Thursday, May 31, 2007

BLACKMAILER bu George Axelrod

There were few cooler guys on TV in the Fifties than George Axelrod. I didn't see him that often--he did a few talk shows; a few arts shows--but I always thought Now that's the kind of guy I wish I could be. Hip but accessible.

Not only had Axelrod produced such fine B'way and movie hits as "The Seven Year Itch" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?," he'd adapted such novels as "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to the screen.

And on TV he was slick and and funny and serious about his craft.

Oh, and one more thing. He was the author of a genuine Gold Medal novel.

I bought BLACKMAILER a few years after it appeared...say forty-five years ago. Now Hard Case Crime has reissued it and even after all this time it holds up well, albeit as a tribute to a time long past but fondly remembered by some portions of my generation.

What Axelrod did here was take the elements of the standard hardboiled crime novel--good bad girls and bad bad men, the prospect of lots of cash--and mix them up with talent agents and movie stars. And relate all this in a voice that is both literate and a bit larky at times--and works surprisingly well, even in the scenes of violence. There's a faux Hemingway (who was God at that tie), a faux Marilyn Monroe (who was Goddess at that time) and enough double-crossing to make you cross-eyed.

This is one of those kick-back novels. A beer or two, a night with nothing to do, a devout desire for pure escape. I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Poker Club movie starts shooting tomorrow morning

The Poker Club by Ed Gorman

Johnathon Schaech as Aaron Tyler
Lori Heuring as Jan Tyler
Loren Dean as Curtis Wilcox
Judy Reyes as Detective Patterson

Based on the novel by: Ed Gorman
Screenplay by: Johnathon Schaech and Richard Chizmar
Director: Tim McCann The NY Times called him one of the best of the new indie directors
Producer: Bruce Devan
Executive Producer: Jordan Gertner

Plot Summary:
Four friends discover and accidentally kill a burglar -- who may not be alone -- in the kitchen during their weekly poker night.
Status: Filming commences 30th May 2007
Availability: TBA

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Black Boxes-Westlake, Block, Hunter etc.

The first time I became aware of Earl Kemp I was fourteen or fifteen and a member of Amazing Stories' Space Club as were Roger Ebert and several others who went on to become professional writers. Earl, on the other hand, needed no Space Club. He was a BNF (Big Name Fan) operating out of Chicago. He was likely in his early Twenties then and already publishing lots of cool fanzines. He became acquainted with William Hamling who'd been an Amazing editor in the Forties and was now, in the Fifties, the publisheof of Imagination and Imaginative Tales, two juvenile-oriented magzines much like Amazing (though they did carry two fine stories by Philip K. Dick as I recall and Milton Lesser/Stephen Marlowe also did good work for them). Hamling decided to try a Playboy-type magazine so he created Rogue. This featured the likes of Robert Bloch, Alfred Bester, Harlan Ellison, Frank Robinson (who was also an editor there) and many many others. I always prefered Rogue to Playboy because of its sf/suspense orientation. And Rogue led Hamling (if I recall rightly) into soft-core porn. Remember, this was the time when Lenny Bruce was put in prison for speaking the F word on a stage. Soft-core was shameful and even dangerous to publish. The biggest problem Hamling had with the runaway success of his soft-core line was getting manuscripts. So Earl turned to Scott Meredith, who said he could provide all the anuscripts Hamling needed--but all this had to be done very discreetly. By this time Earl was to be a major fiure in the whole operation. I trust Earl will correct any part of this I get wrong. Earl's a fascinating guy and you should log on to for not only the whole article about such familiar names as Lawrence Block and Evan Hunter and Donald Westlake but Earl's own take on the world of the publishing world people didn't ant to talk about back then. Hell--they don't nt to talk about it even today.

Here's Earl:

Scott Meredith was terrified at the prospect of being identified as the
major supplier of pornography in the US in the 1950s so, when his
business began picking up because of popular demand, he devised a plan
to hide his involvement. He had Henry Morrison (aka Moskowitz), one of
his employees, set up a fake operation out of a Grand Central Station
post office box. Then he ordered a supply of plain black manuscript
boxes (Meredith's were gray at the time) to use for mailing those porn
manuscripts to the various publishers who were using Meredith's crew for
their sleazy products.--

(excerpt from long memoir of those days)

The Black Box crew who answered to Scott Meredith in those wonderfully sinful 1960 years was a motley crew at best. Some of them were occasional staffers of Scott Meredith Literary Agency, and others were writer new-hires, signed on with great expectations as Future Great Writers To Be.

Hal Dresner was one of the gang, and Donald "Ed" Westlake. David Case, Evan Hunter, John Jakes, Arthur Plotnik, and Milo Perichitch. Also Lawrence Block, Dave Foley, William Coons, and…. William Knoles, my personal favorite, was a latecomer to this group.

And they were right, they were certainly Future Great Writers To Be. Only if you could have looked on, watching them without their knowledge, you would have picked them as a bunch of high school jocks or college frat brothers, always joking, pulling gags on each other, trying to set each other up with sure things, the more unattractive the better. Stealing from each other in a good-natured way. Stealing pseudonyms, characters, plots, chunks of manuscripts…loose items. Like good buddies sharing a great big locker room together and drinking each other's drinks and smoking each other's cigarettes.

The early years crowd did quite a bit of socializing together, as well. They held regular meetings every Friday night allegedly to play poker, but in reality they just liked being around each other, joking about the agency, talking shop, and psyching themselves up to starting that big ominous thing lurking over them all known as Next Month's Manuscript. It would take at least that much to keep Henry Morrison happy and to keep Scott Meredith at bay. [There were women writers as well, like Marion Zimmer Bradley, but most of them were kept rather well hidden. It was essentially a male thing to write those books, or so people assumed. In reality, the women wrote much better quality pornography than the men.]

The yokels at Midwood and Nightstand Books would just have to wait their turn, nothing could interrupt "The Happy Pornographers" at play. That was the group name they gave to themselves in those halcyon days.

In "The Men Who Wrote Dirty Books" in Books Are Everything, Lynn Munroe asked Hal Dresner, "Were some of your Don Holliday books written by committee? …Block says he collaborated with you and with Westlake. And didn't you all meet for a weekly poker game?"

Dresner answered: Circle Of Sinners (Bedside Books 1220) "was an example of a collaboration that appeared under the Holliday name. Other collabs rotated among existing pen names. The weekly poker game produced one book written mostly in a ten-hour stretch: one writer at the machine while six others played cards. The purpose was to provide some funds for the widow of [Dave Foley who had recently died. Ed had a special interest in this project; Foley's widow, Sandy, became the second Mrs. Westlake.]…. The final manuscript needed some reworking as speed was a higher priority than consistency. I recall that the lead character was, at various times, called by different names; his military history was, depending upon the writer, a stint in the Marines, Air Force and Navy; and during one 24-hour period there were two sunsets and three sunrises. Still the final product was salable and, legend has it, Scott Meredith even waived his commission. If true, that is the most remarkable aspect of all."

Everyone who worked near Scott would second that in a heartbeat.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mark Evanier

A while back I said that the net will make many of us immortal (immortal being fifty years or more according to my rules) and the most excellent writer and blogger Mark Evanier offers evidence of what I said:

"Is there life after death? I don't know and neither do you. But there is one kind of immortality. According to this article, MySpace "won't delete a profile for inactivity, and it also won't let anyone else control a deceased member's profile." So you can kind of write your own online memorial or otherwise continue to communicate with the world. This applies to soldiers going off to fight in Iraq, too.

Posted Sunday, May 27, 2007 at 7:54 AM · LINK"

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Actors as directors - Director Alex Cox

This is from yesterday's Guardian (UK) copyright 2007 by The Guardian

Director Alex Cox makes no friends in the following piece about actors as directors:

Directing: a movie stars' substitute for psychoanalysis: How to kill a film star

Madonna and Kirsten Dunst are to direct their first films. But, says Alex Cox, the film studios may have a sinister motive for letting them indulge their fantasies ...

Kirsten Dunst: Is directing a substitute for psychoanalysis?

The news that both Kirsten Dunst and Madonna are to direct short films this summer is exciting for connoisseurs of awful movies. Will their directoral debuts resemble Johnny Depp's excrutiating quasi-snuff movie, The Brave, or Vincent Gallo's disastrous homage to himself and his supposedly enormous member, Brown Bunny?


For the past 20 years, the Hollywood system has chosen to make costly B-movies of an increasingly stupid variety. Given this, the rise of the actor-director isn't hard to understand. Actors are instinctive, and emotional. They are not, as a rule, highly intelligent. There are, of course, exceptions: Derek Jacobi, Diana Quick and Andrew Schofield are very clever individuals. But it isn't actors like these who direct feature films for studios. Actors are hard-working, versatile, and often have second jobs to sustain them in quiet periods. The studios don't care about actors any more than they care about directors or production designers. What studios care about is stars.

Movie stars are strange, soulless creatures. Hollywood invents them, via vast expenditures of advertising money. It pays them enormous sums, and invests far greater quantities of money in their promotion and their maintenance. Knowing how stupid it all is, some stars chafe at the bit. They are aware their job isn't that difficult, and that they are paid far too much. They begin to resent the producers and directors, who are the only people in the world who dare to tell them what to do. Unable to fire the producer (who works for the studio, provider of their pay-cheque), they decide to assert their extraordinary individuality, and talent, by directing the film themselves.

