Tom Hanks Can Write!
It doesn’t seem fair.
Tom Hanks, the beloved actor, the Spencer Tracy of our time, is also a fine writer. I just finished his new novel about—what else?—the movie business, and I can tell you that it’s terrific. A great read, as they say, but more than that, the book is “its own universe.” That’s what author Ann Patchett says in a back-cover blurb, and Ann has created a few worlds of her own.
Using a structure based on the moviemaking process, Hanks introduces us to the fascinating and appealing characters who, step by step, create the fictional movie Knightshade: The Lathe of Firefall. There are too many characters to name, but we eagerly follow them all, starting with the boyhood events sparking the story, through the filming, to the movie launch and post. It’s well worth the trip.
I’m happy to report that, when he’s not acting or writing, Tom Hanks enjoys hanging out in Nashville, my hometown. That’s partly because he has a couple of favorite local spots: Parnassus, the bookstore owned by Patchett, and Nashville Typewriter, where he has purchased several of his 200+ machines.
Speaking of Nashville, Tom Hanks’s two careers as actor and writer remind me of a Nashville resident who, almost unbelievably, has had five careers. His name is Mike Reid.
Reid won the Outland Award as the best interior lineman in college football and went on to be an All-Pro lineman in the NFL. On retirement, he embarked on a career as a concert pianist, soloing with such orchestras as the Dallas and Cincinnati Symphonies.
He then moved to Nashville, where he wrote songs for Bonnie Raitt, Ronnie Milsap, Tanya Tucker, Alabama, and a long list of others—songs including the classic “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and the Grammy-winning “Stranger in My House.” Next, he signed with Columbia Records as a singer and recorded a No. 1 country hit “Walk on Faith,” which he wrote. Most recently he tried Broadway, creating songs for five musicals, one of which won the prestigious Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater.
As far as I know, he doesn’t own any typewriters.