Like one of his many screenplays, Anthony Lawrence's "Slow Fade to Autumn" takes us on a memorable journey. It's a poignant love story, a gripping family drama and a colorful show-biz saga, the only difference being the protagonist at its center isn't Elvis, Liberace or fictitious, but, in fact, himself.
Published by AuthorHouse, "Slow Fade to Autumn" is the personal memoir by writer/director/producer/husband/father Anthony Lawrence, or as he's more commonly known by fellow residents at the Motion Picture and Television Fund, Tony. Unflinchingly honest, the memoir flits back and forth in time to tell the story of how Lawrence fell in love with an Irish beauty named Nancy Carroll, the daughter of the wealthy CEO of Signal Trucking company, and how that powerful love remained intact for over fifty eventful years, surviving many obstacles.
Those obstacles are what make "Slow Fade" such a compelling read. They include class struggles (Lawrence was from the wrong side of the L.A. tracks), Machiavellian in-laws, substance abuse, the challenge of raising five kids while simultaneously navigating the treacherous waters of the entertainment industry, the devastating loss of a son, and finally, the ravages of Alzheimer's, the cruel disease that eventually claimed Nancy's life in May of 2008.
The subject matter may sometimes be grim, but the read is anything but. Lawrence skillfully balances the heartache with the joy to tell an ultimately inspirational story of human resilience. Written in a conversational, often self-deprecating tone, the memoir takes us through Lawrence's career as a struggling actor, a novice writer (at the urging of Nancy who recognized his talent before he did), and his rise to success as one of the most prolific television writers in the business.
There are wonderful anecdotes including working with Elvis (Lawrence co-wrote three of Presley's features as well as writing the acclaimed ABC biopic that starred Kurt Russell), battling a licentious Aaron Spelling, and writing for such iconic shows as "Outer Limits," "Bonanza," and "Hawaii Five-O." Along the way, Tony and Nancy befriended celebrities such as Chuck Norris who trained them in karate, and hockey legend Bobby Hull who invited the Lawrence family to his Canadian cattle ranch for an adventure-filled vacation that included a hilarious episode involving an enema and the Winnipeg Jets (sorry, you'll have to read it yourselves).
But the heart and soul of the book concern Lawrence's wife, Nancy. In a surprising turn of events, after devoting much of her life to her family, at the age of fifty Nancy revealed a natural talent for writing. Before long she became her husband's writing partner on the MOW, "Liberace" as well as his producing partner on the revival of "The Twilight Zone" series. Lawrence recounts his spirited and creative wife's success with such genuine admiration, her gradual descent into dementia is all the more heartbreaking. They made quite a team and "Slow Fade to Autumn" makes one wish Nancy were still around to adapt it, with Tony, into a classic movie romance.