Sometimes the actor fires the director and takes over an existing picture. When Brando fired Stanley Kubrick from his cowboy movie, and announced that he would direct the film himself, Paramount was happy to oblige him. Brando was a star, in whom they had invested lots of money. And who was this Kubrick guy? A nobody; an irrelevance. At the same time, the studios, though satanically evil, are not daft. They dislike their moody, whining stars as much as they need them, and they relish any opportunity to covertly humiliate the prating, posturing prats, and cut them down. What better way to do this than by giving them a feature to direct?

The old saying, "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad," applied to Brando, just as it did to many subsequent star-directors. Having fired Kubrick, Brando also sacked his screenwriter (another nobody, called Sam Peckinpah). He started improvising scenes. When he and his co-star, Karl Malden, had to play a drunk scene, Brando decided that the two of them should really get drunk. An evening stretched into two booze-sodden weeks. A two-month shoot (already very long by cowboy standards) became a six-month shoot; the budget quintupled, to $6m - One Eyed Jacks became the most expensive B-Western ever made.

Paramount pretended to be annoyed by Brando's excesses, and cut his super-oater down to size, but in reality the studio was pleased. Over the years One-Eyed Jacks made its money back, and Brando had been broken: he never dared direct again. Thereafter he approached the business, and his own work as an actor, from a cynical, monetarist perspective. As his biographer, Richard Schickel, wrote, "He whom Hollywood would humble, it first indulges. It is, perhaps, the most basic law of the business."


Given this grisly and cynical reality, is there any hope for Dunst, especially, as a director? Well, she still has a chance. A handful of American actors - Orson Welles and Dennis Hopper spring to mind - managed to create small but admirable bodies of work as directors, which they often funded with their income from acting. Certain actors managed a one-off directorial opus of considerable interest: Charles Laughton, with the excellent Night of the Hunter, and Robert Montgomery, with his wobbly but original attempt at a point-of-view detective drama, seen via the eyes of Philip Marlowe, Lady in the Lake. Other than that, the star-director model has mostly produced low-budget fiascos or dull and turgid monstrosities.

My candidate for the worst movie-star director of all time has to be Clint Eastwood. Because he's still a big star and he stays on budget, Hollywood continues to indulge his directorial fantasies, yet in nearly 40 years of half-assed attempts at directing he has never developed a style of his own. Every directorial chop Eastwood displays was stolen from Don Siegel or Sergio Leone - real filmmakers who taught him what little he knows. Clint's only original theme, present from Play Misty for Me all the way to Million Dollar Baby, is that of a paternalistic white male who exercises the power of life or death over a woman: invariably, he chooses to kill her.

This might suggest that - for movie stars - directing movies essentially takes the place of psychoanalysis in the American cinema. But it's expensive, and obnoxious, therapy.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Pity Him Afterward*

Every once in awhile I get stoned just watching a literary master do his work. The last two nights I was flat out dazzled from beginning to end with Donald Westlake's 1964 novels PITY HIM AFTERWARD.

The story concerns an escaped madman who takes the identity of a man who is headed to a theater that does summer stock. While we see the story several times from the madman's point of view, we're never sure who he is. This is a fair clue mystery.

In quick succession, a young woman who works summer stock is found murdered in the house where the young, struggling actors stay. A part-time chief of police appears to find the killer.

Two points: writers owe their readers original takes on familiar tropes as often as possible. The madman here is no slobbering beast but rather a deranged and sometimes pitiful lunatic (the opening three thousand words are among the most accomplished Westlake pieces I've ever read). And the police chief Eric Songard is one of the most unique cops I've come across in mystery fiction. He works nine months of the year as a professor and summers as a police chief. The small town he oversees usually offers nothing worse than drunks and the occasional fight. Murder is another matter. Westake gives us a cop whose self-confidence is so bad all he can do is try and hasten the appearance of the regular cops from a nearby district. Meanwhile he has to pretend he knows what's going on. He could easily have gone to series. He's a great character.

As the story is told, we get a beleivable look at summer stock with its low pay, brutal hours, frequent rivalries. The payoff is that some of the actors will get their Equity card at the end of the nine week run and thereby become professional actors.

Then there is the telling. The craft is impeccable. Precise and concise and yet evocative because of the images Westlake constantly presents us. You also have to marvel at the rhythm of his language, watching how'll he'll shave an anticpated word here for a certain effect, add a word there for the sake of cadence. These sentences are CRAFTED.

There are so many great Westlake novel it's impossble to rank them. But given what he accomplished, I'd have to say this is one of his early best.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A quote

I'm always amazed when people say, "You know, if I had to live my life over again, I'd do it all the same."

And that was Hitler talking.

I'm one of those people (God, I hope there are others anyway) who feels embarrassed by 95% of everything I've ever said, done, thought or felt. I feel abiding, oppressive shame and just about every memory I have comes burdened with remorse of some kind. And I'm not only talking my years of drinking and taking drugs. I mean my sober years, too. Now as well. I'll likely regret this post. I hate confessions.

But there they are on the tube, people doing riffs "I'd do it all the same again." I watch them with great envy and just a bit of disbelief. Really? The whole thing the same way? And maybe it's true.

I bring this up for a simple reason. Today I came across a line from an unidentified British poet who wrote in the period just after John Milton. Now this dude knew what he was talking about: "Above all gifts give me the ability to relive my life so that I might expunge the errors and calamities that afflicted it."

I'm waiting for his appearance on Oprah.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Toni Weiskopf (for the complete article)

by Jim Milliot -- Publishers Weekly, 5/21/2007 copyright 2007 Publisher's Weekly

The latest entrant in the growing ranks of companies offering book content via mobile devices is DailyLit, a new company formed by husband and wife Albert Wenger and Susan Danziger. Unlike other startups, such as Mobifusion and Moka, which aim to get information to consumers' cellphones, DailyLit is using e-mail and RSS feeds to deliver book installments that can be read in less than five minutes.


Under the DailyLit model, the company will e-mail book installments of about 1,000 words to a customer's device of choice, be it a PDA, Blackberry or other player. Pricing is still being worked out, but Danziger said she would like to keep the cost of receiving a complete book below $5. Customers can receive a feed at the same time every day and can get additional feeds if they want to read more of the book at a particular time. Consumers who order a book through the site get two free installments before they are required to pay for the full book.


Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf said she signed with DailyLit because it's a way to test a new delivery method with little risk. “It's a chance to reach beyond our traditional audience,” Weisskopf explained. Weisskopf said she particularly liked DailyLit's serialization approach since that style has worked well with Baen's own WebScription service, which offers subscribers installments of Baen titles as e-books before they are released as print editions. Baen has given 10 books to DailyLit to start, and, noted Weiskopf, “there's plenty more if it works.”

Ed here: Toni Weiskopf is one of the finest editors in the fields of science fiction and fantasy. She worked for years with the much-missed Jim Baen who pioneered various ways of using the internet to sell books and even offer readers full-length novels to download free. Toni Weiskopf is obviously continuing the Baen tradition, trying new ways to reach new readers. Publishing needs a lot more people like her if it's to succeed in the era of the internet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


One of the more familiar knocks on mystery fiction is that it rarely treats death seriously. That too often murder is simply the device that propels the story and not much more. I think that's a fair criticism and I certainly include my own work as being guilty of that particular sin. Murder, even literary murder, should HURT.

I'd also add to that criticism the various addictions common to the genre, namely alcoholism and drug addiction. Only Larry Block and a few others have taken us into the real world of recovering alcoholics. For the most part addiction has become just another keystroke common to the world of mystery fiction.

I've read three novels in my life that have described accurately--in my experience as an alcoholic--the horrors of being drunk most of your life. Certainly Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, After the First Death by Larry Block and a novel you've probably never heard of, though alcoholic Raymond Chandler pushed it as one of the finest suspense novels of his time.

For some reason, much as I've pushed her here, I'd never read THE INNOCENT MRS. DUFF by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. It is remarkable in many ways, not least because the protagonis. Jacob Duff is drunk for virtually the entire novel. And we see 95% of the book through his eyes. Functionally drunk for most of it but also falling-down drunk in places. Holding's genius was to sustain a sense of dread that I don't think even Ruth Rendell has equaled. There are times in her novels when I have to put the book down for a few minutes. They are that claustrophobic in mood and action.

That's the first most remarkable aspect of the book. The second most remarkable is the fact that we see the book through the eyes of one of the most arrogant, self-invoved, cold and self-deluded man I've ever encountered in fiction of any kind. I hated the bastard so much--I'm not enamored of the upper-classes, alas, and Duff embodies everything I loathe about them--I almost gave up after chapter three. I wasn't sure I wanted to learn anything more about this jerk,

But Holding has the voodoo, at least for me. She makes me turn pages faster than any best-seller because what you're rushing to discover is the fate of her people. All the good folks in this one are women, especially Duff's younger, beautiful and very decent wife. He constantly compares her unfavorably to his first wife, though we soon learn that he didn't care much for his first wife, either. At age forty he's still looking for his dream woman. God have mercy on her soul if he ever finds her.

As always with Holding, as with much of Poe, what we have is not so much a plot (though she's as good as Christie) as a phantasmagoria of despair, distrust and suspicion that consumes the protagonist. Is his wife cheating on him? Is she setting up his death so she'll inherit his estate? Is she turning his young son against him? Has his wealthy aunt, his life-long mentor and mother confessor, taken the side of his young wife? Has his drinking disgraced him in his small town and are all those smirks aimed at him? And finally, is he a murderer? And why does he have to sneak around these days to drink?

