By Jack Limpert
Paul Dickson is working on his 68th book—his 67th, Leo Durocher: Baseball’s Prodigal Son, is finished and will be out early next year.
Paul’s 77th birthday was on Saturday, and his publishing output suggests a parallel to the goal of many golfers: shoot your age. Par on most golf courses is 72 and very few golfers can shoot that score, much less at age 72.
Paul has been writing books for 45 years and has published 67. In 10 years, can he come up with 20 more books, publishing his 87th book by his 87th birthday?
Don’t bet against him.
Paul’s first book, Think Tanks, was published in 1971. His eighth book, The Official Rules, was published in 1978 and much of it is still timely.
As an editor in Washington, I loved the wit and insights of The Official Rules and the Washingtonian published an excerpt. Some of the entries:
Baker’s Law: Misery no longer loves company. Nowadays it insists on it. —Russell Baker
Broder’s Law: Anybody who wants the presidency so much that he’ll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be trusted with the office. —David Broder
Brown’s Law: Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance. —Sam Brown
Colson’s Law: If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow. —Poster alleged to have hung in Richard Nixon aide Charles Colson’s office.
Dean’s Law: Washington is a much better place if you are asking the questions rather than answering them. —John Dean
Dirksen’s Three Laws of Politics: 1. Get elected. 2. Get re-elected. 3. Don’t get mad, get even. —Senator Everett Dirksen
Herblock’s Law: If it’s good they’ll stop making it. —Herblock
Kafka’s Tout: In the fight between you and the world, back the world. —Franz Kafka
Mankiewicz’s Environmental Law: People who are excessively concerned about the environment invariably turn out to have a great deal of land. There are damn few unemployed and renters in the ecology movement. —Frank Mankiewicz
McCarthy’s Law: Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important. —Eugene McCarthy
Navy Law: If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, maybe you just don’t understand the situation. —U.S. Navy
Parkinson’s First Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. —C. Northcote Parkinson
Parkinson’s Second Law: Expenditure rises to meet income.—Ibid
Parkinson’s Third Law: An enterprise employing more than 1,000 people becomes a self-perpetuating empire, creating so much internal work that it no longer needs any contact with the outside world. —Ibid
Pierson’s Law: If you’re coasting, you’re going downhill. —L.R. Pierson
Tom Jones Law: Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate. —Dr. Thomas Jones
Weiler’s Law: Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it himself. —A.H. Weiler
After that first compilation of official rules, Paul wrote other books of rules, with the ultimate book of official rules—5,427 of them— published three years ago. Many of his books are collections—one that sells well year after year is Toasts.
Paul loves baseball. His 2012 biography, Bill Veeck—Baseball’s Greatest Maverick, was honored by three organizations of writers, and eight other Dickson books have baseball in the title.
Paul lives in Garrett Park, one of Washington D.C.’s prettiest suburbs, with his wife Nancy, who works with him on his books.
Happy birthday, Paul. Baseball legend Satchel Paige once said, “I never had a job. I always played baseball.” Paul feels the same way about writing books.