PIEDMONT -- Bay Area Radio Hall of Famer Michael Patrick Cleary, whose voice and banter entertained Bay Area listeners for more than 50 years, has published his first book.
"Spiritual Mischief" follows the antics of a motley crew of characters aboard the aptly named cruise ship "Ocean Glamour." True to its title, the book mixes some high jinks with a wholesome dollop of spirituality.
"It's an indulgent book, I had so much fun writing it," said Cleary of his 549-page paperback. "I remembered that Mark Twain quote, which I put in the book, 'A well put together unreality is pretty hard to beat.' "
The story's unlikely narrator is God's Personal Secretary, who returns legendary beauty Lillie Langtry to the land of the living to help solve the mystery of who stole "A Jersey Lily" portrait from the Tate Gallery.
"I've always had a complete fascination with Lillie Langtry," said Cleary, who has lived in Piedmont for 31 years. "She was such a remarkable woman."
Cleary also wanted to do something that was "just mine."
"After 50 years in broadcasting, where you collaborate on everything, I wanted to write and edit a book where every comma and semicolon was mine," said Cleary, a former Hills newspaper travel columnist. "I wrote without ambition and broke every rule in the book -- humor books shouldn't be this long -- but it was such a pleasant journey."
Cleary said he's a big fan of "the slow British read," including P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh and Somerset Maugham.
"I like the wit and the great love of language," Cleary said. "Why use 10 words when you can use 100?"
Cleary, who retired from broadcasting in 2012, said it took him two-and-a-half years to write "Spiritual Mischief."
"A lot of it is semi-autobiographical," said Cleary, whose main character is also a San Francisco radio personality. "We really did take people on cruises. A lot of our listeners would join us."
Cleary is best known as co-host of the "Frank and Mike in the Morning" show that ran for close to two decades on KNBR.
"I had one duty on the show, and that was to make my partner Frank Dill laugh," Cleary said. "Those years were so special -- we had such great times."
Cleary left "Frank and Mike" in 1995 and developed a weekend radio show called "Food and Travel Radio," which he co-hosted with his wife, Mary Ann. Some of their guests included Julia Child and comedian Tom Smothers.
He also did some TV work, entertaining Bay Area kids in the 1960s in his role as "Sergeant Sacto" on Channel 44.
"In the '80s, I spent a year hosting 'Dialing for Dollars' on Channel 2 -- that was the craziest part-time job you could have in your life," he recalled.
Cleary was born in Chicago in 1939 and originally thought of becoming a priest. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1958 and, because of his knowledge of Latin, became a Russian translator for what was then the Army Security Agency.
"I was discharged in Oakland in 1962 and continued a part-time job I had with a radio station in Petaluma," Cleary said. "I finally ended up in San Francisco in 1966 and started doing the kids' show on Channel 44 -- anything in broadcasting to pay the rent."
Cleary has been married to Mary Ann -- a Piedmont native who illustrated the front cover of "Spiritual Mischief" -- for "371 months."
"We celebrate our marriage every month, we're unbelievably happy," said Cleary, who also likes a reason to party and sip his favorite martini.
The couple has two grown daughters, Kelly, who lives in San Rafael, and Amanda in Alameda.
He likes to run -- "a slow long distance runner, getting slower" -- and has a habit of memorizing Shakespeare.
"I always write at the top of my notepad, 'When bored, read Shakespeare,' " Cleary said. "The trouble is, nobody wants to hear it -- it's become a running joke
in our family."
Last year, he and Mary Ann took part in The Great Saunter -- a 30-mile walk around Manhattan.
"It was one of the best days of our lives," Cleary said. "What a way to see New York."
Cleary said he enjoyed writing "Spiritual Mischief" so much that he was sad when he finally finished it. Now he's got another book in mind.
"I have a wonderful idea for a local coming-of-age story for men in their more advanced years," Cleary said. "Nothing deep, just another humorous story that I hope will entertain."
"Spiritual Mischief" is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other booksellers. Amazon also has a Kindle edition.