There is not enough room in this magazine to do a proper biography ( that has already been done in newspapers and elsewhere ) or a comprehensive bibliography ( which can be easily found online ).
Instead , I ’ d like to talk briefly about the Bob Byrne I knew – the author who welcomed my requests on several occasions for his autograph as I acquired more of his books .
The first time I met him was at River Lights Bookstore when he introduced fellow author Martin Cruz Smith , another of my favorites . Before the talk , I had looked at some of the bargain books and found one of his which I grabbed eagerly . After Mr . Smith completed his talk and was signing my book , I saw Bob Byrne stroll out of the store and quickly ran after him calling his name . He turned – perhaps to determine my intention and decide if I was going to mug him in broad daylight . I made my request with some trepidation , since some authors refuse such requests . But rather than refuse , he smiled at me and thanked me for asking . He asked my name and inscribed it to me personally . I still have it , of course .
A couple months later , I wanted to get another autograph on a couple books which I had acquired , including his best-known Memories of a Non-Jewish Childhood . Surprisingly , he was listed in the phone book . I called and told him what I wanted , expecting he would make an excuse and refuse . Instead he invited me out to his home in Barony Woods . When I got there , he invited me in and asked me to sit down while he signed the books .
He asked me questions about what I did and was very interested when I told him that I had worked as a map technician drawing the plat maps for the county . That got him started talking about his brother Bill , former Dubuque County Engineer and later a partner with Carl Bartels . I had known both these men and so we talked about engineers and before I knew it two and a half hours had gone by and we were just getting warmed up .
I finally took my leave and as I thanked him for the autographs , he said , “ No , thank YOU ! Anytime you get one of my books , I ’ ll be happy to sign it . I hope you enjoy them .”
The last time I talked with Bob was just a hair over two years ago . I had finally gotten a copy of Behold My Shorts and also had a couple other books that needed autographs . I emailed him and again he was very cordial to my request for autographs although he regretfully declined my request to review the manuscript of a novel I had written .
I met him in the back room of the building he owned down on 2nd and Main and again he welcomed me and showed me the shorts he had worn for the book cover . This time he asked me about pool and billiards , both of which I am woefully ignorant about . I have never played billiards , and I gave up pool when I was consistently beaten by my friend in high school , a minister ’ s son . ( I was also beaten by his father , his mother , his eightyear-old brother , and his sister , whom I had dated occasionally until then .)
Bob proceeded to display some trick shots on the table he had there and patiently explained how each shot was made . He handed me a cue stick and invited me to try to repeat an “ easy shot ” he had just made ( his words , not mine ). I did … although I was terrified to show my lack of coordination . I did not send the ball to the ceiling nor crashing to the floor as I feared ; I did not rip the cover on the table and I DID put the ball in the pocket ... not the one I was presumably aiming at , but hey , there ’ s six holes on the table so I was still somewhat proud of myself . Bob actually complimented me , gave me a couple more pointers and then handed me a copy of one of his books on pool and said when I finished it he wanted to see if I improved . He never got the chance and I never had the opportunity to possibly prove to him that he hadn ’ t wasted a book .
So long , Bob . If somehow you ’ re reading this ... I ’ ve got another book for you to sign !
John Klauer has been interested in Dubuque history since he was a child . He is an avid reader with a large collection of books by Dubuque authors , photos of old Dubuque scenes , and files of information about the city . He has been a teacher , magazine and newspaper editor , and city councilman among other professions . John is currently a sales associate with Duggan-Iowa Realty .