The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky on January 27, 1980 · Page 24
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The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky · Page 24

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Louisville, Kentucky
Issue Date:
Sunday, January 27, 1980
Page:
Page 24
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o z oc Z o OC uj 8 u HIS years of drinking were the worst of times for Walter Te-vis, a writer who spent his formative years in Lexington, Ky. For 17 years he did not publish a book. Now it is the best of times for Tevis, who will be 52 next month. He has been "on the wagon" for nearly five years. His third novel, "Mockingbird" (Doubleday. 247 pp. $10), published this month, garnered a small fortune for him before publication through the sales of paperback and foreign rights. It is a science-fiction novel, set in America in the 26th century. Yet to come are royalties from the hard-cover sales of "Mockingbird" and, inevitably, a movie. (As early as last November, according to Tevis, three movie companies and actor Dus-tin Hoffman were looking over his manuscript.) "With the help of my psychotherapist, who is a real jim-dandy psychotherapist, and some other things that are SHIRLEY WILLIAMS it The Courier-Journal book editor." going for me, I am happier than I have ever been in my life," Tevis, who now lives in New York City, said in Louisville recently. "And," he added, "I'm healthier. You should have seen me when I was drinking. I've got pictures of myself taken 10 years ago in which I look older than I do now." Tevis has published only two previous novels, but they both became modern classics and were made into movies. "The Hustler," Tevis' first novel, was about a poolroom hustler and became a film starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. The film version of his second novel, a science-fiction piece called "The Man Who Fell to Earth," starred British rock star David Bowie, and the paperback edition of the book starred Bowie on the cover. "I tried to convince Avon Books that putting him on the cover might be a mistake," said a chuckling Tevis, "because Bowie fans aren't likely to be people who read books in the first place. But," he added reflectively, "he's a very fine man. I liked him a lot. Thank God. Because on the American edition of the book, which came out with the movie, David Bowie's name on the cover is about twice as big as mine, and it looks like he wrote it. If I had hated his guts it would have been terribly hard to take." The Bowie film was not nearly as successful in America as "The Hus--tier," due, Tevis said, to poor distribution, but it did well in Europe. "I was at the premiere in New York and there were an awful lot of Bowie fans there, an awful lot of slack-jawed IS- and 16-year-olds. They had come expecting him to sing. So maybe the word got around with Bowie fans. It the movie sure didn't help sell the book. "The Hustler' was published in 1959," Tevis continued. "The movie came out in '61. Then I grabbed the money that I made from the movie and went to live in Mexico with my family and discovered that you could get gin for 80 cents a liter. I stayed drunk for eight months, then sobered up and wrote 'The Man Who Fell to Earth.' All the good people in The Man Who Fell to Earth' drink. My man from Mars becomes a hopeless alcoholic." Could Tevis write when he was drinking? "No. I never could combine the two. One drink and the typewriter was completely out of the question. I never Tbasting tiiebestcf times quafls tteteaiqpx r a i m . a HEsrary success SH1HJ AAike Covington EY WILLIAMS

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