Edwin “Bud” Shrake Jr. was born to Ruth and Edwin Shrake Sr. in Fort Worth, Texas on September 6, 1931. He was their first child, and took an early interest in writing and painting. By the fifth grade, Shrake had written his first short story, an adventure about World War II fighter pilots. In 1946 he entered Paschal High School in Fort Worth, and quickly became good friends with junior Dan Jenkins. The two future sportswriters, lifelong buddies and sometime-collaborators got their start writing for the Paschal Pantherette, the school newspaper.
Following high school Shrake enrolled for a year at Texas Christian University, then transferred to The University of Texas at Austin. After two semesters at UT, he returned to Fort Worth and with the help of Jenkins, found part-time work at the Fort Worth Press. Soon Shrake was working full-time at the Press alongside Jenkins and under the tutelage of sports-page editor, Blackie Sherrod. Shrake also returned to TCU, this time majoring in English and philosophy, and married Shakespearean scholar, Joyce Rogers.
In 1953, Shrake, having graduated from TCU, went to New York City to try to land a journalism job there. The New York Herald-Tribune showed interest in his writing, but then Shrake was called up to active duty in the army reserves. Shrake served stateside for two years, and in that time divorced and remarried Joyce. In 1955 he returned to Fort Worth, looking to pick up where he left off.
The Fort Worth Press hired Shrake back, but this time as a police reporter. Working his beat, he met another life-long friend and collaborator, Gary Cartwright, who reported for the rival newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Over the next few years, Shrake honed his skills at writing fiction and secured a literary agent. In 1958, Sherrod, having moved to the Dallas Times Herald, convinced Shrake to return to sports writing there. Shrake found success as a sportswriter at the Times Herald, and began to find some as a fiction and script writer too, selling his first short story and teleplay around this time. He also was determined to finish and publish his first novel, a western set among the Comanche and early settlers of Texas.
That novel, titled Blood Reckoning, was published by Bantam in 1962, and found some success in the pulp paperback market. Shrake by this time had moved to the Dallas Morning News as a sports columnist. His marriage to Joyce deteriorated a second time, and she left him, taking their two young boys with her. Shrake was hard at work on a second, more serious novel, when he met Doubleday editor Ken McCormick, who expressed great interest in the partial manuscript he had read on the sly in Shrake’s apartment.
Shrake worked out a deal with the Morning News to be their “foreign correspondent” so he could travel Europe and finish the novel, which he did. In January 1964 Doubleday published But Not For Love and later that year he rejoined Dan Jenkins, this time in New York City at Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated’s editor, Andre Laguerre, recognized Shrake’s literary talents and sent him on more in-depth assignments as well as having him do the typical game reportage. Again Shrake used these traveling assignments to spend time researching and writing his fiction. His travels to the Southwest and Mexico in 1966-67 coincided with his work on a black-humor western set in the same locals.
Doubleday, wanting a book from Shrake on Dallas at the time of the Kennedy assassination, did not support his new novel, Blessed McGill. Although the book, published in January 1968, received favorable attention from literary writers and respected critics, Doubleday did very little to promote it, and the book soon disappeared from the bookshelves. Around this time Shrake made an arrangement with Laguerre that he could keep his job at Sports Illustrated and live somewhere else. Shrake chose Austin, Texas as his new home base, and moved there with Doatsy Shrake (nee Sedlmayr), whom he had married in 1966.
The next novel Shrake wrote, while on assignment in Asia for Sports Illustrated, was a Satyricon-inspired romp set among Texas oil barons, but he had trouble finding a publisher. In the spring of 1971, he went to London to write Strange Peaches, set in Dallas just before and after the Kennedy assassination. Largely autobiographical and based on actual events, Strange Peaches was published by Harper’s Press in May 1972, but again disappeared quickly due to almost total lack of marketing effort by the publisher.
Around this time Shrake started turning his attention outside Sports Illustrated to screenwriting. His first two scripts, “Dime Box” and “J.W. Coop” (co-written with Gary Cartwright) were both produced, although the former was released (as Kid Blue) almost two years after production, with very little studio support behind it, and the latter resulted in a high-publicity court case versus the star, Cliff Robertson. This manner of frustrations and near-misses would follow Shrake for the next fifteen years or so as he wrote or co-wrote at least forty-two screenplays and teleplays, many of which were sold to studios but only seven of which actually made it to the screen, including Kid Blue and J.W. Coop.
