Local author James L. Neibaur nears a milestone: 30 published books | Local News

Editor’s Note: There is a brief reference to suicide in this report.

James L. Neibaur

James L. Neibaur is from Racine and is due to publish his 30th book later this year.

Diana Panuncial

RACINE – When James L. Neibaur first published his book in 1986, he thought it was coolest to see it on a bookshelf with the title and name on the back.

“I’m working on my 30th book and that (feeling) never went away,” said Neibaur, 63.

You heard him right: 30 books.

Neibaur was 16 when he started writing and filing articles about his favorite classics in magazines in the early 1970s. From there, “his interest in writing about film history increased”.

Butterfly in the rain

The book “A Butterfly in the Rain”, published in 2016, tells the story of the murder of 12-year-old Marion Parker in Los Angeles in 1927. It could be a full-length film, says Racine-born James L. Neibaur

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

He has written and co-written film-for-film studies on icons such as Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood. He also wrote a veritable crime book, “A Butterfly in the Rain,” about the 1927 murder of 12-year-old Marion Parker in Los Angeles, which is in the process of being adapted for a full-length film.

Neibaur writes almost two books a year, with 2020 being the year he wrote three books. His 30th book deals with the films by John Garfield, “The John Garfield Films”, which he plans to finish at the end of January.

But he looked back when he wrote his first book: “It sounded very daunting then, a whole book, 300 pages,” he said.

Writer’s block is not really in Neibaur’s dictionary. When he doesn’t feel like writing books, he writes reviews and essays on his personal website (jln4151.wixsite.com/jlneibaur-writer) or draws and paints.

The pandemic has helped Neibaur become more productive. His house is a “mancave” with books and DVDs neatly organized from floor to ceiling. An environment that helps him write.

Neibaur also writes three books with Gary Schneeberger, a reporter for the Journal Times from 1987-89. One of the books is about Frank Sinatra.

Schneeberger said his dream was to write a book with his best friend as the two share similar interests when it comes to entertainment.

“Being friends with someone for 35 years and finding a new aspect of that friendship, writing books together, was really sweet and rewarding,” said Schneeberger.

CLICK HERE to see a filmed interview with James L. Neibaur, published by The Criterion Channel, speaking about his book “The Case of Buster Keaton: His Films for MGM, Educational Pictures and Columbia”.

Single father with roots in education

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Neibaur’s wife Diana died in 1987, leaving behind a 3-year-old son, Max. From the time Max was born until about 2005, Neibaur said, he shifted his focus to being a single parent while serving as a special education for the Racine Unified School District worked.

In 2011 Neibaur met Terri Lynch, an English teacher for RUSD. Although Neibaur took a break from writing books, he was still writing articles, and Lynch would edit them. Finally, Neibaur asked Lynch to look at a full-length book he was working on on Charlie Chaplin.

He said he would show Lynch each chapter when he finished. If she returned it with corrections, she asked for another chapter the next day. “I would say, ‘What! Do you want another chapter? «Neibaur laughed.

“For this very first book, I was thrilled to be part of a creative process,” said Lynch, 37.

Lynch gave Neibaur the motivation to start writing books again. By 2018, he was at what he thought was the perfect number of books to retire: 25.

Loss, depression, perseverance

His son Max died unexpectedly in the hospital in December 2018 after a minor operation. Neibaur said he didn’t feel suicidal after his son’s death, but there was a time when he “lay in bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up the next day. “

“It was the textbook definition of depression,” Neibaur continued. But he wanted to write again. “I thought if I got busy and productive again, maybe it would help me go through the process. There was a hole in my heart that I would never fill, so I had to see how I would survive. “

Neibaur said he was grateful for his support systems and other creative opportunities that helped him grieve.

“(Jim is) so strong and determined to overcome what life throws at him, and that productivity, that positive attitude, is really inspiring,” said Lynch.

Jerry Lewis holds a book by James L. Neibaur

The late actor and filmmaker Jerry Lewis, who died in 2017 at the age of 91, is holding a copy of The Jerry Lewis Films, a book co-written about Lewis’ films by local writer James L. Neibaur.


Passing on love for film history

Katie Carter, Neibaur’s current assistant editor, first started working with him in 2013. Neibaur said Carter, 30, has developed an interest in the subject of his books and would ask to watch classic movies.

After working with Neibaur, Carter said, “I feel a lot safer when I analyze films and can express my opinion better.”

Neibaur said he has signed contracts for at least six other books on actors like Judy Garland and Burt Reynolds and plans to cover the James Bond series.

“(Jim) digs so deep and reveals so much insight,” Schneeberger said of Neibaur’s books. “He really shaped film history.”

Neibaur’s books are available from the Racine Public Library and online bookstores such as indieBound.org, BN.com, and Amazon.com.

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