Author: Robert Creenan
A new book from local publisher No Frills Publishing, Stay Away from Lions, is a black comedy from J. Matthew Smith and Patrick Reynolds. The authors are both Buffalo natives and St. Bonaventure University graduates. The fictional book details the life of Tommy Patton, a South Buffalo hoodlum who ends up doing a stretch of time at the Erie County Jail. Once out, he finds that life on the outside isn’t exactly what he hoped for. A mob boss has sent a henchman after him to repay a debt, which is exactly what Patton doesn’t need. Through a strange twist, Patton and the henchmen find themselves in cahoots, which is where the story gets very interesting and lives begin to unravel.
The book sort of happened on a lark, as Smith and Reynolds went to college together, at St. Bonaventure, and stayed in touch through social media. They were fans of each other’s writing style and Pat one day asked if he wanted to do a project together to amuse themselves. “The plan was, he’d write a page, send it to me, and then I’d write a page and send it back to him,” Smith said. “And the rule was that we could not discuss with the other where the story was headed. We could not discuss plot or anything. We could only write off what the other did. We were kind of amazed how seamless it was. And in the end, we said, ‘Hey, we might have something here.’
The idea for the story just developed as they wrote. “As we traded pages, it was interesting to see where we would lead one another. I think too, there were instances where we tried to drop bombs one the other, to kind of throw in a curve to see where the other would take the story. Half way through, it became clear that not only was our main character a bad person, the other people around him were worse.”
The writing process took about six months in fits and spurts. The process was as fun as the product in that this give-and-take, back-and-forth method we employed was a way to interact again regularly. That was as much a part of the objective as the end product. “I haven’t lived in Buffalo in decades but there’s a cadence we shared that put us back there in no time.”
This is Reynold’s first book, having been the CMO of Tweeter Home Entertainment. Meanwhile, this is Smith’s second, having written a previous book titled Jailed By My Father: Tales of Tough Love, Bad Haircuts and O.J. which was a collection of essays about growing up in Buffalo and the relationship he had with his blue-collar father. He lives in the Albany area and has worked for a number of daily newspapers and the Associated Press.
One of the things about being from Buffalo is that there’s this huge diaspora,” Reynolds said. “There are Buffalonians everywhere and all we talk about is Buffalo. The food, the music, the teams, the look and sound of it. Writing this was a way to be there when we couldn’t. We brought it back to life for our self-soothing as much or more than the readers’ enjoyment if we’re honest.”
The book is available for sale on Amazon.com in both paperback and in Kindle version. It can also be purchased through No Frills Buffalo the publisher and at Powells.com, Barnesandnoble.com, ECKO.com. It will also soon be available at Western New York bookstores such as Talking Leaves; Dog Ears Bookstore; The Second Reader; Monkey See, Monkey Do; Lift Bridge Books in Brockport; and Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca. If you must purchase it online, then do so. But try to make it a point to support your local bookstore.