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A Tale of Two Books

My current work in progress is called “A Tale of Two Books” (working title). The story comprises two books. The second book is written by the author who is the main character in the first book. I’ll share more about the project in a later post. This scene is from the second book. Jack Hopper—young, naive writer—meets with his publisher and learns the value of having the right name.

What’s in a Name

My name is Jack Hopper. Actually, it’s Ralph Hopper, but Jack sounds manlier for a writer of my caliber, according to my publisher who says a writer needs a name with grit and gravitas, a name he can live up to. And Ralph was not that kind of name, he told me when we met twenty years ago.

Before we even signed that first contract, he quizzed me on names to make his point.

“What kind of career do you think John Wayne would have had if he went by his real name, Marion Michael Morrison? How about Michael Caine. Would anybody take him serious if they knew his real name was Maurice Joseph Micklewhite? I doubt it. Or Tony Curtis; his real name is Bernard Schwartz. Can you believe that?

“I don’t think Cary Grant would have gotten too far as Archibald Leach, or Rock Hudson as Leroy Harold Scherer, Jr., or Sam Neill as Nigel. Can you imagine Nigel Neill? What do you think?”

“Can I keep my last name?”

“Of course, Hopper’s a good strong name for a writer. Jack Hopper. That’s a man’s name. That name will sell books. Mark my word.”

“That’s good, Mr. Adams. I never liked Ralph anyway.”

“Please, son, call me Woody. That’s what all my friends call me. Short for Woodrow. See what I mean about names?”

So twenty years ago, I put my life in the hands of a man who would make me rich and famous, and I learned my first lesson in image building and became Jack Hopper, promising author.