Moose was my father’s final great work
In the first of a series of blogs to tie in with the release of the MOOSE audio book, Robbie explains how the book came to be and how important it was to his father, despite its posthumous release.
My father’s memoir MOOSE was originally published in 2013, released to coincide with the release of the motion picture, Saving Mr. Banks. That Disney release, which starred Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, was all about the making of the movie Mary Poppins and, as the songwriters of Mary Poppins, my father and uncle, as it turned out, were major characters in the film.
Unfortunately, my father passed away a year and a half before the film’s release. I will always regret that we weren't able to get the book out in his lifetime because it was probably the great, major work of his last decade. He would have so enjoyed seeing the fruits of his labors realized.
MOOSE was something Dad had worked on, very off and on, since the 1940s. He'd been adding short stories ever since; in the end, there were 54 he settled on. They are all true stories about things that happened to him and the people he had known. What’s particularly interesting is the order in which the stories are laid out.
You see they are not presented in a chronological order. Instead, in what I believe was a stroke of genius, my Dad decided to organise the stories thematically. At first, the order takes you by surprise and is somewhat jarring, but after the third or fourth chapter, you find that you’re going with its flow and you leave your preconceived notions of how a conventional story should be told behind. It’s a curious phenomenon. The journey the reader takes is more like experiencing a series of dreams, all occurring in a thematic direction.
My father completed his first draft of the book back in 2004 and we looked carefully at a host of possible publishers for MOOSE. It was his choice that we go with AuthorHouse (a subsidiary of Penguin Random House) because they let him publish the book the way he wanted. Other publishers insisted on a more conventional storytelling approach but my Dad stuck to his guns. Particularly as this was my Dad’s last testament, after he died, I wanted to ensure that it was published exactly as he intended it, photos and all. AuthorHouse released the print version of MOOSE in late 2013.
For the UK debut of the book, I put together the show A SPOONFUL OF SHERMAN as a launch vehicle. It was something of a “happy, musical memorial” to my father’s life. After each show, I did a book signing (as the book’s editor). My father was all about music, of course. So performing his music, his father’s music and even some of my music seemed like a fitting celebration of his life and times and it served as a way of noting that his music is still very much alive, even though he isn’t. SPOONFUL has since enjoyed its own following which is very gratifying.
This December, with our new publisher Orchard Hill Press at the helm, we are finally releasing the audiobook version of the book. I act as narrator for the audiobook which was a challenge because my father often wrote his characters speaking dialogue, sometimes in different languages! I must have played twenty or thirty characters over the course of reading the 400+ pages of my Dad’s memoirs.