If you're curious about Holding, this is a good place to start. Anthony Boucher always said that she was the mother of all psychological suspense novelists. What's intresting is how few, fifty-some years after her death, have come close to equaling her enormous powers.

Monday, May 21, 2007

It's only money...

Agent Turns Down $1 Million Offer for First Novel (Both these stories copyright 2007 by New York magazine)

The literary world is buzzing today over Andrew Davidson's novel, The Gargoyle, which went out on submission to editors last week and is already attracting a great deal of attention. Reportedly the agent, Eric Simonoff of Janklow and Nesbit Associates, has already turned down a $1 million preemptive offer for the novel; though we don't know who made the offer, we've been told by publishing sources that the submission was huge, with multiple editors within publishing groups receiving it. (Cindy Spiegel of Spiegel & Grau, for example, was reportedly trying to sort out with colleague Gerry Howard of Doubleday which of them would be allowed to bid.)

So what's it about? It's a densely packed story about a car-accident victim in the burn ward befriended by a mysterious woman who claims to be a stone carver in a fifteenth-century German abbey. The narrative moves back and forth in time from the woman's tales to the present day and incorporates the story of the first German translation of Dante. We've been told it's an excellent page-turner, though one publishing insider said it felt overly calculated, "like someone sat down to write the bastard love child of The Birth of Venus and The English Patient."

What's next? An auction, most likely, possibly before the end of the week. Plus, a flurry of film activity; we hear prominent agent Howie Sanders of UTA just started sending it to producers.


Turning Down a Cool Mil Works Out Great for ‘The Gargoyle’

We've heard that Gerry Howard of Doubleday has won the auction for Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle, and that agent Eric Simonoff totally made the right move in turning down a $1 million preempt offer yesterday. Multiple bidders were in the auction at seven-figure levels, and we've heard that Howard — who, we've been told, was the editor who made the million-dollar offer in the first place — wound up paying around $1.25 million for the book.

Now, that's a lot of money for a first novel, obviously, and it's even more impressive when you consider the deal is only for U.S. rights. Ordinarily publishers who pay out mega-advances like this have a chance to make back a chunk of change quickly by selling rights to foreign publishers, but Doubleday doesn't have that opportunity; instead, Simonoff tells us he's busy managing foreign submissions as well, with the book already preempted in Italy and with another substantial offer on the table in the U.K. And all that money goes in Andrew Davidson's pocket, not Doubleday's.

Ed here: Don't I recall somewhere in the misty past (last fall) the publishing industry talking about tightening its belt and avoiding some of the foolhardy investments they'd made in the past. This may just be the next Da Vinci Code (let's hope it's not as badly written) but then again it may not be. Was it Ike who said that the more things change the more they stay the same?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Gold Medal Days-Vin Packer

Here's an interview I've always liked--reprinted for those who missed it.
Friday, February 10, 2006

Pro-File: Marijane Meaker aka Vin Packer aka M.E. Kerr. I’ve always rated Vin Packer (Marijane Meaker) as one of the three or four best of the paperback original writers. She came as close to turning pulp into mainstream as anybody ever did—and in this instance I mean this as a high compliment. She was frequently compared to John O’Hara and while the influence was obviously there, she had baroque wit in her Big City novels and a dark Faulknerian strain in her Deep South novels that nobody else came close to matching. One of her lost gems is a Gold Medal novel called The Girl on The Best-Seller List, which is her take on the sad (and at the time notorious) Peyton Place writer Grace Metalious. And none of this even touches on her best-selling award-winning Young Adult career as M.E. Kerr. tMarijane Meaker is one of the great ones.

What is your current novel?

1.I have just finished Scott Free, a new Vin Packer about a transgendered detective who was Scott(male) and is becoming Scotti (female). It is now being offered to publishing houses by McIntosh & Otis of NYC, my agent.

2.Your current project?

I also just finished a young adult novel( under my pseudonym M.E. Kerr) about an undocumented Latino boy and a girl he meets when he works for her contractor father. I am now beginning a lesbian comedy of the 50's, an adult novel as Marijane Meaker. I am delighted to say Stark House is reprinting many Vin Packer novels, bringing them out with such care.

3.Greatest pleasure as a writer?
The freedom to be what I always wanted to be (for some 50 years now) and the pleasure of finding a new idea in everything from something a neighbor tells you, something in another author's book that triggers your imagination, something you see, remember, hear about, read about or imagine. Writing can also be a career from which you never have to retire.

4. Greatest displeasure as a writer?
The greatest displeasure is sometimes watching the disappearance of the caring editor, the midlist novel, the small independent publisher, and the avid young reader who existed before computers.

5. Advice to the publishing world?

Help beginning writers, nurture them as writers like Anne Tyler, William Kennedy, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King etc. were encouraged with advances, advice, and patience while they developed their skills.

6. Which writers would you like to see in print again?
Peter Rabe, Charles Williams and there was a paperback writer, Jerry Weil*, who wrote regular novels and suspense.

7. Do you remember selling your first novel?

Dick Carroll, then editor of Gold Medal books was taking me to lunch. I was 22. In the cab, just as we went under the ramp near Grand Central Station, he said, "We're going to buy your book," and the taxi came out of the darkness to sunny Park Avenue. I'll never forget it. The book, by the way, was at that point one chapter and an outline. He advanced me $2000. It was 1952. Imagine what an unbelievable windfall.

*Ed here: Coincidence. A week ago I was at Half Price Books and found in their Nostalgia section three Jerry Weil novels for a buck each. I remembered how much I’d liked his stuff—he was kind of soft-core hardboiled Francoise Sagan, in other words, you never knew what the hell he was going to write next but he was an interesting guy—read one of them Escapade and liked it a lot. One of the many good writers lost to time.
posted by Gormania at 1:27 PM

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Margaret Millar

Some additional comments about Margaret Millar inspired by you latest blog:
It was the first time we'd met face to face. On a cab ride back to her hotel the afternoon of the MWA dinner where she received the Grand Master Award, she confided, "You know, they're more than just mysteries." I agreed, and thirty years later am somewhat embarrassed by my reply to the effect that maybe if we don't tell anyone, they'll continue to sell.
I've always suspected that the reasons Maggie's books were not bigger sellers were (1) she had little interest in series characters and (2) never wrote the same book twice.
The Murder of Miranda was influenced by Richard Hull's classic inverted story The Murder of My Aunt. So said Mrs. Millar.
Sayers' influence is evident in Maggie's early novels starting with The Invisible Worm. That title is the reason she gave for using her married name on her books. Her maiden name was Sturm. (Think about it.) Incidentally, she was never interested in seeing these early novels featuring Paul Prye reprinted.
By the way, Ed, if memory serves me, Maggie's last interview was the one she gave you for Mystery Scene. She never liked giving interviews, but the two of you seemed to hit it off. She called me later to tell me how much she enjoyed it, and that was a first.

Although she always candidly answered journalist's questions, I think she disliked being interviewed because she was essentially a private person. And here I've gone and written about her twice in the same week. Maggie didn't believe in an afterlife, but just in case she was wrong, I hope she'll forgive me.


Hugh Abramson


Elizabeth Foxwell said...
Thanks, Ed, for the kind words about the issue. Readers can learn more about this issue and Clues in general at:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Clues, Spring 2007 - Margaret Millar

I've spoken here many times of my admiration for the novels of Margaret Millar. Her fate seems to be that of great if only occasional press but not many readers. She won an Edgar, she was frequently judged to be as good a writer as her husband Ken Millar (Ross Macdonald), and her books are dazzlers both as stories and exemplars of witty and sometimes mordant style.

I also once said that there are writers too good for the masses and I sometimes wonder if Millar isn't one of them. She makes few concessions to the commercial mystery. Her people are very much her own. In this regard she reminds me of someone I'm sure she read early in her career, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. Her characters are unique to genre fiction, drawn from life rather than books. And I'm pretty sure this is off-putting to readers who want the familiar types we find in so much commercial fiction.

I'm saying all this because I've just finished reading the Spring 2007 issue of Clues, which is mostly devoted to Millar. Editor Dean James has put together the most interesting, enlightening and memorable work I've ever seen about her. Tom Nolan, who wrote the outstanding biography of Ross Macdonald a few years back, takes us here into the heart of lives of two writers who are not only husband and wife but (as a Millar quote gently suggests) competitors. A fine fine piece.

Ana Patricia Rodriguez, on the other hand, gives us a polemic on Millar's view of Mexicans and Mexico as found in her Tom Aragon novels and in the standalone BEYOND THIS POINT ARE MONSTERS. Rodriguez is indusputably correct. Millar's writing reflected the opinions of many white, middle-class (or upper-middle-class) Californians. Their misgivings about the immigrants weren't expressed in any "common" vulgar way but you do see in Millar's writing the disdain she and her crowd felt for them.

The essay by Kelly C. Connelly compares the psychologoy in Dorothy Sayers to the psychology of Millar. And Dean James tells us which Millar books are in print.

Robert Barnard takes a sage look at Millar's final novels, among them the sinfully overlooked THE MURDER OF MIRANDA. For one thing, the sections dealing with the poisoned pen writer at the country club are among the most savagely bitchy (and hilarious) moments in all of Millar's writing. And for another, I've rarely seen a more moving portrait of a beautiful woman who is losing the one thing she's depended on all her life--her looks, The twins here are out of the black humor of Terry Southern. Barnard's as good a critic as he is a novelist and short story writer. I put him at the top in all three categories.

There's also a Caren J. Town piece on the racism and sexism that Deborah Knott must face in the excellent novels by Margaret Maron. "The Same old Same old" says it all.

