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Another Royko for the Collection

In the presence of a collection of Mike Royko's columns, particularly a newly-acquired one I've never read before, I'm like Homer Simpson staring down a butter-drenched Krusty Burger, Imelda Marcos at DSW Shoe Warehouse, or Tom DeLay finding another opportunity to commit a personally enriching but morally bankrupt act. My brain shuts down, all common sense and personal responsibilities ignored, all other books shoved aside, as I wallow in Royko's genius.

Saturday's mail brought a blessed package from Powell's which contained Royko's 1973 collection Slats Grobnik and Some Other Friends. This one has been out of print for decades, and I've had it on my Powell's watch list for about two years now, and even with the high volume they do in used books this is the first time this book has turned up. Figuring I may not get this chance again soon, I bought it on the spot.

Slats is vintage Royko, drawn from his Chicago Daily News columns between 1966 and 1973. Just a few pages in, and I was already laughing myself silly at yet another Slats Grobnik tale, this one relating the mythical Slats' short career as a bowling alley pinboy.

    Slats' pinboy career ended, though, because of an ape. That is what we called the big goons who couldn't bowl well but zinged the ball as hard as they could. It made the pins fly and an ape was happiest when a pin boy got hit.
    Slats was hit in the head and it improved his IQ so much that be became the foul line spotter. Before the electric eye, this was a good job. You sat in the roost and watched the foul line. When a toe crossed it, you pushed the button for that alley and the foul light went on.
    It was more power than Slats ever had in his life and he was ruthless. He'd sit up there banging on the foul buttons like he was Cornel Wilde playing Chopin.
    He held the job until one night he called two straight fouls on a bowler from the transformer department of a factory league.
    The bowler called Slats a filthy name but Slats came back with a better one.
    When the bowler charged at Slats' roost, Slats, no coward, jumped down, fists ready.
    She flattened him with one punch and Slats never got over it. He never went back to the foul line even though we kept telling him that she was a lot bigger so he shouldn't feel bad.

By my reckoning, the only Royko collection published during his lifetime that I have yet to own is the aptly titled I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It. I haven't read either of the posthumous collections, For the Love of Mike or One More Time, which I assume are merely distillations of the books I already own.

April 11, 2005 in Books | Permalink


Another good place to look for out-of-print books is Abebooks.com, which allows you to search the stock of a lot of independent new & used book sellers. A search for the Slats Grobnik book turned up 26 copies in varying conditions, ranging in price from $5.97 to $119.95.

Posted by: jima at Apr 11, 2005 10:15:07 AM