#circus writer David Lewis Hammarstrom has spent his life chronicling the ups and downs of the American big top through his Showbiz David blog, the pages of The White Tops and Variety, and his many #Books such as "Behind The Big Top" and "Inside The Changing Circus." It's been a thrilling ride, from a boyhood when he admits he was "spoiled" by seeing some of the greatest acts in the biggest circuses that #America has ever seen, to a far less rosy present where, with the closure of the legendary Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus next month, Hammarstrom is forced to wonder if the American circus is in its dying days..
In "Big Top Typewriter," Hammarstrom's immensely personable memoir, however, the changing seasons of the circus are just the backdrop for an equally thrilling roller-coaster ride through his career as a writer. He started early. As a ten-year-old aspiring newspaper baron, he recorded the events in his street in his hand printed Neighbourhood News (circulation: 10). At fourteen his first review was published in circus newspaper The White Tops.
Life in the circus
Hammarstrom has stood on both sides of the spotlight. He celebrated his 21st birthday under canvas, during a summer of ushering and clowning with the Wallace Brothers Circus. The experience taught him how "messy and unpleasant" big top life can be. Later, he served a stint as a press representative for James Brothers Circus, crossing America to boost publicity. Again, the experience proved quite messy and he decided that "my best relationship to any circus was out front in the seats as customer and critic.".
Travels with the circus
There are chapters on Hammarstrom's excursions to Russia and China, to sample the circus scenes in those countries, and also into musical theatre, another of his passions as both critic and creator. Also detailed are his efforts to secure interviews with elusive personalities such as John Ringling North, the subject of his biography, "Big Top Boss."
"Big Top Typewriter" will appeal to circus fans, for its behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the circus industry and the author's encounters with its stars and showmen. But it should also appeal to successful and aspiring writers regardless of their interest in the sawdust circle.
One of Hammarstrom's trademarks has always been his ability to highlight the bad aspects of the circus, as well as the good, and he takes the same approach in revealing his often difficult and frustrating relationships with editors and publishers as he struggles to get his words into print.
He's not afraid to reproduce his bad reviews or reveal his sales figures (something I've never known an author to do) and his candour makes his book a compelling look inside the world of writing and publishing.
Yet, as with his commentary on the circus, the author's frustrations never outweigh his overarching passion, optimism and moments of sheer elation. When his first book was accepted, he writes, "I practically flew through the roof" - and what writer wouldn't know how he felt? Personally, I was cheering him on all the way through this breezy page-turner of a book.
"Big Top Typewriter" is available from Amazon.