Edwin “Bud” Shrake Papers
Scope and Contents
One hundred and fifty-two boxes of typescripts, galley proofs, notes, research files, correspondence, and artifacts, among other items, document the life and career of Edwin “Bud” Shrake (1931-2009). The collection is arranged into following series: Periodicals (1953-2006), Fiction (1959-2008), Screenplays/Teleplays (1970-1994), Playscripts (1977-1994), Non-fiction, Anthologies, Correspondence, Financial Papers, Corporations, Legal Papers, Research, Personal Papers and Other Writers, Correspondence (1936-2009, undated), Financial Papers (1963-2000), Corporations (1969-1995, undated), Legal Papers (1977-1997), Research (circa 1954-2006), Personal Papers (1901-2009, undated) and Other Writers, 1968-2007, undated).The Edwin “Bud” Shrake Papers reflectShrake’s 58-year career as a professional sportswriter, journalist, fiction writer, script writer, and non-fiction writer. Numerous drafts of his books and screenplaysin the Works series give insight into Shrake’s creative process.The many correspondence files show his relationship through the years with various editors, agents, friends, family members and fellow writers. Other aspects of Shrake’s life like financial and legal matters, and personal effects like artwork and scrapbooks, are represented in the later series.
- Majority of material found within 1953-2009
- Shrake, Edwin (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
The Correspondence series contains restricted folders. Please see an archivist for information about these restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Materials from the Wittliff Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user assumes responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish, and abiding by U.S. copyright laws. https://www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/research/visit/policies/publication.html
Edwin “Bud” Shrake Jr. was born to Ruth and Edwin Shrake Sr. in Fort Worth, Texas on September 6, 1931. He was their first child, and took an early interest in writing and painting. By the fifth grade, Shrake had written his first short story, an adventure about World War II fighter pilots. In 1946 he entered Paschal High School in Fort Worth, and quickly became good friends with junior Dan Jenkins. The two future sportswriters, lifelong buddies and sometime-collaborators got their start writing for the Paschal Pantherette, the school newspaper.
Following high school Shrake enrolled for a year at Texas Christian University, then transferred to The University of Texas at Austin. After two semesters at UT, he returned to Fort Worth and with the help of Jenkins, found part-time work at the Fort Worth Press. Soon Shrake was working full-time at the Press alongside Jenkins and under the tutelage of sports-page editor, Blackie Sherrod. Shrake also returned to TCU, this time majoring in English and philosophy, and married Shakespearean scholar, Joyce Rogers.
In 1953, Shrake, having graduated from TCU, went to New York City to try to land a journalism job there. The New York Herald-Tribune showed interest in his writing, but then Shrake was called up to active duty in the army reserves. Shrake served stateside for two years, and in that time divorced and remarried Joyce. In 1955 he returned to Fort Worth, looking to pick up where he left off.
The Fort Worth Press hired Shrake back, but this time as a police reporter. Working his beat, he met another life-long friend and collaborator, Gary Cartwright, who reported for the rival newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Over the next few years, Shrake honed his skills at writing fiction and secured a literary agent. In 1958, Sherrod, having moved to the Dallas Times Herald, convinced Shrake to return to sports writing there. Shrake found success as a sportswriter at the Times Herald, and began to find some as a fiction and script writer too, selling his first short story and teleplay around this time. He also was determined to finish and publish his first novel, a western set among the Comanche and early settlers of Texas.
That novel, titled Blood Reckoning, was published by Bantam in 1962, and found some success in the pulp paperback market. Shrake by this time had moved to the Dallas Morning News as a sports columnist. His marriage to Joyce deteriorated a second time, and she left him, taking their two young boys with her. Shrake was hard at work on a second, more serious novel, when he met Doubleday editor Ken McCormick, who expressed great interest in the partial manuscript he had read on the sly in Shrake’s apartment.
