Thursday, November 15, 2007

GUEST BLOGGER - EARL MERKEL - Courtesy of Robert W. Walker

EARL MERKEL is the bestselling author of two novels (FINAL EPIDEMIC and DIRTY FIRE, both PenguinPutnam/NAL), with a third (VIRGINS AND MARTYRS) scheduled for publication in April.
He is also the ghostwriter of at least four books of non-fiction ("part of being a ghostwriter is NOT talking about what books you've written," he says. "That's how you get hired to do more of 'em.")

During his various careers to date, Earl has dodged gunfire, teargas canisters, and verbal brickbats as a journalist; spent years "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable," as an investigative reporter, newspaper columnist and satirist; and has advised some of the largest corporations in the world on the merits of open and honest communications -- not always with success.

He is the author of the celebrated "Chicken Little" article, a satire that is rumored to have gotten him banned from the op-pages of a major newspaper publishing empire... but which is currently an underground Internet favorite of working journalists. (It's at:

As the "more" on Money & More, a nationally broadcast talk-radio program he hosted with financial guru David Latko, Earl admits that he's far more comfortable discussing books, current events and even politics than he is dealing with financial matters: "In my own finances, I'm anything but a good example -- but I'm a great bad example," he laughs.

He lives in Chicago, when he's not on an airplane to somewhere else.


I am LOVING these stories about the many-and-varied dead-end jobs that
DL'ers are relating-- and noting, in many instances, a faint whiff of
happy nostalgia when they talk about 'em. This seem particularly true
for the writers in the group, which I suspect may confirm two of my
long-held beliefs:

1) For those whose doomed genome had somehow mutated so as to tend toward the storyteller's life, a nagging voice was ever muttering "ANY 'real' job is a dead-end road."?? There's a certain Darwinian bent among people who end up as writers: they tend to fall off the career mainstream --often self-engineering the destruction of those "real" careers, whether consciously or unconsciously, and gravitate toward the one job for which they are suited by evolution.

2) Even at an early age, put certainly by those teen years when the writing bug has infected our systems, many of us already had convinced ourselves that much of our day-to-day lives was... just research.? 'Fess up now: particularly? if we're still working in a "real" job to support your literary addiction, doesn't that thought pop up unbidden a few times a day?

This may be simple rationalization on my part: how else can I justify such early "jobs" as:

--"Riding instructor" at a Southern Illinois summer camp, where a
staggering proportion of the job involved shoveling the neverending
by-product of 70 horses' digestive process...

-- "Assistant manager" at a small-town bowling alley, where late-shift
duties involved serving as a 14-year-old bartender directed to provide
off-the-books cocktails to the local police chief and assorted public
officials who oversaw code enforcement and liquor licenses...

-- High-school "stringer" for the STL Globe-Democrat, taking by phone sports scores and called-in obits when not violating OSHA regulations by shoveling tons of old Linotype into a fuming pot to be re-melted into lead pigs...

-- College-aged "leg man" (no, not what it sounds like) for one of the
most savvy political journalists I've ever met...

-- "Troubleshooter" for what turned out to be an Outfit-connected

... and those are only a sampling of the jobs I've held that, in retrospect, had little long-term viability (but for which, I'm advised, the statute of limitations has finally passed).

Would I trade such "dead-end" experiences for a "real" career? Not on
your life-- in total, all of 'em still serve as grist for the writing
mill, which remains the only "job" I've ever really had.? Even if you
don't get dental with it...

--Earl Merkel
Author of FINAL EPIDEMIC (PenguinPutnam/NAL Oct. 2002)
and DIRTY FIRE (PenguinPutnam/NAL Oct. 2003)

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