Shrake did get two books published in the 1970s: Peter Arbiter—the Texas Satyricon novel—by Encino Press in 1973; and Limo—co-written with Dan Jenkins—by Atheneum in 1976. Much of the decade was spent on writing screenplays, partying with fellow members of Mad Dog Inc. (a satirical company he founded with Cartwright in 1970), and traveling on assignments for Sports Illustrated. However, by 1978 Shrake parted ways with the magazine to focus on an ambitious new novel about the early days of the Republic of Texas, and to keep pursuing a breakthrough in Hollywood. In 1979 and 1980 he saw two of his scripts turned into feature films: Nightwing, and Tom Horn, respectively.
Two more productions of Shrake’s scripts followed in 1984: Songwriter and Pancho Villa’s Wedding Day. Songwriter, starring Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, was released by Tri-Star. Yet again, however, marketing mishaps and neglect doomed the work to near-oblivion, despite being well-received by the critics. Pancho Villa’s Wedding Day was a movie script (under various versions and titles) that Shrake turned into a stage play. The play had two successful runs in Austin that year, first at the Zachary Scott Theater then at the Austin Opry House.
That same year a doctor warned Shrake that he would have to clean up his lifestyle or he would be dead within six months. Shrake decided he better follow the doctor’s orders, and in 1985 he returned to fiction again. His epic novel about the Republic of Texas, titled “Plum Creek,” had been put aside due to lack of publisher interest. Instead he worked on a novel about an alter-ego foreign correspondent who finds himself at Dien Bien Phu and revolutionary Algeria, among other locals. Shrake made a pact with himself to not only write the book without drinking booze, smoking cigarettes or snorting cocaine, but to not even mention Texas in it. Random House published the book in 1987. Then good friend Willie Nelson proposed something new: help him write Nelson’s autobiography. Bud set out interviewing numerous acquaintances of Willie’s, as well as Willie himself, and crafted a book that was told from both subject’s and acquaintances’ perspectives. Simon & Schuster published Willie in 1988, and it quickly became a best-seller. Bud Shrake had his first commercial hit on his hands, and it wouldn’t be his last, or his biggest.
Another as-told-to biography immediately followed in 1990, this time of football coach Barry Switzer. The book was another best-seller, but it wasn’t until Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, published in 1993, that Shrake really hit the big-time. As with Willie and Barry, Harvey was Bud’s longtime friend who had a book deal and asked Shrake to collaborate with him. In this case, what Bud was working with was Harvey’s lifetime of golfing wisdom, rather than his life story. The resulting Little Red Book was an instant phenomenon among golfers the world-over and became the best-selling sports book of all time. Three sequels quickly followed, along with an anthology and a boundless number of spin-off products.
Meanwhile, another movie collaboration with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson was completed, this time for television. Another Pair of Aces, based on a script titled “RIP,” co-written with Cartwright and dating back to the Seventies, was produced in Austin and aired on CBS. Having been divorced from Doatsy for about ten years by now, Shrake became serious with old friend Ann Richards, shortly before she was elected governor of Texas in 1990. Bud got to accompany Ann to many state functions during her four-year tenure. They remained close friends and companions until her death in 2006.
His foray into non-fiction having paid-off handsomely, Shrake returned once again to his first love, fiction. In 1996 he dusted off the “Plum Creek” novel after having let it sit untouched for almost 15 years. Numerous name changes and rewrites followed, and The Borderland was finally published, by Hyperion, in 2000. The next year Scribner published Billy Bud, a shorter, coming-of-age novel about a young golfer in 1950s Fort Worth.
In 2002, Shrake’s writing returned to the stage, this time in London for Benchmark, a collaborative effort with stage writer and director Michael Rudman, another long-time friend. Starting around 2005, Shrake worked on a play eventually titled The Friend of Carlos Monzon, based on his experience in prison in Argentina in 1972 while on assignment there for Sports Illustrated. This play eventually was performed posthumously as an experimental, multi-media stage reading in 2010 at the Long Center in Austin. Also in the mid-2000s and in collaboration with Rudman, came Jack, a play set in Jack Ruby’s nightclub in Dallas the night after the JFK assassination. To date, this play has yet to be produced.
While recuperating from kidney-removal surgery in late 2001, Shrake died and had an out-of-body experience with silent visitors who took him away, before being revived by hospital personnel. This life-changing experience would resurface in what would become his last-published novel, Custer’s Brother’s Horse. Set amid the chaos of post-Civil-War Texas, the book completed a trilogy of early Texas history that Shrake had written, with The Borderland and Blessed McGill being the other two. Another late-period novel that Shrake completed was a pseudo-memoir called “Malibu Zulu,” written under a pen name and based on his experiences in Hollywood while working with Steve McQueen on Tom Horn. This novel remains unpublished.
