was where things happened. The horizons in Indiana seemed suffocatingly close, the ceiling in Chicago unlimited. And as fast as I could I went." It was where he got his start, writing stories for true-crime magazines, and even penning an advice to the lovelorn column--quite a trick for someone who's first marriage ended in divorce.

Martin was also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and has his own writing honored by the group. In 1967, his book about his days as U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Overtaken by Events, won the Patron Saints Award, and in 1978 his Adlai Stevenson and the World won for biography.