SHRAKE, EDWIN ALAN (1931 ~ 2009). The following is an obituary for author Edwin Alan "Bud" Shrake. The obituary was furnished by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home.
"When news of the passing of Edwin Shrake, Jr. reached one of the Southwest's eminent critics last week, the man reflected, 'Bud was my literary hero,' adding that his wife 'thought he was the best looking guy in Texas.'
That was the kind of estimate that the tall fellow with the easy and amiable grin lugged through his 77 years, shouldering it like a bag of his treasured golf clubs. His parents, Edwin A. Sr. and Ruth Shrake, nicknamed him Buddy soon after his birth in 1931. He spent the first part of his boyhood in the country town of Mansfield, then grew up on the outskirts of Fort Worth, attending Paschal High. The home place had a few cows, chickens, and a fruit orchard; across the street was a golf course where Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson caddied for his dad. It was in Fort Worth in the early 1950s that, while still a student at TCU, he began to find his voice writing about crime, sports, and racial strife for the often sensationalist Press. Bud persuaded another young reporter, Gary Cartwright, to come over from the more uptown Star-Telegram. The papers divided the abundant talent in town during much of that period, but for a few months a now-legendary team came together at the seedy underdog Press. Hectored and mentored by their boss Blackie Sherrod and running with his compatriots Cartwright and Dan Jenkins, Bud loped through his beats wearing a snap-brim fedora. Notebook in hand, Cartwright knelt and posed while interviewing a chimpanzee.
The Dallas Times-Herald and then the Morning News soon hired Bud away to a bigger audience and stage. He chronicled the birth of the Dallas Cowboys and knocked down shots in Jack Ruby's bar; when the city and nation convulsed in November 1963 Bud's girlfriend was Ruby's star stripper. Two years later, until somebody forgot to pay certain bills, the Morning News' star columnist lent his local celebrity to an in-crowd bar called Bud Shrake West. For kicks Bud, Gary, and Blackie Sherrod costumed themselves and bounded across night club stages in a purported acrobatic act called the Flying Punzars. The stunts invariably devolved into pratfall comedy. Bud was married and divorced twice in those years to a college English professor, Joyce Rogers. They had two sons, Ben and Alan.
The newborn Sports Illustrated snatched Jenkins to New York, shortly followed by Bud. The editors told him his byline had to be his more distinguished birth name, Edwin, and he consented to that for some years. He embarked on a globe-roaming odyssey for the magazine and, after a whirlwind romance and marriage to a young assistant editor from Long Island named Doatsy Sedlmayr, he reveled in Manhattan night life, a regular at Elaine's and Toots Shor's. Bud hauled Doatsy to a culture shock in Texas' Big Thicket, producing a freelance piece that Willie Morris said was one of the two best stories he published during his famed tenure at Harper's. Bud was also working hard on fiction. His third novel, 'Blessed McGill,' portrayed a reflective killer who roamed Texas and Mexico after the Civil War and wound up beatified by the Catholic Church. It was one of the pioneers of a literary western genre that also enticed E.L. Doctorow, Larry McMurtry, and Cormac McCarthy. Bud took a leave from the magazine, and living with Doatsy in London, around the corner from Mick Jagger, he wrote 'Strange Peaches,' his novel about the Dallas underworld, the Kennedy assassination, and the counter-cultural juggernaut of the 1960s. McMurtry, often tight with his praise, called it "a brilliant novel." Bud knew and sang countless Broadway show tunes, even the obscure lead-ins. But he was not going to stand aside, an old fogey, while others frolicked in a music sensation set off by the Beatles and its attendant chemical and sensual pleasures.
