A few years ago, while I was making a not-quite-living writing nonfiction young adult books for a small flat fee, an editor I knew mentioned that he might have a job for me. I don’t really remember the conversation, but I do recall that it was low-paying, per usual, and that the subject of the book was sports gambling. I probably expressed some interest, but then the job never came about. Maybe I said I’d get back to him about it and never did, or maybe he said he’d get back to me and never did. I don’t know. It was around the time when I started teaching college freshman composition classes, a job I’d never done before and that instantly consumed all my time, mostly either in abject terror over what might happen in an upcoming class or in abject shame and embarrassment about what actually had happened in a recent class. With a schedule like that I had to set aside the nonfiction young adult books for a while. But later I discovered a young adult book about sports gambling had been written by “Joshua D.G. Willker.”
I knew enough about the low-paying young adult nonfiction book racket to know that sometimes hard-working editors that had received unusable manuscripts from contracted authors had to hurriedly ghostwrite entire books without getting any authorial credit. Maybe my name had gotten pencilled in and the editor I knew or some other editor had scrambled to hit the deadline by throwing the book together and then, while racing with the manuscript to the local FedEx, had slightly altered the pencilled-in author name by adding an “ua” to the first name, a couple middle initials, and an extra “l” in the last name.
The discovery of this Other (did D.G. stand for “DoppelGanger”?) gave me a sort of sour feeling. I wonder if former Cardinals utility infielder Mike Tyson, shown above in a creased, smeared 1974 card, felt something similar to that when he started to understand that his own name was being eclipsed. If he did, it’s possible, oddly enough, that the feeling wasn’t altogether new. Note the cartoon on the back of his 1974 card:
In other words, it seems likely, given the overwhelming popularity of a certain 1976 Sylvester Stallone film, that—long before the other Mike Tyson—the chipmunk-cheeked Mike Tyson shown here was ribbed by his Cardinals teammates for sharing a name with a boxer.
Or maybe not. Who knows? All I can really say for sure about any of this is that if there actually is someone out there named Joshua D.G. Willker, I hope I never meet him. He sounds like a douche.