The Short, Short Hitchhiker
October 7th, 2011

Yesterday I logged onto and was pleased to learn that I have another book for sale! Feel free to have a look:

How does one get a book into print? Well, it’s a long story, one that began about this time last year when I received a fan letter postmarked Spirit Lake, Idaho. Turns out Doug Greenough was enamored with a documentary he had seen, an advertisement for which he had spotted in a newspaper he found while rummaging through a dumpster behind a gambling hall in Lovelock, Nevada.

It pays to advertise!


Enclosed in Mr. Greenough’s letter were four twenty-dollar bills, which just happens to be the first advance this writer has ever gotten. I decided it would be enough to get me started on editing a manuscript I’ve been holding onto now for decades. Three weeks later I mailed off a copy to Mr. Greenough and another to Caleb Cage, co-founder of a small upstart publishing house in Reno, The Virginia Avenue Press.

“What do you want us to do with this?” Caleb e-mailed back. “Publish it?”

“Okay,” I replied. And that’s how deals are done in this business.

It wasn’t always so. Back in the day, what you did was mail your unsolicited manuscript to a publishing house in New York City, where it would go straight into what’s called “the slush pile.” Months later it would come back in a brown manila envelope bearing tire tracks, accompanied by a form letter. “Thank you for considering us, but whatever the hell it is you just sent us does not meet our editorial requirements at this time.”

After your walls are papered with such rejection slips, you begin to lose hope. You lose confidence in your manuscript and you lose confidence in your judgment. That which you thought was a good read goes unread; that which you think stinks is ballyhooed on Oprah. If it’s not a celebrity tell-all or a dark romance involving a young girl who yearns to be bitten on the neck by a vampire, it’s just not marketable.

But then one day a funny thing happened. I returned from tramping the moors with fire in my eyes, on the hunt for some pretty young neck to bite, to find a post-it note affixed to my computer screen. It was from my semi-literate secretary/son. A book I had written had been accepted!


Said book went on to enjoy critical success and earned me a royalty check (framed now, on my wall) in the amount of four cents. Better still, it inspired a television documentary that has aired on 150 PBS stations nationwide.

Featured in the documentary is Stanley Gurcze, a double amputee who spent a lifetime hitchhiking the highways and byways of the American West. Soon I began to hear from viewers whose own close encounters with the footless vagabond were memorable—in fact, unforgettable.

“I, too, met Stanley Gurcze,” writes Jerry Fields. “I was motorcycling in the White Mountains of Arizona in 1974. I stopped to take a break and Stanley came out of the woods on crutches with his heavy backpack. I spent a while talking with him and hearing his story. I never forgot him. I have carried him deeply within me for 37 years. I am unsure, did he write a book called “The Short, Short Hitchhiker?”

Yes, he did, and now at long last Jerry and others like him can finally read it.

Just goes to show, you’re nobody in this country until after you’ve “been seen on television.”

-Richard Menzies