By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Some people were surprised when Tom Lambert wrote a book.
Some people even took umbrage at what they saw his literary pretensions. After all, didn’t he flunk English?
And Lambert, a cabinet maker by trade, admits he didn’t spend much time in the library either, though he did tend bar at Howard’s Club H when it was located where the Wood County Library now sits.
Yet talking to Lambert, it’s clear the man loves a story, and he put the effort into writing some of them down. The result was the book “Living With Earl” which he self-published a year ago. It’s available at Grounds for Thought and Finders downtown as well as online from Amazon or at his website livingwithearl.com.
The book recounts Lambert’s interactions with a mysterious visitor, Earl, who claims to be Mark Twain. Though he’s a spectral presence, he still has mortal needs like food, coffee and getting his laundry done.
Lambert will revisit the site of his old haunts, when he reads from “Living With Earl” Saturday, Dec. 10, at 1 p.m. in the atrium of the Wood County Library.
The reading comes in conjunction with the completion of an audio version of the book, which will be available on Amazon. Professional actor Brian Schell, who Lambert said has a voice similar to Motel 6 pitchman Tom Bodett’s, gives voice to Lambert’s adventures with his quirky visitor.
Lambert, 70, said the book grew out of daily Facebook posts in which he attributed sundry witticisms to Earl, a name he pulled out of thin air. “On this date, according to Earl, the first Dalmatian was spotted” was a typical one. Lambert would put the posts together in the 40 minutes he had in the morning before heading off to work. The posts garnered the stray like or two. Disappointed by the seeming lack of reaction, Lambert announced, that he would cease posting the Earl jokes. He was flooded with protests, and the suggestion he pull some of these stories together into a book.
Along the way Earl had decided he was Mark Twain. The book is a series of vignettes that have Lambert and the strong-willed Earl, talking, disputing, eating, shooting pool, visiting various area locales.
Some of the stories about Lambert are true, others about Earl are made up, and much of the material lies in the netherworld between fact and fancy. Lambert caps off each one with a quotation from Twain that may or may not relate to the story.
Lambert sold nearly 800 copies, both in a hard copies and on Kindle. Thanks to a benefactor, there’s one in every Veterans Administration hospital in the country.
One of the stories in the book tells how Earl, who had absconded with a Mark Twain impersonator’s speaking fees, assisted a woman traveling to see her dying son in a VA hospital.
Lambert said he has gotten encouragement along the way. “People would tell me when I wrote letters, ‘you express yourself well.’” He also audited a few writing classes at Bowling Green State University, and got favorable reactions from professors as he did from mystery writer Judy Fitzwater. She taught a writing workshop at the 577 Foundation that Lambert took after he’d finished his book.
Both Fitzwater and poet Howard McCord, a retired BGSU professor, wrote blurbs for the back of the book.
Being an author has brought surprises, including how much time is spent actually promoting the book. Gone are the days when a writer would produce the manuscript and turn it over to a publisher.
Now, he said, “everyone’s scratching to make a living.”
Lambert added, “I never thought I’d get as much adverse reaction from people I know, and such adulation from people I don’t know. … I’m living proof that everybody has a book in them.”
Now he’s working to show that he has a second book in him. The sequel to “Living With Earl,” he said, is about half done. That’s another story.