J. Michael Kenyon refused to read my last book.
After reading Bluegrass Brawlers and Lord Carlton, JMK refused to read Louisville’s Greatest Show. He got a few pages in before he gave up and emailed me back. The draft I thought I had proofread fairly well was not nearly up to his standards. The legendary Seattle sports writer is a stickler for proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, the words, and he would have found it nearly impossible to read the manuscript for historical errors with all those distractions in the way.
Two weeks later I emailed him again, this time with a thoroughly proofed and edited version of the same book. Thankfully, this draft passed muster, and he was able to get out of the introduction and into the meat of the book. Of course he found a handful of historical errors that needed correcting, but that’s why I sent it to him. The man was a walking encyclopedia of wrestling history. His instant recall of events, people, places, etc. was second to none. As I understand it, he had both physical and electronic files far more extensive than any other wrestling writer. Having seen the stacks of files and documents at Castle Cornette in Louisville, I can only imagine what a treasure trove he amassed.
I never met JMK in person. My first encounter with him was online, when he responded to a post I placed on the Wrestling Classics message board looking for information about the Black Panther Jim Mitchell. JMK decided to check me out first, so he bought a copy of Bluegrass Brawlers on Amazon. He sent me quite a few notes and corrections on the book, starting with my audacious claim that at one time, wrestling was more the American past time than baseball! In spite of those errors, I think he saw enough potential in me to share what he had about Mitchell.
We traded emails several times over the last few years. He was always happy to answer questions, and he always gave you more than you ask. When Lord Carlton’s book was ready, he happily read it over for factual errors as well.
One of the rare non-wrestling subjects that we discussed was the murder of actress Thelma Todd, one of the greatest mysteries of Old Hollywood. It was an obsession for him, so much so that he had even walked the site where she was killed for himself. He shared his own theory about whodunnit and why. I never got the chance to tell him this, but I incorporated that theory into a science fiction project I am working on for future release.
JMK never minced words. He left no detail unchecked in making sure I got every story right. He had a charming curmudgeon-like way about him in his emails, but his critiques made his praise mean all that much more.
I will forever be grateful for the brief time I had to interact with him. Everyone needs mentors to help them become the best they can be, and J. Michael Kenyon pushed me to be the best wrestling writer I could be. He demanded excellence, and while I have a long way to go, I am where i am because of his generosity and wisdom.
The wrestling world has lost its greatest historian. RIP, JMK, and thank you for everything.