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with writing? Not much, according to Larry King. “This fact,” he continues, “won’t make one whit of difference and it shouldn’t to the writer, especially if young, who dares to dream and has that fire in the belly.” Larry King, although no longer exactly young, still has enough fire in his belly to burn for a long, long time. THE FIRST HALF of Blockhead is a loose autobiography, titled “Reflections of a Free-Lance Old Wordsmith,” in which King traces his development as writer and family man. He confesses that in 1949 he got his “first ‘real’ newspaper job in Hobbs, New Mexico, by lying.” He saw a helpwanted sign for a reporter in the window of the Hobbs newspaper, and thought, “God wants me to have that job!” He thought it over and, he writes, “with the aid of a couple of beers, I assisted the Lord’s will by inventing a background as a former reporter for newspapers in Red Bank and Long Branch, New Jersey. . . .” He landed the job, but was fired five months later over a libel dispute. King worked as a newspa perman again, as well as serving time as a radio announcer, telephone lineman, and short-order cook. He finally hitched up with a Washington-bound Texas congressman and got his first shot at the big time. Larry King went to Washington expecting to wine and dine with LBJ and Sam Rayburn. It was a real disappointment to learn that his job was just work and that it was wholly lacking in ,glamour. He drank heavily in the Capitol city and spent a lot of time away from home. His first marriage fell apart, and he used the proceeds of a $1500 advance on his first novel to resettle his wife and children in Texas. But Washington in those years had its bright side for King, and it was there that he became close friends with Willie Morris. Morris, who had once been an editor of the Texas Observer, was then editor of Harper’s magazine and took King on as a frequent contributor. Later, when King decided to quit working as a political flack, Willie Morris opened doors for him to the New York literary world. What follows from the early Wash HOUSTON’S FABULOUS II MOTOR INN 6700 SOUTH MAIN ington years is the story of a writer possessed King quickly became one of the most prolific journalists in the country. He always had plenty of work; believing that, ” . . it is better to be a busy writer than a proud one.” Professionally, things didn’t always go smoothly, and, to be sure, he ran into some hard times now and again, but he came through it all O.K. , always ready to go after the next story. Perhaps one of the roughest times for King was when he realized that he was better as a writer of non-fiction than. of fiction. His first book had been a novel The One -Eyed Man and he had set out to be a novelist in the first place. Somehow, however, he was never able to get very far into another one. He tried writing fiction many times again, but it never worked out for him. In the second section of Blockhead “Random Jottings from a Writer’s Notebook” King gives this entry under the date April, 1983: “My biggest disappointment is that I am not a good novelist, or even a decent one. . . . Perhaps there is some vital chemistry flowing in the blood of novelists that is missing from my own.” That sounds a lot like carping at missed opportunities and intimations of mortality. The sentiment runs through much of the “Writer’s Notebook” section of the book, although the entries convey a curiously upbeat mood. An excerpt from the final entry in the section, dated January 1984, tells all: Yesterday New Year’s Day I became fifty-five years old. Damn. Fiftyfive! Only a few blinks ago I was the young terror of Texas. . . . Like most contemporaries with whom I have discussed it, I began to doubt my eternal youth with my fortieth birthday. I became keenly aware of mortality at forty-one, on the death of my father; Rosemarie’s death fifteen months later heightened that perception. One began to wonder how many good, productive years might be left and to admit that one’s ranking in American letters never would reach that high rung on the ladder one had foolishly presumed reserved for one in a more innocent time. Once the first pain passes there is a certain restful ease in admitting one isn’t destined to set the world aflame, but may only set the occasional random brushfire. . . . Oh, well. Birthdays come but once a year. In the spirit of Scarlett O’Hara, let us consider that tomorrow will be better. Larry King’s prose still sparkles, entertains, and instructs and, old as he may feel today, the game’s not over yet. He’s set so many brushfires already that it won’t take too many more before he might succeed in setting the world aflame. Dick Maegle, V.P. e;177E -INNR DISCOUNT $3995 DBL. 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