The Care and Feeding of Dead People; Doug Clegg
I've always maintained that anything created for the good of mankind will within thirty days be turned into something bad for mankind. Human flight was quickly weaponized. Drugs were used to addict as well as cure. And the internet is filled with so many poisonous websites you feel contaminated just hearing about them.
But one of the many worthwhile things the internet has done is secure the work of writers who have passed on. Even famous writers fade from popularity sooner than some of us wish. Two examples would be Robert Bloch and John D. MacDonald.
Except for Psycho Bloch was never a bestseller as such but he was read and respected worldwide by horror and mystery fans alike. A few years before his death there was some carping about how his time had passed. Irritating as the criticism was it seems in retrospect to have foreshadowed how interest in him seems to have faded. Part of this is simply because he's dead. Writers and their work generally fade after they've passed on. But if you Goggle Robert Bloch you'll see that not only his work but also his life are alive and well on various websites. Now when I try to interest somebody in Bloch I just say Google him.
Less than fifteen years ago this wouldn't have been possible. Lost writers were discussed only in fanzines read by a few hundred people at most.
And it wasn't only non-bestsellers who faded. Read through twenty years of New York Times bestseller lists sometime and you'll see how quickly even big sellers vanish.
Which brings me to John D. MacDonald. I was one of the lucky ones who was old enough to read most his books as they were published. He sold big time in the heyday of paperback originals and when he switched to hardcovers with his Travis McGee series he became and remained for approximately fifteen years an enormous international bestseller. He was feted by some of the world's most important critics and the McGees became a benchmark for a certain kind of adventure fiction.
I don't think I've ever seen a writer's books fade from popularity as quickly as MacDonald's did. The McGees are in print but little else. For those of us who believe that MacDonald's best work was often in the stand-alones he wrote for Gold Medal this is sad news because few if any of them in print today. Even the critical acclaim has waned. He doesn't seem to appeal much to people under forty-five. I understand that the McGees have dated. MacDonald got pretty pontifical and silly about modern life in his speechifying. But when you read End of The Night and Cape Fear (The Executioners) and The Last One Left and many of his other books you're in the hands of a master.
But not enough of other people to bring him back into print. So what we're left with are some good sites that steer us to his books and his very interesting life. Maybe the next couple generations up will rediscover him all over again.
For those of you who grew up with the internet, I'm sure all this sounds crazy. So who didn't know there were a lot of sites dedicated to the work of dead writers? Well, a lot of us actually. I had never heard of Elizabeth Sanxay Holding, for instance. I saw a reference to her on a site, ordered a used book of hers and was hooked for life. Her suspense novels walk right on the edge of horror, almost fever dreams. She was so good Raymond Chandler called her "the best suspense writer of (my) generation." I'm told she's about to get a serious website. And maybe some serious new readers, too.
Zombies aren't the only dead people who deserve attention.
-------------FROM DOUG CLEGG
Trying to spread this around, so if there are any friends you can send it to, please share it.
A game was developed from the illustrations for my book, Isis, which comes out in about 2 weeks. And we're within two days of hitting a million players (we're over 860,000 now and it moves from 80,000-110,000 players per day.)
The illustrations -- by Glenn Chadbourne - are stunning.
It's beautiful, fun and fairly easy: