Home > memoir, non-fiction > "We’ll Always Be Pals": Tom McManus

"We’ll Always Be Pals": Tom McManus

April 16, 2009

“We’ll Always Be Pals” are the last words my father said to me before he died. The youngest of his six children, he taught me everything there is to know about how to be a man in this world. He should know, after the life he lived. Born in 1920, Gene McManus witnessed some of the most historic events in our country’s history. A product of the Great Depression, he was a football star, a boxer, and a B-24 Liberator pilot and POW during World War II.

My story is a small one. Out of football for two full seasons after a glorified college career, I had left my football dreams behind me until I got a call out of the clear blue sky. The man who taught me how to play the game was all the inspiration I ever needed to realise a life long held dream.

“We’ll Always Be Pals” is ultimately the story of a father and son who were fifty years apart in age yet ended up best of friends.

“We’ll Always Be Pals”: The Last Words of a Dying Father and a True Hero! is part memoir, part biography, as Tom McManus tells both his life story and his father’s. It’s a potentially touching story—McManus’s brief career in pro-football was hampered by injury, and his father was a prisoner of war—but I’m afraid that it didn’t engage me. The writing is clunky and pedestrian, I found several sentences which didn’t quite make sense, there were a few oddly-capitalised words and a whole rash of extraneous commas. I read just eleven pages of text out of a total of 281 pages in order to find my fifteen errors, and wish that this story had been more strongly told.

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  1. April 21, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I’ll be surprised when you find a book you like. I haven’t read this book, but you seem to come at these books with the preconception that they’re bad – i.e. if they were traditionally published, you’d give these errors a pass. Again, the book might be terrible, but given that you’ve stated elsewhere that you think self-publishing is a bad option, it doesn’t seem like the best starting point to review books. Traditionally-published books are also full of clunky writing, even grammatical errors, so it almost seems like you’re looking for a reason to dislike a book, not a reason to like it.

  2. April 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    You’re a little grouchy today, Henry: that’s not like you.You misrepresent me: you’re right in that I don’t think self-publishing is the best choice for many writers; but I do think it has its place, and can be an excellent option for certain writers of particular books. It seems to me that many writers self-publish when they can’t find a mainstream publisher for their books: and that usually happens because their books just aren’t good enough (and I’ll agree that “good enough” can be hard to define); or they self-publish because they’re too impatient to fall in with the glacial speed of mainstream publishing: and if they’re too impatient to wait, they’re often too impatient to spend the time to get their books as good as they could possibly be by editing, designing and proofing them properly, too. And that shows in the quality of the finished books.I was criticised for having this view, and so I put myself on the line and started this blog. So far, I’ve not been proved wrong: the majority of self-published books that I’ve seen are dreadful. I have reviewed one that was delightful (and am in conversation with the writer at the moment, discussing her next book), and another that came very close: and I have another review coming up of a book that I think shows a huge amount of promise. But overall, the books I’ve seen have not been good, which isn’t good for the self-publishing business as a whole, or for the relatively few writers who self-publish brilliant books and work hard to make them a success. I’d love to see more of those.If anyone wants to send me their books I’m happy to give them a chance; I don’t go out looking for books to review, and depend entirely on people finding their way here and submitting their books for review of their own free will. And I’m inundated with books to review: it’s only my lack of time that limits this to one book a week, not the submissions that are made.Please consider, too, that I review books here, and not the self-publishing business: I’m hard on the books because they have mistakes in them, not because they’re self-published. There’s a big difference.

  3. May 19, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I didn’t write this book to win a Pulitzer Prize for my writing. I wrote it to tell the tale of a father who impacted his son greatly, not just from my upbringing but through what he did in his “larger than life” kind of life he lived. It is a life story with a ton of life’s lessons all throughout it, something our great country depsperately needs to be reminded of. Amazon.com has 10 great reviews of my book, from official book reviewers. I respect what you do, but to turn down this story after 15 pages, then it clearly isn’t for you, something that I understand, not everything is for everyone. I am close to over 1,000 sold through grass roots marketing and self publishing in almost 5 months since it has been published. All the best to you,Tom McManusAuthor”We’ll Always Be Pals”

  4. May 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Tom, thanks for your comment–I appreciate it, and realise it can’t be pleasant for you to read such criticism. I wish I could have been more positive: but you knew what you were up against when you submitted your book to me.Congratulations on your other more positive reviews, and on selling so many copies of your book: bearing in mind that (according to the statistics I’ve seen) most self-published writers struggle to sell more than 100 copies of their books, you’ve done extraordinarily well. I suspect that there are plenty of self-published writers out there who’d like to know how you managed to sell so many: have you written about that anywhere on the internet? If so, I’d like to link to it.

