Veteran TV Journalist Writes His First Biography, “Cashup Davis: The Inspiring Life of Secret Mentor”

Since leaving a senior investigative reporting position at Seattle’s KOMO TV News in 2015, Jeff Burnside has continued to work and write independently. A veteran television journalist, presenter and executive producer, Burnside can now add “author” – and soon “documentary filmmaker” – to his list of job titles.

But why now? Well, Burnside said, when the right story comes along, you know.

“As you progress in your career, you… come across stories that just scream for a book,” he said.

This story centers on an immigrant from England who traveled to eastern Washington and eventually built a hotel atop Steptoe Butte.

In “Cashup Davis: The Inspirational Life of a Secret Mentor,” Burnside delves into the life of “the first celebrity trailblazer.” Born in England, Davis emigrated with the dream of making a name for himself in the United States. Written in collaboration with Davis’ great-grandson, Gordon Davis, the book follows Davis as Burnside’s research slowly introduces him to his great-grandfather, the man he long considered a ” secret mentor” on the path to his own success.

“He’s all about the pursuit of excellence,” Davis said, mentioning his great-grandfather’s willingness to seek reward even where risk might have deterred others. “And that’s a big deal for me – he’s always been there.”

Certainly, he says, the last risk taken by his great-grandfather did not work out as he had hoped. The Cashup Davis Hotel built atop Steptoe Butte lay derelict and burned down in 1911, several years after his death.

“But nonetheless, he did — he tried,” Davis said. “And what I learned from that is that if I ever have a good idea, I won’t fail. And I didn’t.

Burnside first met Davis through their fraternity at Washington State University. But the couple really became friends while working on a fundraising campaign together a few years ago.

During their conversations, the name “Cashup Davis” kept coming up.

Fascinated by the stories he was hearing, Burnside told Davis he should write a book, to which Davis said, “Well, you’re the reporter.”

Burnside jumped on board, quickly convincing Davis to collaborate.

“The book is really told through Gordy’s eyes,” Burnside said. “All those years growing up in Deer Park – and, of course, his family being from the Palouse – I think Gordy always idolized Cashup in many ways, but he really wanted to go further.

With the book finished, Burnside is developing a documentary companion piece.

“I had to put the script aside on my desk for a while, but we’re working on it now,” Burnside said.

They were doing the research anyway, so why not go all out in a second project?

“There will be a good synergy between the book and the film,” he said, recalling how one of their early reviewers called the book “cinematic.”

“I love it because (the story) screams for a documentary – it’s just very visual,” he said. “If you spend time in the Palouse – when the sun is perfect, there is no more beautiful place on earth. … And we captured that on camera – the spirit of the Palouse then and now.

The two projects being well advanced, they are even considering a third.

“We’ve had people approach us about a script for a drama film,” Burnside said. “Which would only be a home run.”

Burnside and Davis will participate in several launch events on Tuesday, including a press conference with WSU President Kirk Schulz at 9:30 a.m., a trip to the top of Steptoe Butte in honor of Cashup Davis, and a book reading at 6 p.m. and a book signing in the meeting room at The Onion in downtown Spokane.

“Cashup Davis: The Inspirational Life of a Secret Mentor” is available at wsupress.wsu.edu. For more information, visit cashupdavis.com.