JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The moment an author waits for

Walked into the Manhattan offices of Gotham Books earlier today for a meeting with the publicity department.

Walked out with the first copy of Sweetness: The Engimatic Life of Walter Payton.

Were I Jay-Z or Katy Perry or whoever, I’d be advised to play it cool; to act all laid back and chill. But I can’t, and I never do. Having spent 2 1/2 years on this book; having interviewed nearly 700 people; having dug through thousands upon thousands of articles; having driven my wife and my kids and my friends and my parents crazy with Walter Payton stories; having traveled myriad times to Chicago and Mississippi; having skidded two lanes across the New Jersey Turnpike in the pouring rain (then slamming into a wall); having missed too many events; having stayed up all night in my greasy local diner, trying to pump out words when there was nothing left to pump …

… well, I’m elated.

The book is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I’m not saying the writing, but the actual physical splendor. The type is raised; the colors are sharp and crisp; the picture sections are wonderful laid out. I’ve written four previous books, and the onlt cover I genuinely loved was The Rocket that Fell to Earth—ironically, my least-favorite of the bunch. Sweetness, to me, looks regal.

The writers I know cite different moments as the best. Some love when you hand the final draft in. Others dig seeing it in stores, neatly stacked on the NEW NONFICTION table. To a couple, there’s no joy unless it hits The New York Times‘ best-seller’s list.

For me, it’s here. Now. Holding the book. Feeling the book. Staring down a new baby and knowing it’s yours; that you created it; nurtured it; brought it to life.

And while that last sentence is absolutely inane, it’s inanely true.

Today is a great day.