  5. May 19, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    It’s all good Jane, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and you have yours. I am not hurt by it. As you know, when you put something out there like a book, you take the good and the not so good in stride. Trust me sitting in a film room with 50 of your peers at the highest level of playing football when you miss an important tackle in the game is much tougher and humbling than reading someones not so positive review of my book, which to be honest, is the first one I have had to date (although there has been some critiques of my writing style, which I can deal with). My success (so far-to me it’s nothing to rave about but I am proud of how well it has done in a short period of time)is due to the story itself and how it has touched all types of readers. Plus, I am always putting it out there and have been very fortunate so far as to how well it has been received. The one hurdle that I had to face is that some agents/traditional publishers, etc. looked at it as another “how I made it to the NFL” kind of story, which it isn’t about. I even had a literary agent tell me that if I only had made it to the Super Bowl, then it would work. Clearly, he didn’t get the story. That’s why I went the self-publsihing route. Self-Publishing is a great tool for undiscovered authors. Let’s face it, most agents and traditional publishers have a negative attitude towards an unknown author prior to them even giving the book a chance. Dog Ear Publishing has been great to me and for my book and I would highly recommend them to anyone who wants a shot at getting their book published.Anyway, hope life is treating you well.Thanks for getting back with me Jane.Tom

  6. May 19, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Tom, I can’t imagine the stress involved in playing football at the level that you did, and I admire you hugely for that. My success (so far-to me it’s nothing to rave about but I am proud of how well it has done in a short period of time)is due to the story itself and how it has touched all types of readers. Plus, I am always putting it out there and have been very fortunate so far as to how well it has been received.I think you’re being overly modest here: you’ve sold a fantastic number of books, and don’t seem to realise how well you’ve done! Your “putting it out there” has obviously been very effective, and lots of self-published writers would love to be able to emulate you.I even had a literary agent tell me that if I only had made it to the Super Bowl, then it would work. Clearly, he didn’t get the story. That’s why I went the self-publsihing route. I’d bet a small amount of money (I’m not a betting girl) that your story wasn’t the issue, just the potential audience for Super Bowl vs. your league (sorry, I’m English and don’t know much about American football, so forgive my errors in terminology). Superbowl sounds very flashy to me, and I wonder if it has more pull than your league? I’m just speculating now. I will disagree with you here:Let’s face it, most agents and traditional publishers have a negative attitude towards an unknown author prior to them even giving the book a chance.That’s not my experience at all. I used to be an editor at one of those “traditional” publishers and I judged all submissions on the same criterion: whether I thought they would make a saleable book. The author’s status had very little to do with that: if they presented a good premise, we’d consider their title, and newcomers are signed up every day (if they weren’t, publishers would be in real trouble as their older authors died off!).Anyway, that one little quibble aside, it’s good to be able to agree with you on so much. You’re a pleasure to deal with, Tom, and I hope to hear more from you (I’d like it if you’d have a look at my other blog, How Publishing Really Works: there might be something there that interests you).

  7. May 19, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Bah. I don’t know what happened to the paragraph breaks in that comment, but I can’t edit it now as Blogger doesn’t allow that. Sorry: I hope it’s readable.

  8. May 19, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Thanks Jane. The Super Bowl is the championship game for the NFL. I wasn’t in a different league, it was the NFL, and I did make it to the game right before the Super Bowl.Anyway, thanks agin for the retorts.All the best,Tom

  9. May 19, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Thanks for that clarification, Tom–I was completely wrong!I particularly like this bit of your comment:I did make it to the game right before the Super Bowl.Speaking as someone who can’t throw a ball in a straight line, I am in awe.

  10. May 19, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    JaneIt’s been fun conversing with you, especially since we are an ocean apart.Maybe, just maybe, you’ll give my book a full read? If not, no hard feelings.All the best to you.Sincerely,Tom McManus

  11. May 24, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Tom, I’m so sorry that your most recent comment didn’t appear until now: I didn’t get an email notifying me that you’d left it, and so didn’t realise you were waiting for me to approve it.Seeing as you ask so very nicely, and have been so very dignified here, I’ve now put your book into my “to be read” pile, and will take another look at it when I can. That might not be soon: the pile is rather large (I’m a hopeless book-collector); but I will give it some more time.The best of luck to you in your publishing career. Do keep in touch.

  12. June 30, 2009 at 11:27 am

    It's a shame that Alice Hoffman didn't ask Tom McManus how to handle negative reviews before she Twittered: she could have learned a lot about responding with dignity and grace. I've just blogged about that here.

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