In the baseball world, an athlete who competently plays any position is called a utility player. In the blue-collar world, an individual skilled in many crafts is called a Jack of all trades. There is no iconic term for a writer who successfully publishes books in several genres. Paul Theroux is renowned for both fiction and travel memoirs. The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis have entertained children for decades, yet Lewis was also a prolific writer of adult fiction and Christian apologetics. Carl Hiaasen began as a journalist, then turned to humorous crime fiction, middle grade children’s books, and even nonfiction. Abraham Verghese, author of the recent bestseller, Cutting For Stone, published two critically acclaimed memoirs before turning to fiction. This week in #litchat we’re discussing all around writers, those authors whose books are shelved in multiple sections of the bookstore.
Guest host on Friday, August 26, is Elizabeth Letts, author of The Eighty Dollar Champion. Subtitled Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, The Eighty Dollar Champion is the story of a horse with a big heart and the Dutch immigrant who saved him from the slaughterhouse. As a talented young equestrian in Holland prior to World War II, Harry de Leyer dreamed of riding for Holland in the Olympics. When the Nazis occupied his small village in Holland, Harry went from jumping horses for prizes to smuggling food in a brewer’s cart between Nazi checkpoints. Following the war, Harry and his bride left their families and war ravaged village for America to begin a new life. Like many immigrants, life was rocky in the new country, but Harry rediscovered his wings when caring for other people’s horses.
When he is hired as the riding master for an exclusive girls’ boarding school on Long Island, Harry’s fate mingles with a neglected plowhorse headed for the slaughter house. What Harry saw in the horse his children named Snowman was anything but champion, but after several fluke examples of the horse’s amazing jumping ability, Harry risks his reputation and financial stability to train the plowhorse to jump fences in a show arena as well as he does paddock fences on a farm. After a season of winning against big name horses with royal pedigrees, Harry does the unthinkable. He enters Snowman, the flea-bitten gray plowhorse, in the Super Bowl of horse shows, the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. Before the eyes of the world’s upper crust of society, Snowman’s win of the Triple Crown — the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year, Professional Horseman’s Association Champion and National Horse Show Champion, proved to Harry and the world, that champions are more than just breeding, bearing, and beauty. The Eighty Dollar Champion is a double dose of inspiration, a two-in-one story of pursuing dreams, taking risks, and overcoming obstacles.
Elizabeth Letts is the award-winning author of two novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning, and one children’s book, The Butter Man. Quality of Care was a Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and Books-A-Million Book Club selection. An equestrian from childhood, Letts represented California as a junior equestrian, and was runner-up in the California Horse and Rider of the Year competition. She currently lives with her husband and four children in Baltimore, Maryland.
Follow Elizabeth Letts on Twitter: @ElizabethLetts.