Quite an issue. In fact, one of the best Clues I've ever read.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

*Disturbing Publishing news

All day long writers' websites have snarled with reactions to the following story reported by Sarah Weinman on Gallycat:

Thursday, May 17
Controversy Over Changes to S&S's Boilerplate
Simon & Schuster recently altered its boilerplate contract to extend their copyright control of an author's work "in perpetuity" and the Authors Guild is steaming mad about it. In an alert issued yesterday, the Guild recommended that author considering excluding the house from auctions until they agree not to impose the new conditions: "The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it's available in any form, including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores. With the new contract language, the publisher would be able stop printing a book and prevent the author from publishing it with any other house."

Added president Roy Blount Jr., "A publisher is meant to publish, to get out there and sell our books. A publishing house is not supposed to be a place where our books are permanently squirreled away." It's a sentiment that Jane Litte at wholeheartedly agrees with. "The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright."

Vikki Simmons also points out that "anyone offered a contract is essentially being asked to give up any chance of reclaiming their work. For bestselling books this may not be a problem. But for authors whose books have a shorter shelf-life, this has a definite impact. What if the publisher retains the rights but does nothing? They can keep your work (just in case) and it may never see the light of day again."

S&S spokesman Adam Rothberg was surprised at the "overreaction" by the Authors Guild. "We believe that our contract appropriately addresses the improved technology, increased availability, and higher quality of print on demand books, and reflects the fact that print on demand titles may now be readily purchased by consumers at both online and brick and mortar stores. We are embracing print on demand technology as an unprecedented opportunity for authors and publishers to keep their books alive and available and selling in the marketplace in a way that may not have been previously possible for many authors, and are confident in the long term it that will be a benefit for all concerned." S&S further wanted the author and agent community "to know that, when necessary, we have always had good faith negotiations on the subject of reversions, and will continue to on a book-by-book basis."

Posted by Sarah | 04:00 PM | Publishing

Ed here: Two words--pretty scary.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mystery Scene & Drood Review; Hugh Abramson

Hi Ed
Mystery Scene has just agreed to take over the subscriber list of The Drood Review.
Jim Huang published and edited The Drood Review since its founding in 1982.
I think that made Drood the oldest mystery publication still in business.

As part of the deal Jim Huang and his wife, Jennie Jacobson, are
coming onboard as contributing editors with the next issue. I'm
hoping that they'll eventually do some writing and editing for us
when they have time.

Kate Stine
Just a note to let you know that I appreciate your taste in authors.
As you're aware, Maggie Millar was a dear friend. I published a number
of Armstrong novels, and my favorite as is yours is the wonderfully
Hitchcockian Mischief. I think the first half of A Dram of Poison is
classic; it just deteriorates into sweetness and light in the second
half. Armstrong always was concerned about the sanctity of families
which probably accounts for the happy endings which take the edge off
the books. Maggie seldom if ever had happy endings in print and
possibly in life.

Maggie once suggested that I reprint her The Cannibal Heart as a
mystery. Originally it was published as mainstream. After I read it,
I told her it reminded me of Charlotte Armstrong which she took as a
compliment. (And I did reprint it.)

Once upon a time at an ABA I had a discussion with the lady who writes
as Elizabeth Peter who maintained -- probably still does -- that
Armstrong wrote romantic suspense. Frankly, I find very little romance
in Armstrong's novels and have always felt they deserve a male

Of course, I appreciate your mentions of Carr/Dickinson, my favorite of
the Golden Age writers.

Hope all is well.

Best, Hugh Abramson

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bob Randisi

This is a letter that went to Bill Crider and me from Bob Randisi:

Ed and Bill,

I don't blog, but if I did I'd blog about this. As it is, I'll probably do a Rant & Rave column for Crime Spree about this.

I've been looking up future conventions on the web--Bouchercons AND Left Coast, Crime--and I feel a definite rant coming on. I think convention organizers are losing sight of the fact that most of the authors pay their own way. Hotels and registrations are close to $200 each now, when it be a BCon or an LCC. Doesn't have to be. I learned that after we ran Eyecon '99. It's a shame...


Ed here: Since I don't go to conventions, I haven't followed this debte closely. But I do know that as a science fiction fan of the Fifties, when a big convention was two hundred people, there were some major growing pains as conventions morphed into spectacles.

Any thoughts on mystery conventions?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Charlotte Armstrong

I believe it was Anthony Boucher who once described Charlotte Armstrong as a mixture of Cornell Woolrich and Shirley Jackson. I'm not sure I quite agree with that but it's headed in the right direction anyway.

Armstrong was pure 100% white bread. Well-bred, middle class if not upper middle class, traditional in virtually every respect, her forte was gently undermining the kind of women's fiction you found in the slicks of the 1940s and 1950s. (I've always remembered how she challenged the masculinty of a girl friend's lover. "He's the sort of man who's interested in women's hats." An her own lover says: "Lord." She was also good at spoofing the Martha Stewarts of her day. You ciould tell what she thought of a woman just by how she set her table. Too fancy was deadly.)

Her fiction is...odd. Nearly everybody in her stories is neurotic and overmuch. My favorite Armstrong is Michief, a short novel that made a much-denigrated film called Don't Bother To Knock, which features chilling performance by a young Marilyn Monroe as a mentally unbalanced babsyitter. It's a flawed movie but for me an entertaining one.

Her greatest success was with her novel The Unsuspected which became a smash hit with Claude Raines. The problem with the film is that running time doesn't permit all the really slick plot twists Armstrong brought to the novel.

She died way too young, at sixty-four, at the heighth of her popularity. Her stories were regularly adapted for TV. She won the Edgar for her novel A Dram of Poison which again struck me as an...odd book. A clever book, a well written book, but one that always left me cold.

You see her at her best, I think, in her short stories, many of which are stunning. And you have to applaud the slick magazine editors of the time for publishing some of them. She published two collections during her lifetime and you won't find a bad one in the bunch. And a few of them are stunning, dark as noir but played out against middle class setting and situations. Even most of her cozier material has an edge (with one goofy exception).

I don't think she was nearly as good as Margaret Millar, whom she resembles in some way, nor Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, whom she also resembles, but she is certainly worth buying from used stores or the internet.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

From Fred Blosser

Ed, there was a fine essay by Manohla Dargis about Lee Marvin in "The New York Times" on Friday -- a must-read if you haven't seen it.

The article's comments about Marvin's performance in Don Siegel's "The Killers" prompted me to pull out my video copy and watch it again for the first time in several years. As I remembered, it's a great crime film with an amazing cast and a tight-knit Gene L. Coon script wonderfully directed by Siegel. Except for some ancient production techniques, such as back projection and some rather blatant stock footage in a few scenes, it hardly seems dated at all. While Dargis remarks that Marvin "owns the film up, down and sideways," the rest of the cast ain't shabby either -- John Cassavettes, Ronald Reagan, Angie Dickinson, Claude Akins, Norman Fell, and Clu Gulager.

You know, the critics in the '60s fell all over themselves praising Jean Luc-Godard and Francois Truffaut for "reinventing" the pulp noir story by using the genre as a coat-rack for exisential musings, but "The Killers" goes them one better, in my opinion. It works equally well as a standard gangster thriller and as an existential statement. The movie, as you'll recall, is centered on a quest by Marvin's character, a contract killer, to find out WHY: Why did his latest victim (Cassavettes) face death willingly and resignedly, without running or pleading? Seems to me there are two existential scenarios there. One is the mystery of the victim's seemingly inexplicable acceptance of a premature and violent death. The other is the mystery of why it matters to Marvin's character. Logically, there is no reason for Marvin's character to care at all, but his irrational obsession drives the movie in its irrationality.

The last time I watched the film, back in the '90s, I was most struck by the casting and how, from the vantage point of 30 years on, it was amusing to see that the mail-car heist that lay behind the death of Cassavettes' character was engineered by a future President of the United States and by an actor who may be best remembered today, thanks to TV Land reruns, as comically irascible landlord Stanley Roper in "Three's Company."

Now, nine years on, I am equally struck by the look of Marvin's and Gulager's hit men with their sunglasses and bland business suits. I couldn't have predicted it in 1998, but the sunglasses and bland-suit look would come back big time as a model of sinister cool in the Matrix movies. The sunglasses in "The Killers" come into play in the first scene of the movie, where the gunmen invade a school for the blind to find their victim. (Pretty chilling and prescient image when you come to think of it, in hindsight of the shootings on the campuses of Columbine, Virginia Tech, and other schools.) Presumably, Marvin and Gulager wear shades as a sort of camouflage, in order not to arouse suspicion as outsiders mingling with the blind residents and employees of the school who also wear dark glasses. Later, Gulager continues to wear his dark glasses in inappropriate situations, a touch that reinforces his character's odd, unpredictable, unsettling vibe.

Hm, maybe Dargis is correct in saying that Marvin "owns the movie," but Gulager gives him a good run for the money. (With some thanks to Siegel, according to Stuart Kaminsky's 1974 book on Siegel's movies, which claims that Gulager's "wild role [was] created entirely by Siegel.") My brother-in-law refers to the Method acting by Gulager, Michael Parks, and others in the early '60s as "the slouch and mumble school of acting," but as delivered by Gulager, it hits the precisely right note to distinguish Gulager's younger killer from Marvin's business-like, straight-on character.

