Monday, June 20, 2011

Today's challenge -- and remembering Errol Flynn

Since one of this blog's purposes is to chart my progress on my current novel, I'll start off this Monday morning by posting my 1,000-word goal for today is 8,821.  And before you ask, no, I don't know how many words the book will have when it's finished, which is why I'm just working on 1,000 words a day.  If I write more, that's all to the good, and if not, well, there's always tomorrow.

Today, however, is 20 June, the date on which Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn was born in 1909 in Hobart, Tasmania.

I do not remember exactly when I first saw the film Captain Blood.  I know that I was younger than 11.  Whether I saw it after school on "The Early Show" which played movies from 4:30 to 6:00 each afternoon, or on a week-end evening when I was allowed to stay up a bit later than my usual bedtime of 10:00, I just don't know.  But Captain Blood and Flynn made enough of an impression on me that when I heard the news of his death, I remarked on it to my mother.  It was the morning of 15 October 1959, and we heard it on the radio news as I was getting ready for school that morning.  Flynn had died of an apparent heart attack in Vancouver the day before, which had been the day after my 11th birthday.

He was old enough (barely) to have been my grandfather, and I never had one of those pre-adolescent crushes the way we all did at that age and in that era on the likes of Elvis or Rick Nelson or Fabian or Frankie Avalon.  What fascinated me was the adventure, the excitement of the stories.  I couldn't get enough of them.  My suburban life was so boring, so ordinary, and I could lose myself in all the action.

There were no VCRs or DVDs in those days; there were only old movies on TV.  The Adventures of Robin Hood.  The Sea-Hawk.  The Master of Ballantrae.  Tyrone Power in Prince of Foxes.  Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in The Corsican Brothers.  Ronald Colman in The Prisoner of Zenda.  Burt Lancaster in The Flame and the Arrow.  Stewart Granger in Scaramouche.  I found an illustrated edition of The Count of Monte Cristo in my South Junior High School library and read it over and over and over and over.

When I reached high school, I also achieved access to two other libraries -- the adult section of the public library and my dad's collection of popular novels from the Dollar Book Club.  Between the two I discovered Frank Yerby and Samuel Shellabarger, Jan Westcott and Lawrence Schoonover, Leslie Turner White and Edison Marshall and F. van Wyck Mason among others.

I got older but I never grew up and I never outgrew my love for vicarious adventure.  What had come to be called "costume dramas" kind of fell out of fashion in the 60s and 70s -- except for those biblical and similar epics that made Charlton Heston a star -- in both movies and books, until Kathleen E. Woodiwiss broke onto the paperback scene with The Flame and the Flower.  And the adventure hasn't stopped.

But for me, it all began with Errol Flynn and Captain Blood, and I won't let my adventure stop either.

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