Shrake enjoyed a double round of press attention with Custer’s Brother’s Horse in late 2007 and Land of the Permanent Wave in the spring of 2008, an anthology of his writing that covers his entire career. In the fall of 2008, Shrake found out he had inoperable lung cancer. Over the past seven years he had beaten cancer twice before, so he began chemo treatment optimistically, and true to form, kept busy writing. He was working on a crime caper set in Fort Worth and Mexico in the 1950s at the time, but his health quickly deteriorated from the chemo, and he passed away on May 8, 2009. He is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, next to Ann Richards.
Although Shrake enjoyed the respect of critics and peers from New York to Hollywood, his talents have been most recognized by those in his home state. In 1987 he received a star on the Texas Walk of Fame, in Austin, along with Jenkins, Cartwright and Larry L. King. Later in life, he received two awards for his career in letters: the Texas Bookend Award from the Texas Book Festival, in 2002, and the Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Institute of Letters, in 2003.
In 2004, TCU Press published Southwestern Writers Collection curator Steven L. Davis’ Texas Literary Outlaws, a biography of Shrake, Cartwright, King, Jenkins, Billy Lee Brammer and Peter Gent. The book also serves as an invaluable chronicle and critique of these six men’s literary achievements and intertwining friendships. In the concluding chapter, Davis addresses Shrake’s talents and legacy:
“Shrake’s refusal to be typecast alienated New York publishers because it kept them from building a market for his work. But the artistry apparent in each novel endures. The relative paucity of critical attention on Bud Shrake has deflected understanding of the sophisticated narrative techniques employed in his best work” (Texas Literary Outlaws, p. 455). Davis then goes on to highlight what he considers Shrake’s four best novels, and contends they deserve to stand beside the works of celebrated writers like Terry Southern, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ken Kesey and Kurt Vonnegut.
Many of Shrake’s early books have been republished and remain in print to this day. Blessed McGill and Strange Peaches were both republished by Texas Monthly Press in 1987, and again by John M. Hardy Publishing Company in 2007. But Not For Love got a second chance by TCU Press in 2000. Limo was also republished in 2000, by Duane Press. Willie, The Borderland, Billy Boy, and the Harvey Penick books remain in print.
As for his films, J.W. Coop, Nightwing, Tom Horn
are all available on DVD, as is a Region 2 version of Kid Blue
, from Spain. Shortly before he passed away, Shrake recorded a commentary track with Gary Cartwright for an American DVD release of Kid Blue
, which has yet to be released. Director Richard Linklater has spearheaded this effort.
A.C. Greene named Blessed McGill in 1981 as one of Texas' fifty best books, describing it as having "an appreciation for the absurdities of existence, a recognition of irony's major role in the world, [and] highly suggestive humor" (Texas Monthly, Aug. 1981). The same compliment could be said for much of Shrake’s work through the years, whether writing about crime on the police beat in Fort Worth, boxers and poker players on assignment for Sports Illustrated, filthy-rich and eccentric Dallasites in his novels, old-west and country-music outlaws in his movies, or a famous country singer, a football coach and a golf guru in his non-fiction.
Bingamon, Brant. Interviews with Shrake via e-mail. 2008-2009.
Cartwright, Gary. “Shrake’s Progress.” Texas Monthly. April 2000.
Davis, Steven L., editor. Land of the Permanent Wave. UT Press, 2008.
Davis, Steven L. Texas Literary Outlaws. TCU Press, 2004.
Minor, Joel and Steve Davis interview with Shrake. November 18, 2008. http://amazon.com
Scope and Content Note
One hundred and fifty-two boxes of typescripts, galley proofs, notes, research files, correspondence, and artifacts, among other items, document the life and career of Edwin “Bud” Shrake (1931-2009). The collection is arranged into eight series: Works (1953-2010, undated), Correspondence (1936-2009, undated), Financial Papers (1963-2000), Corporations (1969-1995, undated), Legal Papers (1977-1997), Research (circa 1954-2006), Personal Papers (1901-2009, undated) and Other Writers, 1968-2007, undated).
The Edwin “Bud” Shrake Papers reflect Shrake’s 58-year career as a professional sportswriter, journalist, fiction writer, script writer, and non-fiction writer. Numerous drafts of his books and screenplays in the Works series give insight into Shrake’s creative process. The many correspondence files show his relationship through the years with various editors, agents, friends, family members and fellow writers. Other aspects of Shrake’s life like financial and legal matters, and personal effects like artwork and scrapbooks, are represented in the later series.