The opening scene also features the most brutally unsettling bit of violence in the movie, to my mind, when Marvin and Gulager hit and terrorize a blind secretary (Virginia Christine) who greets them in a friendly way when they walk into her office to ask the whereabouts of the man they have come to find. Nowadays, NOW would probably picket a movie featuring a scene like that, and in principle, I would agree with their outrage, and I suspect Siegel would have too; but I don't see a sexual/misogynistic undertone to the act that often characterizes violence against women in the movies. It is simply a display of force against an innocent person who happens to be a woman, exerted because Marvin and Gulager are inherently if dispassionately violent men who need to locate their target and complete their job as quickly as possible. It sets the tone of the film in the most disturbingly effective way imaginable.

In the Times article, Dargis laments: "For younger audiences, especially those who believe film history starts with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Marvin may well represent a question mark. (“Who?” a young friend asked.)" Don Siegel, too, I imagine. But I suspect that today's kids and 20-somethings weaned on extreme video games and Quentin Tarantino would find something familiar and resonant in "The Killers" and in Lee Marvin's performance. What do you think?

Fred Blosser

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mike Ripley's new column

Shots is one of my favorite on-line magazine. Mike Stotter and cohorts manage to keep topping themselves issue after issue.

My favorite part of Shots is always Mike Ripley's column "Getting Away With Murder," though "column" is really a misnomer here. His piece is a newspaper unto itself, filled with news, opinion and Mike's coiled incomprable wit. Every once in a while you sense that he wants to diss a certain person but is much too polite to do it. He generally quotes them and let's them do it for themselves.

I especially like his portraits of writers who've passed on. He gives us a sense of the person (many of whom he knew) and also why their books were worthwhile. In this issue he speaks of three writers who've died. His piece on Michael Dibdin is particularly fine.

Just type into your subject box and prepare yourself to spend some memorable reading time with some of the world's finest writers. You get reportage and fuiction alike.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Catching up

Hello Ed
I share all the current enthusiasm about Charles Williams but think there's a better comparison to be made than with John D. MacDonald or Jim Thompson or anyone else I've seen mentioned. Charles Williams is at his best when writing of a protagonist consumed by a self-destructive quest. So too is James M. Cain.
Steve Marlowe

From Galleycat

PW Daily serves up the news (plus Perseus CEO David Steinberger's memo to colleagues) which includes the following:

Perseus Books Group has formed six publishing divisions built around Avalon Travel, Basic Books, Da Capo, Public Affairs, Running Press and Vanguard imprints.
24 positions eliminated, with as many as 21 other employees could lose their jobs if they are not willing to relocate or take on new roles
Carroll & Graf and Thunder's Mouth will cease to exist as imprints after this fall, with William Strachan, editor-in-chief of Thunder's Mouth and Carroll & Graf, and C&G senior editor Don Weise among the editors being let go.
Avalon's New York office will be closed sometime this summer and employees will be moved to Perseus's headquarters on Park Avenue.
Will there be more news? There has to be, because the fate of former PGW employees and publishers hasn't even been addressed yet, and one must believe they will be at some point.

More tellingly, the impending shutdown of C&G and Thunder's Mouth should call into question whether Perseus has any longterm plans to publish fiction. Will Balliett, former executive editor of both imprints, now moves to Da Capo in a similar position. But that imprint is not known for publishing fiction. Basic Books is absorbing Nation Books (which sometimes does fiction) and Vanguard, already established as a place for formerly bestselling novelists to go for a career refresher, will likely continue what it's doing, but what of C&G's extensive mystery fiction publishing program, or the backlist reissues that Thunder's Mouth does? Steinberger might say that "[e]ach of our imprints needs to have a distinct identity, and we didn't feel that was the case with Carroll & Graf and Thunder's Mouth," but without any concrete evidence in place, one really has to wonder.

Ed here: For many years Carroll & Graf had the most interesting list in American publishing, at least for me. With the exit of (first) Kent Carroll and (second) Herman Graf it began to change significantly. Now it is gone. My biggest lament is all the jobs lost. I had some good friends still working there and I wish them well.


For those of you wondering what happened to The Elephant's Graveyard by James Reasoner, the short story that I posted for approximately half an hour. I meant for it to be a link, not a post. That is being worked on now. The story will appear again soon. Sorry for the wait.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

15 Impressions of Charles Williams

Fifteen Impressions

of CharIes Williams by Ed Gorman


"He was a hard luck kind of guy. He was much better than many writers who really made it. Not that he'd ever tell you, of course. He was genuinely modest, maybe even a little down on what he wrote. You could never be sure if he thought what he did was quite respectable. He was, after all, writing paperback originals and this was still the 1950s."

This is his agent, Don Congdon, talking on a late New York afternoon.


When she was through being sick, I wet a wash cloth at the basin and bathed her face while she leaned weakly against the bathroom wall with her eyes closed. She didn't open them until she was back on the bed. She took one long look at me and said, "Oh, good God!" and closed them again. She made a feeble attempt to pull her skirt down. I straightened it for her, and she lay still. I went out in the living room and lighted a cigarette. I could handle her all right, but if the police came by again and noticed those garage doors were unlocked, I was dead. It would be at least three more hours before it was dark.

This is from Man on the Run, November 1958, not a classic but a solid turbulent novel that has all Gold Medal Original elements. A) a falsely accused man trying to elude police, b) a lonely woman as desperate in her way as the man on the run, c) enough atmospherics (night, rain, fog) to enshroud a hundred films noir. It has now been out of print for forty years.


According to Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers (second edition), Charles Williams was born in San Angelo, Texas, on August 13, 1909, was educated at Brownsville High School, Texas (only through the tenth grade), served with the United States Mer­chant Marine, married Lasca Foster in 1939, had one daughter, and died in 1975.

What it doesn't tell us is how he died. On that same late New York afternoon, his agent, Congdon, described the details of Williams' death.


In an exceptional essay on Williams, writer and critic Geoffrey O'Brien noted: "Charles Williams is at face value the epitome of a macho adventure writer. his heroes are characteristically pre-occu­pied with hunting (Hill Girl), fishing (River Girl; Go Home, Stranger; Girl Out Back), athletics (The Big Bite; A Touch of Death), and, above all, sailing (Scorpion Reef; The Sailcloth Shroud; Dead Calm)."

Then O'Brien neatly goes on to point out that while the trappings of the book may seem standard blue col­lar—especially the early "hill" books­—their real theme is "the hero's discov­ery that he knows nothing about women."

It is Williams's women we re­member most, from the innocent girl in Hell Hath No Fury to the sullen and deadly Cathy Dunbar in Nothing in Her Way and the enigmatic Mrs. Langston in Talk of the Town.

No other power—not in Williams's world anyway—can match women's to redeem or destroy.


"It's actually kind of a funny story, how I met Charlie. In those days—this is back in the late forties—I was an editor at Simon & Schuster and his first novel came in over the transom; the writing was exceptionally good for a new writer but the plot was deemed by me and several others to be too commercial for hardcovers of that day, so the manuscript was returned to Charlie.

"Later, I left Simon & Schuster and joined the Harold Matson Company as an agent. I wrote a few writers whose work I had seen at Simon & Schuster to see if they would let me handle their work. Charlie sent me the same novel and I offered it to some other hardcover publishers, and it was turned down.

"Charlie suggested I throw it away, but I didn't. I put the manuscript on the shelf and a year or so later when Fawcett started their line of paperback originals, which they called Gold Medals, I remembered Charlie's work, sent it over to them, and they bought it immediately. I had difficulty reaching Charlie to give him the good news, but finally did. The novel, which was entitled Hill Girl, went on to sell two and a half million copies."


The French, more than any other people, love the suspense story. Gallimard, in its famous mystery-suspense series Série Noire, has kept most of Charlie's novels in print for many years. People such as Truffaut were interested in his novels and Jeanne Moreau and Belmondo starred in Nothing in Her Way, the first novel to be filmed.

"Hollywood was never as interested," says Congdon, "and the early paperback novels usually elicited contempt from most of the people out there, who thought they were 'pulp.'

"However, one of his novels, The Wrong Venus, did sell to Universal and Charlie was hired to write the screen­play. He was disgusted with that experience because the screenplay was pretty much rewritten for James Garner. He worked on a second screen­play of someone else's work, but it also turned out to be a poor film."


Not that during this period—1957-­1958—the book career is moving along so marvelously either.

For some reason, the whole original paperback response to the suspense novel began to subside, and Charlie's audience shrank along with it. Sales simply weren't as big as they had been, with the exception of those writers who decided to do their suspense mysteries around a single detective or lead character, as John D. MacDonald did. Charlie was asked to do this, but he said it would bore him silly writing about the same guy each time.

Congdon and Williams went to Dell and Knox Burger with idea that Charlie's work ought to be in hardcover. Knox was willing to go along with a first hardcover printing if they could find a publisher and work out the appropriate arrangements. This was done with several of his novels, the first, Scorpion Reef being at Macmillan.

They even talked to him about writing a series. Williams felt about series fiction much as he did about Hollywood.

Italy, Spain, and France—there Charlie is hot hot hot.

In the States, to Congdon, he says: "Sometimes I wouldn't mind giving it all up and just being a beach bum."


Charles Williams wrote in a definitive way about used car lots, drive-up restaurants, motels, gun shops, loafing, sex with women you don't trust, inhaling cigarettes on chilly mornings, loneliness, inadequacy, fear and dread.

He wrote a great deal about dread.


So Orson Welles, through this lawyer he had, buys this book of Charlie's and says he's going to make it into a film. Now Charlie had had several films made, but the idea was that Welles's standing and taste would be sufficient to expect that the film would be good. High hopes. Well, it did get made, but not all of it.

