Monday, July 20, 2009

Edwin "Bud" Shrake

The death last week of Edwin "Bud" Shrake means that those living in the rest of the country have one less reason to oppose Texas secession. At the beginning of his career, Shrake was one of several writers, including novelist Dan Jenkins (Semi-Tough) and the journalist Gary Cartwright, who labored under the editorship of the legendary Dallas sportswriter Blackie Sherrod. In 1968, he began a long association with Sports Illustrated, still in its salad days while under its legendary, transformative efitor André Laguerre. He also began writing fiction and screenplays. In 1972, he published his best-regarded novel, Strange Peaches, set in Dallas as the Kennedy assassination approaches, and also saw the first movie made from one of his scripts: J. W. Coop, co-written with Gary Cartwright, and starring Cliff Robertson as an ex-con rodeo cowboy.

Shrake also wrote the 1973 hippie Western Kid Blue starring Dennis Hopper and Warren Oates and adapted the Martin Cruz Smith novel Nightwing, a 1979 horror movie about killer bats. He also co-wrote one of Steve McQueen's last movies, Tom Horn, with the novelist Thomas McGuane. His proudest moment as a screenwriter came through his association with Willie Nelson, whose told-to autobiography he wrote. The 1984 Songwriter, directed by Alan Rudolph and with Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Rip Torn, was a deeply funny celebration of the outlaw country stars' image of themselves as soulful scam artists and modern day pirates at war with corporate gangsters, and a movie that some faithful Screengrab readers probably wish I'd shut up about. Shrake and Gary Cartwright later knocked off a script for a TV film called Pair of Aces and its sequel, both of them notable only for reuniting Nelson, Kristofferson, and Torn, and penned biographies of Barry Switzer and Harvey Penick. He died in Austin of complications from lung cancer.

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