SERIES I: Works, 1953-2010, undated
Boxes 1-100, 150-152
This series is arranged into the following subseries. They are in an order that reflects their order in Shrake’s career as a published writer: periodicals, fiction, screenplays/teleplays, play scripts, and non-fiction.
Subseries A: Periodicals (Boxes 1-2)
Arranged chronologically, this sub-series includes photocopies and printouts of articles and columns written by Shrake and published in newspapers and magazines, from 1953-2006. These folders do not contain all of Shrake’s published work in periodicals, particularly regarding his years as a sportswriter and police beat reporter in Fort Worth and Dallas. Most notably missing is anything from his work at the Dallas Times Herald.
Subseries B: Fiction – Published (Boxes 2-29)
Starting with the first short story Shrake published, in 1959, and ending with his last novel to be published, in 2006, this sub-series is arranged chronologically according to publication date. It contains handwritten, typewritten and computer-generated drafts, proofs of all kinds, correspondence, contracts, promotional materials, research files, and press clippings. The book with the most copious files is The Borderland, started in 1976 but not published until 2000. In general, the files for the earlier novels, being before the advent of computers, contain more materials like corrected drafts and proofs.
Subseries C: Fiction – Unpublished (Boxes 30-31)
Arranged alphabetically, this is a much smaller sub-series than it’s predecessor, contains mainly early short stories and unfinished novels. One of the unfinished novels, “These Unhappy Occasions,” led directly to Blessed McGill. Also included is a finished novel titled “Malibu Zulu” that Shrake completed in 2008 and intended to publish under a pen name.
Subseries D: Screenplays/Teleplays – Produced (Boxes 32-43)
Like Fiction-Published, this sub-series is arranged by production date. It also contains similar materials: drafts, correspondence, contracts, promotional materials and press clippings. The three projects Shrake was most closely involved with—Kid Blue, Songwriter and Pair of Aces—contain the most materials. The Beverly Hills Cop II folders contain documents related to the unsuccessful arbitration Shrake and Dan Jenkins initiated in order to get writing credits on the movie.
Subseries E: Screenplays/Teleplays – Unproduced (Boxes 44-69)
This sub-series is the most voluminous, reflecting Shrake’s prolific work as a screenwriter from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. Except for the three film treatments at the beginning, the files are arranged alphabetically. Contents are typically drafts and treatments, with some correspondence and research. Those works that contain more materials than others often reflect that they were closer to being produced, such as with “The Big Mamoo,” the various Pancho Villa projects, and “Slim and None.” Shrake collaborated with Dan Jenkins in the 1970s and 80s on many of the unproduced screenplay efforts. Two of Shrake’s attempts to turn his novels into films are also contained here: Strange Peaches and Limo, the latter written with Jenkins.
Subseries F: Play Scripts – Produced (Boxes 69-76)
Again, this sub-series of produced works is arranged by production date. The bulk of the sub-series consists of Pancho Villa’s Wedding Day, which, after Shrake turned it from a film script into a play script, underwent more incarnations, including as a musical. Numerous, corrected drafts are included, from 1977 to 1994, when he stopped revising it. The play was staged in 1984. The last play in the series, The Friend of Carlos Monzon, was staged posthumously, and materials from that production, though not directly donated by Shrake, are included.
Subseries G: Play Scripts – Unproduced (Box 76)
This sub-series contains only one untitled play script, and notes, correspondence, research and a corrected draft for “Jack,” a play Shrake co-wrote with Michael Rudman, but failed to get produced.
Subseries H: Non-Fiction (Boxes 77-100)
Though essentially consisting of only three projects, all published, this sub-series contains a voluminous amount of research on its subjects, especially Willie Nelson. Included in the Willie materials are numerous tapes and transcripts of interviews Shrake and others did with Nelson and his acquaintances. Also included are clipping files on Nelson and country music going back to 1978 (when Shrake was writing the Songwriter screenplay), and many files of corrected draft fragments. Notably, the opposite is true for the Barry Switzer book, Bootlegger’s Boy—no research files are present in the papers, except for some clippings on Switzer gathered post-publication. The sub-sub-series Harvey Penick Books contains drafts for all five Penick/Shrake books, plus research on Penick and golf, interviews, contracts, photographs, and all kinds of marketing materials. As with the files on Willie Nelson, the Harvey Penick files are ample with biographical information on their subject and insight into their subject’s craft.