Jeanne Moreau, who was in the film, she said she'd seen early rushes and thought the film was a good one, but that Orson still wanted to tinker with it. And you heard on the talk shows from time to time about how more parts of it are getting made and soon now it will be done. But it was never released.


"You see why I wake up this way? It's a dream I have.

"I'm sitting there in the car watch­ing her come out of that last bank and swing toward me across the side­walk in the sun with the coppery hair shining and that tantalizing smile of Suzie's on her face and all that un­hampered Suzie running loose inside that summer dress, seeing her and thinking that in only a few minutes we'll be in the apartment with the blinds drawn, in the semigloom, with a small overnight bag open on the floor beside the bed with $120,000 in fat bundles of currency inside it and maybe one nylon stocking, a sheer nylon, dropped by someone who didn't care where it fell ...

"And then in this dream she waves three fingers of her left hand and saunters on down the street, past me, and she's gone, and I'm trapped in a car in traffic at high noon in the middle of a city of 400,000, where two hundred cops are just waiting for me to step out on the street so they can spot me. I wake up.


"Who wouldn't?"

—A Touch of Death


In the early 1970s, his wife died of cancer. Charles Williams bought some land up on the border between California and Oregon and went there to live in a trailer. Alone.

"He'd call and he'd sound depressed," Congdon says, "and I'd say, 'Charlie, you sound really depressed, why don't you get out of there?'

"It rained all that winter and he didn't write much, couldn't get a new book going. Charlie felt that once decent weather came along, living close to the river where he could fish, that things would work out. But there were complications about building a house, so he sold the property and moved down to Los Angeles."


"Charlie worked on some screenplay with Nona Tyson, a friend, who was Steven Spielberg's assistant and secretary. Her support seemed to help Charlie start working again. He finished Man on a Leash and things looked as if they were going to be fine after all."


Charlie had one child, a daughter named Alison, and Williams was proud of her because she was especially bright.


"It was very strange," Congdon says. "So cold and purposeful. One morning I'm sitting in my office and I get a letter from Charlie and it says that by the time I read this, he'll have killed him­self, which is exactly what he did.

"I couldn't tell you why, not for sure, and I would rather not speculate on it.

"Charlie was a smooth and polished writer, and he worked so hard on his books. He deserved more attention to his work in the United States, particularly in the film studios. He had the misfortune of writing suspense novels at a time when the public didn't seem to have as much interest in the genre."


Charles Williams wrote in a definitive way about pretty women, the way dust motes tumble in the sunlight, how pink a kitten's tongue is, how booze tastes when you're angry, how booze tastes when you're sad, and how booze tastes when you're alone in the woods and not thinking of anything special at all.

But mostly, Charles Williams wrote in a definitive way about all of us—­brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, people unremarkable in any overt way, just fearful people finally, floating on day­dreams and obstinate hope before the final darkness.

Charles Williams Part Two

The following article is part two of the Charles Williams overview. It's by Ed Lynskey who's new novel BLUE CHEER is receiving raves around the world. He is also an excellent writer of short stories. This originallly appered on Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals website.

Part Two

Other current crime writers agree Williams was a superior writer given short shrift. "Williams was at least as good as his more well-known contemporaries if not always better." Country noir author Daniel Woodrell in a 1994 NYTBR referred to the "under-appreciated Charles Williams." Jason Starr, a young noir writer, has declared Williams was an early influence. Charles Williams is well thought of and eagerly discussed by members on Bill Denton’s rara-avis list.

Ed Gorman has noted that "Williams was quiet and possessed of a melancholy that imbued each of his tales with a kind of glum decorum." His wife since 1939, Lasca, died of cancer in the early 1970s. This provided the biographical backdrop for Williams’ final book. Nona Tyson, an assistant to Steve Spielberg and who’d also helped out on The Hot Spot script, drew Williams out of his funk to finish Leash for 1973 publication. Encouraged, the author relocated to the Pacific Northwest but loneliness, lousy health, and soupy elements made it no go. He was unable to polish off the next manuscript, returned to LA, dejected. In 1975, he committed suicide. Understandably, details were not forthcoming from his agent or immediate family. No full-length study on the man or the writer is available.

Does Leash, then, reveal something new developing in Williams' vision? Yes, I believe it does.

It was brought out by G. P. Putnam under the Red Mask Mystery imprint that also included such authors as Martin Cruz Smith, Thomas B. Dewey, Michael Z. Lewin, Leslie Edgley, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and Lillian O’Donnell. Coincidentally, short story writer Jack Ritchie published a short fiction in the December 1958 issue of AHMM by the same title. As Bill Crider has correctly suggested, Leash was "not up to Williams’ Gold Medal novels." Ed Gorman also considers Williams "was probably at his best in his books set at sea."

Still, Leash, as Williams’ final foray in print, presents some intriguing themes and revealing insights. It clocks in at his usual Gold Medal 55,000-60,000 word limit. Its similarity with his Gold Medal output ends there, however. Roughly speaking, Williams divided his settings into sea capers (Dead Calm, The Sailcloth Shroud, Scorpion Reef) and rumbles in the sticks (Big City Girl, Hell Hath No Fury, and Hill Girl). Leash, at least for the first half, straddles its emphasis on both these settings.

The protagonist, Eric Romstead, a 36-year-old resident of San Francisco, returns to the Nevada desert town of Coleville to investigate his father’s brutal murder. Captain Gunnar Romstead, a merchant marine captain, has been shot execution-style and dumped at a landfill. Eric’s vengeful quest is to hunt down his father’s assassins while making peace with a father-son rift driven by mutually fierce, independent personalities.

Father and son have rousing maritime exploits, only not shared. Gunnar performed a daring rescue at sea and ran supplies in enemy waters during World War Two. Eric, an accomplished sailor, has a boat dealership in the Caribbean, a cover for his CIA activities. Despite their strong ties to the sea referred to throughout the novel, the bigtop drama is played out in a desert town. Eric first regards it while at his father’s gravesite: "It was full daylight now, the sky washed with pink and gold above the waste of flinty hills and desert scrub to the east, while to the westward the thrusting escarpments of the Sierra stood out sharply in the clear desert air."

Leash is very much a male-centric plot. Father and son, as it were, are tested in this desert town. Both are kidnapped and square off the same nemesis, an electronics wizard, who demands a hefty ransom each time. In fact, the sea has brought them this trouble set in motion by Gunnar's arrest of a man smuggling heroin aboard his vessel. Williams strives to establish an order in this arid, desolate landscape and is not wholly successful. He seems more at ease in employing such settings as seaport cities like San Francisco or the rural South of his youth (birthplace is San Angelo, Texas).

The novel’s second portion relies on lots of technical description of explosives and electronics to build suspense and establish expertise, preceding Tom Clancy’s techno-thrillers by almost a decade. Here the prose is concrete, tactile, and muscular: "He gestured toward the confused litter on Brubaker’s desk, the still bloody and dust-smeared automatic, his own statement, now typed out and signed, and half a dozen of the scorched aluminum tubes, a hand-written letter and some more papers, and a flat plastic bag of heroin."

Mileage is computed. Boat specs are given. Eric sums up the novel’s evil deed: "Having somebody by the balls is not just an expression." Williams brings in the D.B. Cooper caper (a man parachuting out of a Boeing 727 at 10,000 feet with a satchel of money) to underscore his own bad guy’s MO. The nifty, nasty device is remindful of one used by villains in a Richard S. Prather paperback. Enough said. I don’t want to be a spoiler.

Lee Horsely has written eloquently on Williams’ vibrant, complex femme fatale, particularly in his mid-1950s Gold Medal titles. Leash deviates from this standard. The female characters are pretty much reduced to flat or stock characters. Eric’s girlfriend in San Francisco, Mayo, waits around for his return, making perfunctory appearances at the book's start and ending. Paulette Carmody, a wealthy divorcee who teams up with Eric out in the desert, essentially embodies the 1970s version of a tough, wise-cracking dame.

One thing not missing from Leash is Williams' trenchant humor. He studs the prose with great one liners ("long as a whore’s dream," "needing younger and younger girls to get it off the runway," "he had a fist like a twelve pound frozen ham" ). There are nice turns of phrase ("in the boundless hush his shoes made little plopping sounds"). And how about this wonderful zinger: "I'll kiss your ass at half time in the Rose Bowl"? Furthermore, Williams' descriptions and characterization do not suffer in this Mojave Desert setting he tries out for size. Finally, the climax in Leash unwinds in typical Williams' taut yet restrained fashion.

What novels Charles Williams may've produced in the 1970s is, of course, speculative and perhaps it is a bit indulgent to guess. Leash suggests an attempt to reach beyond the hardboiled/noir comfort zones he'd erected in the 1950s into the late 1960s. While perhaps not a turning point in the author’s output, it reads more like a modern suspense novel than a traditional hardboiled book. References are made to the CIA and FBI. Pet phrases like "chauvinist pig" are used. Women are minor players to elevate the men to near-hero status. Still, the Williams hallmarks remain intact. The story is vigorously told; the action sequences are clean and crisp; the mystery plot is built line by line. Eric Rumstead becomes a sympathetic main character.

You don't come away with the impression after reading the novel that the author was tapped out or penning his swan song. In sum, the man on a leash, was not Charles Williams. He was well on his way to adapting to the times.

Copyright© 2003 Ed Lynskey


Charles Williams

The following article will appear in two parts. It's by Ed Lynskey who's new novel BLUE CHEER is receiving raves around the world. He is also an excellent writer of short stories. This originallly appered on Allan Guthrie's Noir Oiginals website.

