A St. Louis Ghost: Glenn Savan
by Joe Schwartz
St. Louis author, Glenn Savan, died in 2003 at the age of 49. His publications include White Palace and Goldman’s Anatomy.
I remember reading White Palace by Glenn Savan for two distinct reasons. Although it was an excellent book full of emotion and thoughtfully written, that is not why I recall it. It is the amazing effect that simply carrying around that book had on perfect strangers. People felt compelled to tell me how they actually had known the author. As a regular reader it is the first time I ever experienced such an intimacy toward a writer. He was a real person who had lived and worked in the same city I did, and like myself, felt compelled to write about it. He wasn’t Steinbeck or Hemingway larger than life and inaccessible. This was a guy who I could’ve bumped into at the local library or bookstore.
I was sad to learn of Glenn’s death as I read his book. Through his work, perfectly written passages depicting real life St. Louis, I almost feel as if I have met the man. His books are him still speaking, reaching out posthumously to a city that is rarely celebrated by outsiders but is held in high esteem by its residents. His books are made of the things anthropologists will study millennia from now to figure out how we simple Mid-westerners lived so long ago. Yet, I’m sure that isn’t what he had in mind.
His words weren’t meant for posterity but clarity. It is one thing to live in a place all your life. However, it is a beautiful thing to be able to transcend anyplace through the power of story, descriptions void pretense so much as to be thought being told these things by a close friend. Which oddly enough brings me to my second point regarding Savan–it is because he did it, made it look so effortless and simple, that I too believed I could as well.
I’ve always thought that St. Louis was as interesting as any New York, Miami, Boston, or L.A. The evening news stories, no matter how bland or concise, were more interesting to me than the Hollywood dramas that followed. How could a man walk into a bar, kill another man, then set down his weapon and drink a beer as he waited for the police to arrive? Or what became of a family after a son committed suicide to avoid a prison sentence he rightly deserved? And just how could a mother use and sell narcotics while she drove around town with her infant son crying in the backseat? These questions were a thousand times more intriguing to me than who shot J.R. because they were relevant to where I lived, to the people I actually knew.
That is the gritty realism that I’ve yearned for in storytelling. A hard, unvarnished style of fiction that rarely is told and even less embraced. My St. Louis is the one mired in abject poverty. It is a fertile breeding ground for the hustlers and the malcontents, the disaffected yearning to be intoxicated, and the downtrodden praying for death to come like rain in a desert. I love these people and want to tell their stories over and over again.
In the end I can only hope to accomplish what Glenn Savan has, the gold standard by which all writers are judged, and that is to have being well read. To have had your written words lovingly cared for by readers, strangers now intimate as lovers to a secret world that has no existence outside the story, the book, and the private universe that is worthless as the paper it is printed on without a reader to share them with.
Joe Schwartz has a terrific, fast paced storytelling style that never wastes a word, constantly entertains, and demands to be read. He is a writer following in the footsteps of Dashiell Hammett, Donald Goines, and Chuck Palahniuk. A St. Louis native, Joe Schwartz writes exclusively about the Gateway City. His first book, Joe’s Black T-Shirt published in 2009 has been read over six thousand times on www.SCRIBD.com and has sold hundreds of copies. His latest book, The Games Men Play is a collection of short stories.