The Lakewood People:
Persistance Rewarded - Mike Looney's First Novel Is a Personal Home Run

Never give up. That’s the theme of Mike Looney’s new book, Heroes Are Hard To Find – and it’s also been a necessary reminder in his efforts to get this work published.

15 years in the making, his book began from hearing a story on a newscast. The concept gradually evolved from a movie script (its first form) into the book, which came to fruition with the help of an ex-pro football player, Hollywood producers, and his family and friends.

“I don’t think that I am a particularly good writer, but I wrote a great story,” Mr. Looney said. “If there is one thing that my kids learn from this, I hope I have taught them tenacity and to never give up on their dreams.”

Mr. Looney said he remembers watching a newscast detailing the legal troubles of then Cincinnati Reds manger Pete Rose. Following that story was a clip about a Little League team and their coach, a hardware salesman, winning the Little League World Series.

“The crazy thing was that Pete Rose would have been the worst coach those kids could have had even though he was a great professional player,” he said. “And this hardware salesman was great. And I thought I could write a story where the amateurs could influence the pros.”

Because Mr. Looney wasn’t an avid writer or reader at the time, he decided to develop a screenplay. He pitched the story idea to his filmmaker friend, but his friend encouraged Mike to write it on his own.

“I can still remember that first night writing the first page,” he said. “And I thought ‘Wow, this is cool,’ and then I was hooked.”

After finishing the screenplay, Mr. Looney made several trips to Los Angeles and met with producers and film executives. He found people who liked his idea, but deals kept falling through.

So he adapted the screenplay’s story into book format. Many agents and publishers would recommend it, but no one would publish it. At last, PublishAmerica agreed to distribute the novel.

Two of Mr. Looney’s friends, Charlie Waters, a former Dallas Cowboy player, and Blake Miles, an architect and general contractor, illustrated the cover and inside art for the book.

“This may have been my biggest challenge,” said Charlie Waters, who painted the art for the front cover. “It was like Chinese brush painting where it takes three hours to make ink and 15 minutes to make the art. I was inspired by Mickey Mantle in 1957 in the on-deck circle, and then I tried to tie in subtleties from the book.”

Although Mr. Waters is best known for his football ability, he says he has drawn his whole life. After retiring from his coaching position with the Denver Broncos, he has had more time to express himself in art.

“I remember as a boy I wanted a football for Christmas, but instead I got an art easel,” Mr. Waters said. “My mom must have recognized my talent, and it was a good gift because I became interested in drawing.”

Blake Miles, who illustrated the inside art, chose east Dallas sites Woodrow Wilson High School and Harrell’s drug store for his scenes.

“You’d have to know Blake,” Mr. Looney said of his oldest high school friend. “He’s a free spirit. He drives Harley Davidsons in the middle of the night and plays the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. He’s just an amazing character.”

Mr. Miles drew the pictures after reading the book. He said he enjoyed the story because he identified with the history. “So much of this book is based on our growing up together,” Mr. Miles said.

Mr. Looney says his book is really not a sports book. “It’s not going to be what you think it is,” he said. “It is a story of good and evil, reconciliation and relationships, a simple book that covers the gauntlet of life.”

After 15 years and a great deal of effort and collaboration, Mr. Looney said he feels that his story is finally taking off. And he’s still not giving up on the big screen.
“This should be a movie,” he said. “And if I live long enough, it will be.”

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