THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist

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THIEF! character, Vince Eli

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Part II: Woman Writes as a Man Who Hung with the Mob

Check out Part I further down the page to see how this crazy partnership began.

Two years into writing, Slick told me to send out the manuscript to was good enough. I knew it wasn't, but didn't want to argue so I sent it to about 20 litereary agents, the guys who know the publishers that like this sort of material. After about a month, a literary agent said he wanted to see some sample chapters. (They rarely ask to see the entire manuscript.) Oh boy, I thought. We're in business. So I sent along the first 3 chapters. (The first 3 let them know if you can hook the reader and keep them interested.)

Six months went by and I almost forgot about the chapters. Then a standard rejection letter appeared from the same literary agent. At the bottom were penned the words: "Great idea but writing not up to industry standard." I put the "cake" back in the oven to cook some more.

When I didn't think I could make it any better, I knew I was done. That was 9 years after I started writing. I realized it had to be damn good. Otherwise, no publisher would take a risk with an unknown author.

Turned out that Slick knew Tony Montana who knew a respected author and mob expert by the name of Ed Becker. Ed was so excited over the Thief! manuscript, he sent it off to his good friend Lyle Stuart, publisher of Barricade Books. Lyle read the manuscipt, loved the writing and offered Slick and me a publishing contract. He said it would need minimal editing, music to my ears. As they say, the rest is history.

A famous author whose name I forget said:

"If you're only writing for the money, you will grow bitter before you grow rich."

You better believe it! Of the 200,000 new books that hit the market yearly (450-500 per day), less than 1/10 of 1% of all those authors make it big. That's why they appear on Oprah and David Letterman because they are so RARE!

Sales of Thief! are brisk mostly because Slick, Tony Montana and I work like hell to market the book. Yeah, it's different from the old days when publishers had the money and staff to promote their books. Now, marketing is up to the author.

If you have any questions, just leave a comment below and I'll be sure to answer.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Congratulations Joe Batterz!

If you haven't checked out the blog, do yourself a favor. While blogspot owner Joe Batterz has always presented a clean, easy-to-understand and navigate site, you should see it now!

Whether you're researching a project about the Chicago Outfit, brushing up on recent mob events or just looking for a good read, The Chicago Syndicate is a must.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Town Square Borders Update

A while back, CEO of Borders Books, George Jones, visited the Borders store at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas. Slick was at his regular gig signing copies of Thief at the store. Well, Mr. Jones was so impressed after he found out from the store manager that Thief had sold around 700 copies, that he invited Slick to sign Thief at the opening of the New Town Square Borders on the Strip.

The actual opening weekend became solidly booked with top-rated authors and other notables. But Borders wanted Slick there very much. So they arranged that Slick will sign books Sat., April 5 at 7:00 p.m. at the new store. He'll have a regular gig every week after that.

Borders Town Square is located near the corner of Las Vegas Blvd. and Sunset. Actual address is 6521 Las Vegas Blvd. South.

See you there. If you stop by, look for your photo on this blog.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Felon Speaks

Over 50 years ago I lost my civil rights. But like millions of other felons, I am still an American. If someone talks bad about my mother or country, either black or white, it makes my blood boil. So to anyone who says, "God damn America," I say, Get out.

William "Slick" Hanner

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fun Poker Website!

While we're on the subject of animals...about a month ago on Mob Speak, I talked about a poker game called H.O.R.S.E. If you want to know more about this fascinating game, check out the Website: It's run by a guy named Jimmy Taylor who not only knows a lot about the game, but presents the material in a simple and fun way.

What's more, you can play H.O.R.S.E. on the site.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

Slick's dog, Herman the German Schnauzer, is so human that Slick and I wrote a gritty urban detective story for kids based on the real Herman. The manuscript (yet to be published) is called Dog Justice.

Well, a few weeks ago Slick took Herman to the movies. Herman cried during the sad parts and laughed during the funny parts. After the movie the guy behind Slick said, "That's amazing!" Slick replied, "I'll say, he hated the book."

The above part about Herman at the movies may be stretching the truth a bit, but the part about writing Dog Justice is entirely true.

Woman Writes as a Man Who Hung with the Mob

People constantly ask me how I ended up writing Slick's life story, a guy who hung with the mob. So I worked up a 45-minute talk I give at bookstores, libraries and writers groups. It always draws quite a crowd.

Back in 1996 in Albuquerque, NM, the TV station where I worked as Santa Fe station manager abruptly sold putting everyone out of work. There were no other jobs in TV broadcast so I scrambled around looking for something new. I'd already had a wide variety of jobs, mostly dull. Some of the more interesting ones included 15 years as a cartographer. I had the good fortune to help map a 6,000-year-old archaeological site in the Highlands of New Guinea. Through the years, I enjoyed stints as a certified NAWI scuba instructor, nightclub singer, and white water outfitter, to name a few.

So the prospect of finding a new job wasn't scary to me. But I had to find something that paid well, a daunting task in New Mexico, a state known for its Third World wages. Well, Indian casinos were springing up like tumbleweeds around the New Mexico desert. I interviewed blackjack dealers and other employees at those casinos and discovered that a person could earn darn good money from tips. Since I hardly knew how to hold a deck of cards (no kidding!) I decided to enroll in an Albuquerque casino dealers school by the name of A.C.E.S.

While I learned how to deal blackjack and Caribbean Stud, one of my teachers (Slick) carried around about 20 yellow-tablet pages on which he'd written the beginning of his life story. He was looking for someone to make his biography into a book. I took one look at his 3-grade scrawl and it was like meteor hit me. There was something so compelling, that I vowed to write Slick's story even though I'd never written anything before.

Now came the tough part. I had to learn to write, I had to learn write as a guy and I had to learn to write as a guy who hung with the mob. Plus I still needed to work full-time. Slick had no dough to pay me. We also had lots of communication problems. After all...Slick and I were about as opposite in our lifestyles as nuns and hookers. (Back then, anyway.)

One thing motivated me: I was so obssessed with writing this book, nothing could keep me from finishing it. I knew that striking it rich writing was about as likely as finding a gold nugget in a crackerjack box. That's why the authors that do make it big are booked on late night TV shows. They are definitely a novelty. But Slick thought otherwise...a big source of our arguments. Somehow our little partnership muddled along. He was motivated by money and I was crazy.

I approached the job like I was building a human being from scratch. Starting with a bare bones framework--Slick's exact words, run-on sentences, mobspeak, etc. I painstakingly fleshed out his story from his own narrative, interviews with his cronies and family, and years of research. As an unknown writer, I knew it had be really good to make the cut and get published. But I couldn't have asked for better material. I laughingly thought that Slick reminded me of a speeding freight train about to derail at any minute. He was always in the right (or wrong place depending on your point of view) at the right time. What a story!

To be continued...

Look for the end of the story coming soon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Martha Frankel's OK!

Imagine my surprise when I went to get my mail today and there was a gift waiting for me. Martha Frankel, whose book Hats & Eyeglasses I just reviewed for the "New York Post," sent me a beautiful autographed canvas bag with the book's cover printed on it along with a kind note. felt better getting this bag than the money I received for the review!

You go girl! And hope you sell zillions of copies. BTW, an autographed copy of Thief! is on its way to you.