During the end of his stay in Philadelphia, Dick Clark was often seen toting a leather briefcase. When asked about its contents, Clark claimed it held the manuscript of a book project he was working on. The book, he said, would be a novel, all about a young man in the music business.
Although Clark was listed as author of several books during his career, he apparently never finished that novel about the music business. He was credited with one work of fiction, however - titled Murder on Tour: A Rock-N-Roll Mystery. Although the title page clearly says "By Dick Clark" and the back page of the book's dust cover features a huge photo of Clark, his actual role in the book's publication was minimal.
To begin with, Clark didn't write the book, which was published in 1989. Nor was it even his idea. The whole project stemmed from the fertile mind of Bill Adler, sometimes described as "the P.T. Barnum of books." Adler, who was six months older than Clark, had built a career by conceptualizing a book, rushing it through the production process then unabashedly hustling it in the marketplace. He was cranking out as many as 25 books a year in the 1980s, including books on the wit and wisdom of Richard Nixon, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
Adler had worked with Clark previously, on the little-read Dick Clark’s Easygoing Guide to Good Grooming and Looking Great, Staying Young. This time around, Adler's original notion was to dash off a mystery novel about a game show. When Clark nixed that idea, Adler replied "Well, how about a rock 'n' roll tour?" With Clark's consent, Adler went in search of a ghost writer.
He found one in Paul Engleman, a Chicagoan with strong writing credentials. Engleman, who received half of the $15,000 advance, began work on an outline for the book, which he thought was to be called Murder on American Bandstand. Adler summoned him to a meeting with Clark in New York.
Clark couldn't make it, but Adler and Engleman hammered out details for the book. The book should have nothing to do with Bandstand, Adler said, adding that Clark would be happy with a mystery with a story line built on the rock music business. In addition, Adler promised that Clark would handle promotion of the book and Clark's production company would have first refusal of movie and TV rights.
Adler and Engleman would share the advance (Clark took nothing) but author credit would be shared by Adler and Clark "with Paul Engleman." Suspecting that the project may not further his writing career, Engleman opted to used the pseudonym "Paul Francis."
Engleman's dealings with Clark consisted of a few phone calls. Clark was cordial and supportive, Engleman said in an article about his experience in the Nov. 21, 1991, Chicago Reader, but his fears about the project being a potential career albatross were borne out by reviews after the book was released in January 1989.
Publishers Weekly said Murder on Tour had "a so-so plot and thin characterizations." People magazine was more blunt, describing the characters as "finger painted" and the dialogue as "stilted," adding "the book's most annoying trait is the way clunky pop music references are dropped into the text from a great height."
Dick Clark, as it turned out, didn't promote the book at all. He told Engleman that he wouldn't feel right claiming ownership of a book he didn't actually write. That position was likely solidified by the book's quick route to bookstores' remainder bins. Despite the book's short shelf life in 1989, it was resurrected briefly in 2004 in a new edition by Grand Central Publishing.
Adler didn't skip a beat after the disappointment of Murder on Tour. In 1995, he put together what would be the biggest hit of his publishing career, the immortal Cats' Letters to Santa. He died in March 2014 at age 84.
Bandstandland update. The fourth draft of the book has been completed and letters are being sent to prospective agents. Although that sounds like the book is done, it's not. Some of you are waiting for phone calls from me to complete interviews, which are continuing. As soon as I shake a nagging cold, I'll be in touch. It's not too late for the rest of you, either. If you have stories of your Philadelphia Bandstand experience to share, contact me. Depending on how the agent/publisher search goes, I hope to have Bandstandland available soon.