Friday, August 10, 2012

Guest Blog: About Beauregard Shamus

I met Beauregard Shamus at the Taj Mahal of assisted living resorts in Cary, North Carolina where my in-laws currently reside. My in-laws had been telling me about him for the past several months. When I finally sat down with the youthful 98-year-old man, his life story stunned me. I concentrated on the literary aspects first. This is the very short version of what he told me. Now, I want to read all his books.

*Mr. Shamus, give me a brief biographical background.*

I'm a bastard in the most correct sense. Mom burped me out June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. My father, Gavrilo Princip, was busy that day. I never knew him, and he died in 1919 in prison. Such is the life of patriot, hero, and assassin. His life was the backdrop for my first novel, ARCHDUKE ALWAYS. It was published on October 24, 1929 in London, where mumsy and I moved shortly after my birth. I was only fifteen. Let me tell you, writers today are spoiled with their computers and software. Imagine writing a three-hundred page novel by hand, then having to type it without error. Sometimes, I think that's why the older novels are better--more attention to craft. The reviewers loved it; however, the public was preoccupied shortly after that with the depression.

Later, we moved to Wareham. I was working at Anglebury House, when Mr. Lawrence took a shine to me. He would talk about the desert and gave me motorcycle driving lessons. He had seven of them, you know. He inspired my second book.


Yes, again I was the victim of bad timing. Mr. Lawrence had a horrendous accident the day after the book came out and died six days later, May 19, 1935. Mr. Lawrence wrote a short forward, Critics loved the book, but the public began a dreadful campaign against motorbikes. Thank God, for the book advances.

*I understand that's when you met Missy.*

Ha. Missy Chesterfield hit me over the head with an anti-cycle sign at a rally. Being a minor teenage movie star and an American shooting a movie in England, she made nice. I leveraged my swarthy good looks and the reputation-damaging photograph of the incident for a date. We fell in love. She proposed to me one day while fishing on the wharf, but it meant emigrating to Hollywood. Mom was furious, but it was love and fate.

Acting parts were hard to come by for Missy. We had a one-bedroom, cold-water flat, but space for a small garden. People don't realize how much you can save if you eat what you grow. I did most of my writing in a coffee shop near the studios, waiting for Missy and trying to make contacts. My next book, DESERT WATCH, had a lot of Lawrence in it. It was a huge hit in the Middle East until King Abdulaziz discovered oil. He decided the book was too liberal for the regime. It's still banned.

*And that's when the Big Five befriended you.*

Yes, William FaulknerHumphrey Bogart, and Howard Hawks took me under their wings along with the Hustons (John and Walter). God those guys could drink. They pushed my writing, but weren't very generous with sharing credit. I should have had partial credits for Jezebel, Juarez, and Angels with Dirty Faces. Bogie told me that I was too lyrical. "Fish or cut bait," he said to me. Missy wasn't getting any roles so we went to New York where she got steady work on the stage. But the Big Five experience generated two of my best books, THE CUCKOOS and IN THE BOTTLE. (He laughs heartily.)

*Is that when you met Albert Einstein?"

England...Europe was at war. I wanted to go back, but Missy got pregnant--not mine I found out forty years later. I couldn't leave her. Pressure was on for me to become a citizen. New York City seemed a likely war target should America be dragged into the war. We needed to get out. That's when I dashed off ENEMY ON THE DOCKS about espionage. It didn't sell much, but the movie rights were snatched up and butchered into several war time movies. With the movie rights money, we moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey, near Princeton, and I taught English at a private school. During a Sunday outing, Einstein and I crashed bikes together at a blind corner. He was funny. "In all the dimensions in all the universes, you come smashing into mine." We had some drinks, and we ended up in the same class for citizenship, which we achieved on October 1, 1940. I talked to Michael Curtiz, another friend of the Big Five, about meeting Einstein. Watch CASABLANCA and see what he did to Einstein's line. He even got me a bit part, handing Captain Louis Renault, Claude Rains, a note. Claude was the nicest guy.
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His story goes on and on. He published twenty-five novels, knew seemingly everyone, and is working on his memoirs. His generosity with helping other screenplay writers, often without recompense, is supposedly legendary. And to his friends, enemies, and strangers alike, he will always be known as BS.
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Still looking for more guest bloggers. Email me.


Carole Lane James said...

Handsome man! I hope he gets to finish his memoirs, I'd like to read that. This is so nice to hear of a writers life--through so many years.
Enjoyed as always.

Unknown said...

This is such a brilliant post, Rick! I love this man! You're so lucky to have had the chance to chat with him. I'm starstruck "listening" to this already. I hope you include more of his reminiscing in other posts.

Holly Michael said...

What a fun post to read. What an interesting character. Loved this Rick.

Cindy Dwyer said...

What an amazing, interesting man. Thanks for sharing his story.

Beth Camp said...

Rick, I began to see your fine hand at work with the amazing and very funny turn of phrase that somehow catches the craziness of those early Hollywood days, but that last BS for Beauregard's initials got me. This could NOT be a real person! So I googled him. He's not anywhere, probably being just too amazingly slippery to be caught up virtually. And then I read your later post in which you confess all. The blog here is still impressive -- what do you do when the penguins leave you alone?

Rick Bylina said...

What do you mean he's not real? Was that all a dream, a hallucination, another one of my 67 personalities taking over?

Guess so.

Actually, the penguins are relatively helpful whenever I need a partner to dance around an idea. But they are fairly demanding about some fishy compensation.