Smoky Returns

As regular readers of this blog might recall, I speculated a while back that I might have run out of ideas for literary projects. With the forthcoming publication of two of my books this spring, I had nothing pressing on the horizon, something that hadn’t occurred in over 20 years.

All of that changed a couple weeks ago and it came to me in a dream and an unexpected email the next morning.

Fifteen years ago I struck up a friendship with a man named Smoky Epley. He had recently been released after serving 27 years in federal prison for a string of bank robberies in Oregon. We had connected after he read a review I wrote of a 1973 book called Men in Exile: An Anthology of Creative Writing by Inmates of the Oregon State Penitentiary

Smoky had contributed 20 pieces to the review and knocked me out with his talent.

He emailed me after reading the review, published in the Oregonian in 2008, and we struck up a friendship and I arranged for a gig together to reintroduce him to literary society. That event was truly incredible; Smoky turned in the most riveting literary performance I’ve ever witnessed.

We lost touch for two years but then reconnected after Smoky was arrested for forging a check and sent to state prison for two years. Upon his release, we met up.

I encouraged Smoky to write his memoirs and he sent me 19 installments of a book he called Auto. They stopped after an operation for cancer. He died in 2013.

I have been sitting on Smoky’s manuscript and transcription of a lengthy interview I conducted with him for a decade. I had always wanted to publish it but things dramatically changed in my life seven years ago and I lost sight of the project.

Then I had this dream and Smoky appeared. I remember nothing of the dream except he was there and wearing a fedora.

The next morning, a long lost friend of Smoky’s emailed me that she’d recently had a dream about Smoky and found my writing about him on the internet and wanted to know how he was.

It was an extraordinary coincidence and after responding to Smoky’s friend, I took a walk in bitter cold to contemplate it.

The outline and substance of a book about Smoky came to me during that walk. Ten days later, I had written 20,000 words on Smoky and prepared his manuscript and other writing for publication.

Expect the book out this fall. Working title: The Savage of State Street: The Thieving and Literary Lives of Smoky Epley by Smoky Epley and Matt Love.

I am glad I pay attention to my dreams. More people should and follow up on the allusions and invitations dreams invariably offer. It was seem so foolish not to.