Subseries I: Anthology (Box 100)
This small subseries contains four drafts of the fiction piece, “How To Live Forever,” first published in Land of the Permanent Wave
SERIES II: Correspondence, 1936-2009, undated
Two main subseries constitute the Correspondence series: Alphabetical and Chronological. This arrangement reflects Shrake’s, in that he filed some of his letters by correspondent, and some by year. Most correspondence in the Alphabetical sub-series are with friends, collaborators, and family members. The Chronological sub-series contains correspondence from a far wider range of addressors, some strangers to Shrake and others intimate friends. A name index for the chronological letters is available here
. Please note that letters pertaining directly to writing projects are filed with those projects in Series I, as that is most often how Shrake filed them. Also note that some folders in this series are access restricted.
SERIES III: Financial Papers, 1963-2000
This series is arranged chronologically, and contains receipts, income taxes, expense reports, financial statements and other documents related to various aspects of Shrake’s life. The financial records tend to give snapshots of Shrake’s financial situation and lifestyle through the years, rather than a complete picture. Besides expense reports from Sports Illustrated that go to 1976, the financial records do not contain any documents between 1972 and 1980.
SERIES IV: Corporations, 1969-1995, undated
Boxes 122-123, 150
This series documents the two corporations that Shrake started and operated: Mad Dog, Inc. and East Pole Corporation. The Mad Dog, Inc. Corporate Structure and correspondence reflect the company’s satirical nature. The East Pole Corporation materials include receipts, reports, a budget, tax records, pension plan and an embosser.
SERIES V: Legal Papers, 1977-1997, undated
Seven subjects of a legal nature are documented in this series: Austin Sun Publishing Company, Jan Demetri, ICM Contracts, Gary DeShazo, D.W.I., Buttercup Mountain and Manny Newburger. The series is arranged chronologically.
SERIES VI: Research, circa 1954-2006
Shrake kept subject files on a wide variety of topics, often having to do with ideas for writing projects. These files make up the Subject Files sub-series and are the bulk of the Research series. They are arranged alphabetically by subject. Also included in the Research series are the Notes and Notebooks sub-series, and books and general research. The series is arranged chronologically by sub-series.
SERIES VII: Personal Papers, 1900-2009, undated
Boxes 131-136, 147-152
This series contains materials belonging to Shrake of a more personal nature and is arranged chronologically. The oldest item in this series, and in the collection, is Shrake’s father’s baby dress. Also included are certificates, clippings about Shrake and friends, photographs of Shrake, family and friends, scrapbooks, short stories written for class, two typewriters, a briefcase Shrake used for traveling on Sports Illustrated assignments, Shrake’s leather office chair, artwork by Shrake and friends, property maintenance records, drafts of speeches, among other materials.
SERIES VIII: Other Writers, 1968-2007, undated
Shrake kept files of works by various writers, which are kept in this series. Some of these files contain editing notes by Shrake or correspondence from the writer. The series is arranged alphabetically by author’s last name. Included are the production files for Another Pair of Aces, a TV movie written by Rob Gilmer that was a sequel to Shrake and Cartwright’s Pair of Aces. Shrake was a co-producer of this movie. In the late 1990s, Roger Young wrote a screenplay for Blessed McGill, and worked with Shrake and G.W. Bailey to get it produced. The drafts and correspondence from this failed effort are included here. Shrake’s good friends Gary Cartwright, Dan Jenkins, Larry L. King, Jay Milner, Willie Morris and Bill Wittliff have works in this series as well—often more than one.
The Correspondence series contains restricted folders. Please see an archivist for information about these restrictions.
Edwin “Bud” Shrake Papers, Southwestern Writers Collection, Texas State University-San Marcos
Donated by Bud Shrake, Ben Shrake, Bill Wittliff, Jody Gent, and the Austin History Center, 1987-2010.
The Edwin “Bud” Shrake Papers, completed in 2011 by Joel Minor, is the result of integrating two previously-processed collections and numerous unprocessed collections. One collection, processed in 1993 by Gwyneth Cannan, consisted of papers Shrake, Wittliff and Gent donated directly to the Southwestern Writers Collection. The second collection was transferred from the Austin History Center to the Southwestern Writers Collection, per Shrake’s request, in 2003. This collection had been donated to the Austin History Center by Shrake in 1978, and processed there in 1990 by Amanda McCallum and revised in 2003 by Ruth Baker. Finding aids for both these collections are available upon request.
Notes to Researchers
A number of Sports Illustrated issues, along with duplicate copies of other magazines, have been moved from the Shrake Papers to the Southwestern Writers Collection's cataloged items. A list of these issues is available upon request. The issues can be found in the online catalog as well. All articles by or about Shrake were photocopied and/or printed from the Internet for the collection.
A DVD of photographs of Bud Shrake’s office/studio, taken by Austin Photography on November 7, 2009, is available to view upon request (Accession #2009-131).