Shrake worked out a deal with the Morning News to be their “foreign correspondent” so he could travel Europe and finish the novel, which he did. In January 1964 Doubleday published But Not For Love and later that year he rejoined Dan Jenkins, this time in New York City at Sports Illustrated. The magazine's editor, Andre Laguerre, recognized Shrake’s literary talents and sent him on more in-depth assignments as well as having him do the typical game reportage. Again Shrake used these traveling assignments to spend time researching and writing his fiction. His travels to the Southwest and Mexico in 1966-67 coincided with his work on a black-humor western set in the same locals.
Doubleday, wanting a book from Shrake on Dallas at the time of the Kennedy assassination, did not support his new novel, Blessed McGill. Although the book, published in January 1968, received favorable attention from literary writers and respected critics, Doubleday did very little to promote it, and the book soon disappeared from the bookshelves. Around this time Shrake made an arrangement with Laguerre that he could keep his job at Sports Illustrated and live somewhere else. Shrake chose Austin, Texas as his new home base, and moved there with Doatsy Shrake (nee Sedlmayr), whom he had married in 1966.
The next novel Shrake wrote, while on assignment in Asia for Sports Illustrated, was a Satyricon-inspired romp set among Texas oil barons, but he had trouble finding a publisher. In the spring of 1971, he went to London to write Strange Peaches, set in Dallas just before and after the Kennedy assassination. Largely autobiographical and based on actual events, Strange Peaches was published by Harper’s Press in May 1972, but again disappeared quickly due to almost total lack of marketing effort by the publisher.
Around this time Shrake started turning his attention outside Sports Illustrated to screenwriting. His first two scripts, “Dime Box” and “J.W. Coop” (co-written with Gary Cartwright) were both produced, although the former was released (as Kid Blue) almost two years after production, with very little studio support behind it, and the latter resulted in a high-publicity court case versus the star, Cliff Robertson. This manner of frustrations and near-misses would follow Shrake for the next fifteen years or so as he wrote or co-wrote at least forty-two screenplays and teleplays, many of which were sold to studios but only seven of which actually made it to the screen, including Kid Blue and J.W. Coop.
Shrake did get two books published in the 1970s: Peter Arbiter—the Texas Satyricon novel—by Encino Press in 1973; and Limo—co-written with Dan Jenkins—by Atheneum in 1976. Much of the decade was spent on writing screenplays, partying with fellow members of Mad Dog Inc. (a satirical company he founded with Cartwright in 1970), and traveling on assignments for Sports Illustrated. However, by 1978 Shrake parted ways with the magazine to focus on an ambitious new novel about the early days of the Republic of Texas, and to keep pursuing a breakthrough in Hollywood. In 1979 and 1980 he saw two of his scripts turned into feature films: Nightwing, and Tom Horn, respectively.
Two more productions of Shrake’s scripts followed in 1984: Songwriter and Pancho Villa’s Wedding Day. Songwriter, starring Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, was released by Tri-Star. Yet again, however, marketing mishaps and neglect doomed the work to near-oblivion, despite being well-received by the critics. Pancho Villa’s Wedding Day was a movie script (under various versions and titles) that Shrake turned into a stage play. The play had two successful runs in Austin that year, first at the Zachary Scott Theatre then at the Austin Opry House.
That same year a doctor warned Shrake that he would have to clean up his lifestyle or he would be dead within six months. Shrake decided he better follow the doctor’s orders, and in 1985 he returned to fiction again. His epic novel about the Republic of Texas, titled “Plum Creek,” had been put aside due to lack of publisher interest. Instead he worked on a novel (Night Never Falls) about an alter-ego foreign correspondent who finds himself at Dien Bien Phu and revolutionary Algeria, among other locals. Shrake made a pact with himself to not only write the book without drinking booze, smoking cigarettes or snorting cocaine, but to not even mention Texas in it. Random House published the book in 1987. Then good friend Willie Nelson proposed something new: help him write Nelson’s autobiography. Bud set out interviewing numerous acquaintances of Willie’s, as well as Willie himself, and crafted a book that was told from both subject’s and acquaintances’ perspectives. Simon & Schuster published Willie in 1988, and it quickly became a best-seller. Bud Shrake had his first commercial hit on his hands, and it wouldn’t be his last, or his biggest.