Bud conned his editors into letting him move to Austin; he and Doatsy, later a prominent real estate agent and broker in the city, arrived just in time to be a part of the seventies revelry of Mad Dog Inc. and the newly opened Armadillo World Headquarters. For a while one would see Bud smoking a cheroot and wearing cowboy hat and boots at Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnics. Bud's writer pals included Larry L. King, Pete Gent, Bill Wittliff, and Billy Lee Brammer. Bud said that Brammer's LBJ-era political novel 'The Gay Place' demonstrated to him for the first time that it was possible to live in and write about Texas and still excel in the profession. He had a short productive screenwriting phase, which produced a friendship with Dennis Hopper, several movies that got made, and a memorable feature, 'Tom Horn,' starring Steve McQueen. Bud's eternal best friend and sometime screenwriting collaborator ('Kid Blue' with Hopper and Peter Boyle the cult classic) was Cartwright. One night a Texas Monthly editor and his wife had a party; the editor's bachelorhood was recent enough that they still had his pool table in the living room. Bud and Gary put on a demonstration of Shakespearean Pool, matching each other with gloriously unrehearsed Bard-like gibberish as cue balls jumped the rails and clattered across the floor. Bringing in songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker to replace Blackie Sherrod, Bud and Gary revived the Flying Punzars. The late-night performances always ended with a thunderous crash, and a man as tall as Bud could fall a long way.
His third marriage fell prey to those turbulent years, and a doctor told him that if he didn't straighten up he wasn't going to survive. He produced a novel, 'Night Never Falls,' about a globe-roaming reporter who witnessed the fall of the French in Vietnam at the battle of Dien Bien Phu. Bud said he wrote it to see if he could deliver without the vices that were killing him. As the years passed he played many rounds of golf, wrote books with Willie Nelson and football coach Barry Switzer, and found his financial goldmine with a most decent gesture - writing 'Harvey Penick's Little Red Book' for Austin's revered teacher of golf champions Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. The long-shot project became the best-selling sports book of all time.
The success freed Bud to write anything he wanted to. He wasn't reclusive in his Westlake Hills home but he was dodgy - one of the last known Texans to subscribe to a telephone answering service. Bud was known to scoff at aspects of organized Christianity, yet his character possessed a deeply rooted religious side, which surfaced in another novel of nineteenth century Texas, 'The Borderland,' that had defied his imagination for twenty years; and 'Billy Boy,' a return to the Fort Worth of his boyhood. One writer friend commented of the latter that he thought he had zero interest in a book about angels and golf; and then he couldn't put it down.
Bud became the frequent date and movie-going companion of the divorced Ann Richards, a friend from the Armadillo and Mad Dog, Inc. years. Like Bud, she had been obliged to put her hard-drinking days behind her. Neither of them really anticipated that she would be elected governor of Texas. Bud said he dreaded their dances at the inaugural balls in 1990, but the steps came to him as instinctively and gracefully as those first newspaper columns and novels. They went steady, as they liked to put it, for the last 17 years of her life.
Bud wrote another fine historical novel, 'Custer's Brother's Horse,' and, little known to Austin area denizens, he was writing plays produced in London. When his illness was diagnosed last fall he plunged into another novel about adventurers in Mexico, hired a car and driver so he and Cartwright could drive up to Dallas and celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Blackie Sherrod, and was looking forward to an upcoming Long Center production of his drama 'The Friend of Carlos Monzon.' Monzon was an Argentine world boxing champion whom Bud traveled to write about for Sports Illustrated in the seventies. Bud stood out in the wrong bar fracas at the wrong time and tried to explain to the policemen, 'Yo soy periodista,' (I am a newspaperman). They thought he said, 'Yo soy peronista,' meaning he was a champion of the highly controversial dictator Juan Perón. He was locked up as his editors in New York desperately tried to find him for quite a long time.
At a private funeral service for Ann Richards in 2006, Bud's eloquent farewell for a while overshadowed even the droll send-off of her friend Lily Tomlin. Ever the romantic, he'll be buried near her grave in the State Cemetery.
Bud is survived by his brother, Bruce Shrake; his sons Ben and Alan Shrake; his grandchildren Dawna, Caleb, Heather, and Jesse Shrake; and great-grandchildren Raquel, Tiffany, and David de la Fuente.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar Blvd. Interment follows at the State Cemetery, which is bounded by East 7th and East 11th Streets."
Further information is available through the Texas State Cemetery research department.