Charles Williams: More Than A Slight Return

True story. In Summer 2002, I checked out the only Charles Williams novel found in my public library’s holdings, Man on a Leash. Some months later, I went back to recheck it out. No soap. The book (Williams’ last novel) had been taken out of circulation. An ex libris. Well, well. This anecdote illustrates to me how Charles William’s oeuvre has fast disappeared from today’s crime fiction radar. However, his fine works hardly deserve returning to their pulp origins in the form of recycled paper.

My oblique introduction to Charles Williams came years ago watching The Pink Jungle, a 1968 offbeat romance-adventure B-flick starring James Garner, George Kennedy, and Eva Renzi. Williams was credited as the screenplay writer. Adapted from Alan A. Williams’ novel, Snake Water, Williams managed to put in some snappy, quirky dialogue, especially Kennedy and Garner’s exchanges. The movie’s documentation is archived today with Director Delbert Mann’s papers at his alma mater, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. I just have to wonder if Williams, who had a wry contempt for Hollywood, left any squibs inked on the back of a script or memo.

Despite having launched his writing career in the early 1950s with Gold Medal (who also published other hardboiled luminaries such as Jim Thompson and Gil Brewer), Charles Williams wasn’t nominated for an Edgar until 1972 (Best Paperback Original for And the Deep Blue Sea). Instead, I Charge More For Murder by Frank McAuliffe captured the honors. And yet, at the peak of his creative powers, Williams wrote Hill Girl (1951) which sold an astonishing 2.5 million copies.

But self-advertisement and self-advancement weren’t really Williams’ forte. His literary agent Don Congdon has described the former merchant marine sailor as "a hard luck kind of guy" and "genuinely modest." Willaims himself once said about writing: "Sometimes I wouldn't mind giving it all up and just being a beach bum." The dust jacket photo on Leash shows a beetle-browed, stolid-faced gentleman uncomfortable in the conservative coat and tie he’s donned for the occasion. To his friends and associates, he was known as "Charlie."

After leaving Gold Medal in the late 1950s, Williams with his agent went on to publish successful hard cover novels at Viking Press, Macmillan, Dell, and, of course, G. P. Putnam who published Leash in 1973. Williams still managed to please his most ardent admirers. The noted American mystery critic Anthony Boucher reviewed his paperbacks for NYTBR. He was also reviewed favorably in Library Journal for 1963’s Dead Calm.

However, Williams’ readership continued to dwindle. His book sales flagged. Woody Haut has proposed that Williams was unable to tailor his fiction to suit the age of protest, the 1960s. The grand golden era of the pulps had passed. The always observant Williams himself satirized the washed up pulp writer in his 1966 Don't Just Stand There: "It wasn't lack of talent, but simply a matter of early conditioning and the fact he was a little too old to adapt."

Posthumous fame for Williams has been negligible. Harold Matson, the literary agency handling the Charles Williams Estate, oversaw reprints with Simon and Schusters’ Blue Murder imprint and Harper & Row’s Perennial Library Harper Suspense line. One Williams short story, "Flight to Nowhere," first printed in September 1955’s issue of Manhunt, was collected into Maxim Jakubowski’s 1996 The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction anthology.

The 1989 film Dead Calm adapted from Williams’ potboiler by the same title is competent but uneven; as Washington Post critic Desson Howe has noted, the screenwriter lopped out "too much character motivation and suspense." Williams was co-credited with Nona Tyson for the screenplay adaptation of his novel Hell Hath No Fury into the 1990 movie The Hot Spot. Again, this Dennis Hopper-directed picture left many viewers unfulfilled. The RKO noirish atmosphere, as Roger Ebert observed, translated fine. Don Johnson as the lead was thought to be miscast. Hopper is said to have tinkered too much with moods and methods later fused into his bad guy role for David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Perhaps Jennifer Connelly’s buff scene is perhaps best remembered from The Hot Spot.

Maxim Jakubowski has written: "Charles Williams is still one of the most neglected authors of the paperback original Golden Age. His tales of sea, backwoods and obsession still ring for me a strong noir chord unlike any other. Yet another example of an American classic better known in Europe than in his own language." Williams’ sustained popularity overseas is puzzling. Leash was his 18th novel translated into French. Gallimard's celebrated Serie Noire printed his novels in France. At least eight Williams titles have been translated into Danish. Author Jiro Kimura notes that three Charles Williams novels appeared in Japanese. German, Spanish and Italian translations were also available. As further evidence of this paradox, Williams scripted the top-notch French film noir, Joy House, from Day Keene’s novel in 1963. Five years later, however, he wrote the U.S.-made The Pink Jungle, only an also-ran.

Parallels have been drawn between Charles Williams and the more renowned mystery novelist John D. MacDonald. For instance, Max Allan Collins has described Williams: "Though a number of major films have been made from his work, Charles Williams remains the best kept secret in (what's now being called) noir fiction. His work rivals the best of Jim Thompson, who was never the polished professional that Williams was, and he should be considered at least the near-equal of John D. MacDonald, who himself ranked Williams at the top of the Gold Medal era heap." Indeed, in an interview with Ed Gorman, John D. MacDonald said he believed Williams had been undeservedly neglected. Williams in some respects eclipsed MacDonald’s vast talent. Mario Taboada, for instance, believes Williams’ "way of maintaining tension throughout" exceeded John D.’s narrative development.


Monday, May 07, 2007

The first Stark House Three-Fer

Greg Shepard of Stark House and I have been working for many months on the first Three-Fer, three out of print paperbacks that deserve republication. Nice to know that our first review comes from David Pitt at Booklist and that's starred.

*STAR*Marlowe, Dan J. and others The Vengeance Man/Park Avenue Tramp/The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed. May 2007. 400p. Stark House, $23.95 (1-933586-14-1).
Three long-out-of-print novels originally published by Gold Medal Books in the 1950s and 1960s are reprinted here. Taking them in reverse order, Charles Runyon’s The Prettiest Girl I Ever Killed is about a man determined to prove his brother is innocent of murder and who winds up in the crosshairs of the real—and manically determined—killer. Fletcher Flora’s Park Avenue Tramp lives up to the seediness of its title by telling the story of a married woman who falls in love, and her husband, who usually puts up with her wandering eye, decides he’s taken quite enough. These two novels (by authors who are, sadly, largely forgotten today) are beautiful examples of pulp fiction: sardonic, fast-paced, and tightly plotted, with tough-speaking men and beautiful, deceptive women. But it is Marlowe’s magnificent The Vengeance Man that is this three-in-one book's headliner, and all by itself it’s more than worth the price of admission. The tale of a man so hungry for power and status that he will let no one, including his own wife, stand in his way is just plain riveting. Brutally violent, sexually explicit, and completely wicked, the novel reads like Marlowe was tapping directly into the dark side of his mind, the place where all the secret fantasies live, and where there is no such thing as inhibition or self-control. The novel is a masterpiece and deserves—no, demands—to be read by every mystery fan. —David Pitt

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Rainy Sunday

No tornadoes, so far, thank God. But cold steady rain. I worked most of the day then grabbed a few paperback anthologies and magazines dating back three or four decades and started looking for something that would grab my attention. Sat in a comfortable chair and read probably a dozen stories.

If you're lucky enough to have access to the Jan 1985 Mike Shayne magazine, let me recommend the James Reasoner story in there The Elephant's Graveyard. This is one of his best Cody stories--maybe THE best--a character study of a young man who went to Mexico on a college tour sixteen years ago and vanished. His sister was recently informed that he was in Mexico now. She was also told where he could be found. She hires Cody to bring him back. One especially odd fact for Cody is that the young man has a huge inheritance waiting for him here. This is a fine story with some exceptional Mexican atmosphere and a troubled man worthy of Ross Macdonald.

I almost always enjoy stories about scams and Francis M. Nevins has a good one in a collection called Criminal Elements edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg. The telling here is sleek and amusing and the hook is one I've never seen before. In order to pull off the scam they've worked out, they must get an elderly lady in a nursing home to sign over the rights to a series of western novels that were once used as the basis of a series of shoot-em-up movies for recently deceased superstar John West (read: John Wayne). A really funny, unique and memorable story.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Prince of Pulp, Legit At Last

copyright May 6, 2007 The New York Times
A Prince of Pulp, Legit at Last


ALL his life the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick yearned for what he called the mainstream. He wanted to be a serious literary writer, not a sci-fi hack whose audience consisted, he once said, of “trolls and wackos.” But Mr. Dick, who popped as many as 1,000 amphetamine pills a week, was also more than a little paranoid. In the early ’70s, when he had finally achieved some standing among academic critics and literary theorists — most notably the Polish writer Stanislaw Lem — he narced on them all, writing a letter to the F.B.I. in which he claimed they were K.G.B. agents trying to take over American science fiction.

So it’s hard to know what Mr. Dick, who died in 1982 at the age of 53, would have made of the fact that this month he has arrived at the pinnacle of literary respectability. Four of his novels from the 1960s — “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and “Ubik” — are being reissued by the Library of America in that now-classic Hall of Fame format: full cloth binding, tasseled bookmark, acid-free, Bible-thin paper. He might be pleased, or he might demand to know why his 40-odd other books weren’t so honored. And what about the “Exegesis,” an 8,000-page journal that derived a sort of Gnostic theology from a series of religious visions he experienced during a couple of months in 1974? A wary, hard-core Dickian might argue that the Library of America volume is just a diversion, an attempt to turn a deeply subversive writer into another canonical brand name.