Another as-told-to biography immediately followed in 1990, this time of football coach Barry Switzer. The book was another best-seller, but it wasn’t until Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, published in 1993, that Shrake really hit the big-time. As with Willie and Barry, Harvey was Bud’s longtime friend who had a book deal and asked Shrake to collaborate with him. In this case, what Bud was working with was Harvey’s lifetime of golfing wisdom, rather than his life story. The resulting Little Red Book was an instant phenomenon among golfers and became the best-selling sports book of all time. Three sequels quickly followed, along with an anthology and a boundless number of spin-off products.
Meanwhile, another movie collaboration with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson was completed, this time for television. Another Pair of Aces, based on a script titled “RIP,” co-written with Cartwright and dating back to the seventies, was produced in Austin and aired on CBS. Having been divorced from Doatsy for about ten years by now, Shrake became serious with old friend Ann Richards, shortly before she was elected governor of Texas in 1990. Bud accompanied Ann to many state functions during her four-year tenure. They remained close friends and companions until her death in 2006.
His foray into non-fiction having paid-off handsomely, Shrake returned once again to his first love, fiction. In 1996 he dusted off the “Plum Creek” novel after having let it sit untouched for almost 15 years. Numerous name changes and rewrites followed, and The Borderland was finally published, by Hyperion, in 2000. The next year Scribner published Billy Bud, a shorter, coming-of-age novel about a young golfer in 1950s Fort Worth.
In 2002, Shrake’s writing returned to the stage, this time in London for Benchmark, a collaborative effort with stage writer and director Michael Rudman, another long-time friend. Starting around 2005, Shrake worked on a play eventually titled The Friend of Carlos Monzon, based on his experience in prison in Argentina in 1972 while on assignment there for Sports Illustrated. This play eventually was performed posthumously as an experimental, multi-media stage reading in 2010 at the Long Center in Austin. Also in the mid-2000s and in collaboration with Rudman, came Jack, a play set in Jack Ruby’s nightclub in Dallas the night after the JFK assassination. To date, this play has yet to be produced.
While recuperating from kidney-removal surgery in late 2001, Shrake died and had an out-of-body experience with silent visitors who took him away, before being revived by hospital personnel. This life-changing experience would resurface in what would become his last-published novel, Custer’s Brother’s Horse. Set amid the chaos of post-Civil-War Texas, the book completed a trilogy of early Texas history that Shrake had written, with The Borderland and Blessed McGill being the other two. Another late-period novel that Shrake completed was a pseudo-memoir called “Malibu Zulu,” written under a pen name and based on his experiences in Hollywood while working with Steve McQueen on Tom Horn. This novel was published in 2020 as Hollywood Mad Dogs as part of The Wittliff Collections Literary Series.
Shrake enjoyed a double round of press attention with Custer’s Brother’s Horse in late 2007 and Land of the Permanent Wave in the spring of 2008, an anthology of his writing that covers his entire career. In the fall of 2008, Shrake found out he had inoperable lung cancer. Over the past seven years he had beaten cancer twice before, so he began chemo treatment optimistically, and true to form, kept busy writing. He was working on a crime caper set in Fort Worth and Mexico in the 1950s at the time, but his health quickly deteriorated from the chemo, and he passed away on May 8, 2009. He is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, next to Ann Richards.
Although Shrake enjoyed the respect of critics and peers from New York to Hollywood, his talents have been most recognized by those in his home state. In 1987 he received a star on the Texas Walk of Fame, in Austin, along with Jenkins, Cartwright and Larry L. King. Later in life, he received two awards for his career in letters: the Texas Bookend Award from the Texas Book Festival, in 2002, and the Lon Tinkle Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Institute of Letters, in 2003.
In 2004, TCU Press published The Wittliff Collections' curator Steven L. Davis’Texas Literary Outlaws, a biography of Shrake, Cartwright, King, Jenkins, Billy Lee Brammer and Peter Gent. The book also serves as an invaluable chronicle and critique of these six men’s literary achievements and intertwining friendships. In the concluding chapter, Davis addresses Shrake’s talents and legacy:
“Shrake’s refusal to be typecast alienated New York publishers because it kept them from building a market for his work. But the artistry apparent in each novel endures. The relative paucity of critical attention on Bud Shrake has deflected understanding of the sophisticated narrative techniques employed in his best work” (Texas Literary Outlaws, p. 455).
