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Updated: Jan 7, 2022

If your name is Larry Slonaker, do you really need that middle initial?

When I worked at the San Jose Mercury News, it was a bit of a puzzlement to some of us that certain reporters used a middle initial in their byline. As if this single sandwiched letter somehow imparted an extra dollop of gravitas to their work.

It wasn't like these writers needed that extra letter to distinguish them from some other Bullwinkle (J.) Moose writing out there in the newspaper world. None of them was named John Smith. On the contrary, their first and last names were pretty distinctive, and the middle initial was, it seemed to me, a bit of an affectation.

Which brings me to my defense of “Larry F. Slonaker.” Why the F?

Growing up in Montana, I learned early on that my last name was considered bizarre, unprecedented and unpronounceable. In my entire K-12 lifespan I never had a single teacher who could manage it on first reading, even though it’s entirely phonetic (i.e, SLON-uh-cur). On reading the roll on the first day of school, when getting to “Slonaker” they would contort their faces as if confronting some exotic hideous animal. I reached a certainty that my name was so fantastic, no two people ever could share it.

But in the age of the internet, all certainty is fragile and prone to disintegration. So it is that today a cursory search reveals, of course, there are other people out there named Larry Slonaker. But the stunning part is, there’s another Larry Slonaker who is listed as an author on Amazon. That Larry Slonaker used the middle initial L on his cover. Maybe he did so to distinguish himself from me, after coming across my first novel, published in 1987, The Voice of the Visitor. (I do not recommend that you read this book, by the way.)

Whatever his reasoning, the point is, there’s another person out there named Larry Slonaker who’s written at least one book. To help to keep matters straight, I am now going by Larry F. Slonaker.

There can’t be another one of those, can there?

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