Part of why Mr. Dick’s work appeals so much to moviemakers is his pulpish sensibility. He grew up in California reading magazines like Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe, and then, after dropping out of the University of California, Berkeley, began writing for them, often in manic 20-hour sessions fueled by booze and speed. He could type 120 words a minute, and told his third wife (third of five, and there were countless girlfriends: Mr. Dick loved women but was hell to live with), “The words come out of my hands, not my brain, I write with my hands.”

His early novels, written in two weeks or less, were published in double-decker Ace paperbacks that included two books in one, with a lurid cover for each. “If the Holy Bible was printed as an Ace Double,” an editor once remarked, “it would be cut down to two 20,000-word halves with the Old Testament retitled as ‘Master of Chaos’ and the New Testament as ‘The Thing With Three Souls.’ ”

for the complete article log on here

Ed here: That's a pretty funny take on Ace Doubles. And I had no idea that "Next" was based on one of my favorite PD stories "The Golden Man." Its opening scene is still one of the most suspenseful paranoid moments in science fiction.

This is generally a well-written article with a few fresh insights and a lot of interesting material.

The exception being the inevitable moment when McGrath says that one doesn't read PD for the prose. I suppose because I too grew up reading Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories (in their death throes), I don't know beans about good writin' either.

But these stories that a new generation of writers find so offensive still work for me maybe for the simple reason that I've always sensed a kindred soul in PD.

A fella's gotta be god damned careful in this life because at any given time a number of people are out to do you harm verbally (whisper whisper whisper) if not physically. Is there a PD story in which the protagonist ISN'T forced out of the small society of which he's a member? Either he's banished or he goes willingly seeking a truth that makes him a laughingstock. Mix in a war-mad government and a drugged and defeated citizenry and you've got the starting point of nearly every short story PD ever wrote.

Friday, May 04, 2007


A KILLING IN COMICS by Max Allan Collins (with many illustrations by Terry Beatty) is a wise, witty and occasionally tart take on what life was like in the professional world of comic books back in 1948.

While the stories of Wonder Guy and other super heroes enterain the nation with good clean fun, the life of publisher Donny Harrison concludes with his murder on his fiftieth birthday--in a milieu of jealousy, hatred and vengeance.

While Harrison's demise was carefully planned to look accidental, it's definitely murder and stepson Jack Starr is out to to prove it. Collins takes us inside the business as it was rather than the way gauzy soft way it's sometime portrayed in the fan press. We see ripped off creators (Siegel and Schuster here known as Spiegel and Schuster), ambitious upstarts, mistresses who know much more than they care to reveal and an industry recovering from the war years when paper was scarce and patriotism was all. There was gold to be mined in an era when some comic book titles sold three- and four hundred thousand copies a month.

This is as finely wrought a novel as Collins' Nate Heller books. In fact, Jack Starr could be Heller's first cousin or maybe even brother. Or Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin in slightly less expensive suits. There's that same street-wise sense of life, of history and of trying to survive in a tough world where ideals are bought and sold many times a day. Collins keeps it all fast page-turning fun.

And Terry Beatty's pefectly rendered art takes us back to the daily strips of the Forties and early Fifties. Beatty has long been a master of the classical tradition and his work has never been finer than the black and white illustrations he does here.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Whoring by any other name

From Ron at Galleycat today:

One of the most frequent complaints that book reviewers who work in the print industry have about those online upstarts moving in on their territory is the notion that blogs can be "bought," co-opted by publishers and transformed into marketing tools rather than genuinely critical forums. Of course, the idea that book publishers would view print media as a promotional opportunity never seems to occur to them—at least they occasionally recognize that some bloggers might have cultivated personal integrity without the benefit of a paycheck—but that doesn't mean the threat they perceive isn't real. Media companies are, in fact, looking for ways to get their products into more and more blogs, and they don't always treat the bloggers the way they treat book review editors, so bloggers do need to keep their eyes open.

Yesterday, for example, Dr. Blogstein got all excited about a dust jacket for the new Brad Thor thriller, The First Commandment (coming out this July). But it wasn't just a picture of an American flag flapping in the breeze that put Blogstein in such an ecstatic mood. "Brad Thor has entrusted me with a small quantity of autographed copies of the rare uncorrected advance galley proofs that ordinarily only get sent to the media," he enthused. "If you're a blogger and promise to write up a review of The First Commandment after you've read it (NO SPOILERS ALLOWED!) I'll have one of these autographed galleys sent to you!"

Ed here:

I spend less than an hour a day on line. So I don't keep up on trends and hot websites. The time I do spend is mostly on poltiical sites.

I realized this again today when I logged on to the must-read site Galleycat and found the above. Are most of you aware of this kind of whoring and shilling? This is like all those movie blurbs they run on trailers these days. 'STUPENDOUS!' mike simoleons watersmell magazine and then (change to) `FANTASTIC!' mike simoleons--all but the blurb words in tiny type that we only see for 1.2 seconds.

So wow my theory of the universe is correct. It goes this way: anything that is created for the common good (in this case honest reasonable criticism) will be co-opted within twenty-four hours. Take peniciilin after WW11 (all the deaths--as depicted in The Third Man), landing on the moon (the race for military supremacy in space), the internet (sexual predators).

And banal co-option is just as speedy--autographed galleys for a glowing internet reviews. Infomercials look downright dignified by comparison.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Richard Yates

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Kathy Bates will reteam with her "Titanic" co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Sam Mendes' drama "Revolutionary Road."

Dreamworks is putting out the film about a suburban Connecticut couple whose relationship deteriorates amidst the post-World War II period in the 1950s. The project is based on the 1961 acclaimed novel of the same name by Richard Yates. Bates will play Mrs. Givings, who sells the couple their home and introduces them to the town.
(from Cinema Confidental copyright 2007)


For me, the novel Revolutionary Road is one of the finest pieces of literary art of the last fifty years. While it secured Richard Yates' literary reputation, it didn't do much for his bank account. He spent most of his troubled years teaching. Among his students at the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop were Max Allan Collins and James Crumley.

His Collected Storis is now available. I'd put it up with Hemingway's First Fifty. I think it's that good. If you've given up on most contemporary literary fiction, go back a generation or two and see what the post-war men and women accomplished. And there's no better place to start than with Richard Yates.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I heard a guy who reviews books discuss the decline of newspaper space for the sort of literary reviws that made Sundy papers so much fun to read through. He noted that the only two substantive book sections left are those of the NY Times and The Wash Post.

I expected him to diss on-line reviewers, given the wide disparity in the quality and intelligence you find on the net. But he was a booster of on-line reviewing and hopes that newspapers will somehow merge print and net reviews in an effort to keep the whole process alive.

He would have been more impressive if his arguments had been better. But the NPR interviewer picked them apart without much trouble. I felt sorry for the reviewer. He came on with the best of intentions but he needed to do his homework. As the interviewer said, Sunday book sections are disappearing because they don't generate profits. Publishers don't spend much on advertising. In this age of declining newspaper circulation, that's about all you need to say.


Cory Doctorow is not only a fine writer he's also a brave man. In the new Locus he defends fan fiction. Hell, he ENCOURAGES fan fiction. "Our field (science fiction) is incredibly privileged to have such an active fanfic writing practice. Let's stop treating them like thieves and start treating them like honored guests at a table that we just laid for them."

He notes that most of us write fan fiction one way or another when we start out. Between the ages of nine and twelve I probably did versions of probably every story Ray Bradbury wrote up to that time.

There is a real war over amateurs working in the worlds created by professional writers. There are hundreds of Buffy The Vampire Slayer stories. And just about every TV show has fan fic writers cranking out stories set in their worlds. Doctorow claims that some of the fan fic is better than the real thing.

Is there such a thing as mystery fiction fan fiction? I'm not aware of it but then I live in Iowa.


Pimping Myself #2

I got a starred Library Journal review for my new Sam McCain mystery FOOLS RUSH IN

*Gorman, Ed. Fools Rush in: A Sam McCain Mystery. Pegasus. May 2007.
> c.229p. ISBN 978-1-933648-32-3. $24. M
> Gumshoe Sam McCain (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?) is asked by the
> town judge to look into the death of a young black man who had been
> dating the daughter of a wealthy white senator. The year is 1963, the
> height of the Civil Rights Movement, but the few African Americans who
> live in the small town of Black River Falls, IA, do not interact with
> the white upper class as equals. Gorman's seventh series mystery is
> not
> only a compelling crime novel but also a powerful depiction of the
> deep-rooted prejudice and social inequities in middle America. A
> Shamus
> Award winner, Gorman lives in Cedar Rapids, IA. [See Prepub
> Mystery, LJ
> 11/1/06.]

And this from Horror World re Tom Piccirrilli's Midnight Premiere hardcover:
The real payoff of the collection comes with its final two stories, Brian Hodge’s “The Passion of the Beast” and Ed Gorman’s remarkable “Scream Queen”. Hodge’s story—written as both a narrative and an overly-intellectual analysis of a film that is the flip side of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, manages to be both satiric and affecting and never—despite the potential—becomes heavy-handed. Gorman’s “Scream Queen” is the heartbreaking story of three friends, one of whom works at a local video store, who recognize one the regular customers as a one-time scream queen who simply vanished a few years before. The boys’ reaction to finding out who she is—as well as the reasons revealed for her disappearance—make this, along with the contribution of Morton & Grove, the finest story in the book, and an affecting, elegiac tale with which to end this wonderful collection.

And my Mom didn't write either on us these.