Davis then goes on to highlight what he considers Shrake’s four best novels, and contends they deserve to stand beside the works of celebrated writers like Terry Southern, Leslie Marmon Silko, Ken Kesey and Kurt Vonnegut.
Many of Shrake’s early books have been republished and remain in print to this day. Blessed McGill and Strange Peaches were both republished by Texas Monthly Press in 1987, and again by John M. Hardy Publishing Company in 2007. But Not For Love got a second chance by TCU Press in 2000. Limo was also republished in 2000, by Duane Press. Willie, The Borderland, Billy Boy, and the Harvey Penick books remain in print.
As for his films, J.W. Coop, Nightwing, Tom Horn and Songwriter are all available on DVD, Shortly before he passed away, Shrake recorded a commentary track with Gary Cartwright for an American DVD release of Kid Blue.
A.C. Greene named Blessed McGill in 1981 as one of Texas' fifty best books, describing it as having "an appreciation for the absurdities of existence, a recognition of irony's major role in the world, [and] highly suggestive humor" (Texas Monthly, Aug. 1981). The same compliment could be said for much of Shrake’s work through the years, whether writing about crime on the police beat in Fort Worth, boxers and poker players on assignment for Sports Illustrated, filthy-rich and eccentric Dallasites in his novels, old-west and country-music outlaws in his movies, or a famous country singer, a football coach and a golf guru in his non-fiction.
Bingamon, Brant. Interviews with Shrake via e-mail. 2008-2009. Cartwright, Gary. “Shrake’s Progress.” Texas Monthly. April 2000. Davis, Steven L., editor. Land of the Permanent Wave. UT Press, 2008. Davis, Steven L. Texas Literary Outlaws. TCU Press, 2004. Minor, Joel and Steve Davis interview with Shrake. November 18, 2008.
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Language of Materials
Metadata Rights Declarations
- The descriptive data created for this finding aid is licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons license and is free for use without restriction.
The Edwin “Bud” Shrake Papers reflect Shrake’s 58-year career as a professional sportswriter, journalist, fiction writer, script writer, and non-fiction writer. The collection is arranged into the following series: Periodicals, Fiction, Screenplays/Teleplays, Playscripts, Non-fiction, Anthologies, Correspondence, Financial Papers, Corporations, Legal Papers, Research, Personal Papers and Other Writers. The first six series comprise the bulk of the collection, with drafts, notes, contracts and other documents pertaining to his many writing projects.
Materials may be stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use: https://www.thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/research/makearesearchappointment.html.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Bud Shrake, Ben Shrake, Bill Wittliff, Jody Gent, and the Austin History Center, 1987-2010
A number of Sports Illustrated issues, along with duplicate copies of other magazines, have been moved from the Shrake Papers to The Wittliff Collection’s cataloged items. A list of these issues is available upon request. The issues can be found in the online catalog as well. All articles by or about Shrake were photocopied and/or printed from the Internet for the collection.
A DVD of photographs of Bud Shrake’s office/studio, taken by Austin Photography on November 7, 2009, is available to view upon request (Accession #2009-131).
The Edwin “Bud” Shrake Papers, completed in 2011 by Joel Minor, is the result of integrating two previously-processed collections and numerous unprocessed collections. One collection, processed in 1993 by Gwyneth Cannan, consisted of papers Shrake, Wittliff and Gentdonated directly tothe Southwestern Writers Collection. The second collection was transferred from the Austin History Center to the Southwestern Writers Collection, per Shrake’s request, in 2003. This collection had been donated to the Austin History Center by Shrake in 1978, and processed there in 1990 by Amanda McCallum and revised in 2003 by Ruth Baker.
- Guide to the Edwin "Bud" Shrake Papers
- Gwynedd Cannan (1993) and Joel Minor (2011)
- 1993, 2011
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
- 2011: Revised by Joel Minor, integrating two previously processed collections and numerous unprocessed collections.
- 2021: Revised for ArchivesSpace by Susannah Broyles.