Sunday, February 08, 2009

Stephen Marlowe

Yesterday The Mystery File ran a piece on the literary novels of Stephen Marlowe. It's well worth reading.

I believe it was back in the late eighties when I first contacted Steve. I asked him if he'd like to write a piece about his days writing for Gold Medal. He said he'd like to and a month later the manuscript arrived. It was a fine and sometimes fiery article about how the entire Gold Medal program changed when Richard Carroll, the most prominent of the early GM editors, died.

I'd been reading Steve from 1954 (I started buying Amazing Stories when I was twelve about the time Bill Crider did too) back when he wrote under his then real name Milton Lesser. Early on in our correspondence he didn't show much interest in his past work. He was focused on his literary novels. When he told me that he'd lost copies of many of his paperbacks and pulps I offered to send him some duplicates I had. He didn't want them. Long ago and far away he said.

I can't remember why he finally started talking about his Chet Drum novels. I'd been nudging him to write about them but I think something else happened to get him interested in his commercial work. Anyway The Private Eye Writers of America gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award and that really rekindled his interest. I introduced him to Greg Shepard at Stark House and they decided to publish two of Steve's past books in a single volume, Violence Is My Business and Turn Left At Murder. Though Violence was a Drum I actually thought Turn Left was the better book. In fact I think it's a classic suspense novel.

Through all this Steve would tell me about his life. I told him he should write his autobiography. So did Greg Shepard. Steve was working on it when he died. His wife Ann is finishing it for Stark House publication next year. Steve traveled the world for more than forty years. He met scores of interesting people, including a few literary lions and a lot of the paperback girls and boys now held in high esteem.

It should be a fascinating book.

1 comment:

Bill Crider said...

I'm looking forward to the autobiography. It should be great reading.

I didn't know for years that Milton Lesser and Stephen Marlowe were the same guy. It's kind of hard to believe that the man who wrote those stories for Amazing and Imaginative Tales is the same one who wrote The Lighthouse at the End of the World.