Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Gorman Interview - 1999

Ed here: This is from a 1999 interview on a Stephen King website. Stephen Booth is giving my website a new look so he wants me to find quotes. While doing so I stumbled across this interview on the King page. Here's what I was saying eleven years ago.

Ed Gorman is the Shamus-award winning author of over thirty novels. He’s won a Shamus award for best detective story (for his short story "Turn Away"), been nominated for a Stoker and an Edgar, and continues to write with such fecundity he rivals Stephen King in terms of sheer output. Gorman's new novel Voodoo Moon (St. Martin's Press $22.95) just appeared. Fangoria said "...in simple but incredibly compelling prose...Gorman gives us a mess of semi-inbred monsters of the human kind, dark secrets locked away in the attic and a general nastiness that make this a very unsettling ride. It's his portayl of a dark and damning world that cements his place as an entertaining writer and Voodoo Moon a worthwhile read." Masters of Terror said "The story is a powerhouse...adrenaline-stirring entertainment...and atmosphere that is more sinister than in most horror novels." A writer of many styles and many genres, Ed Gorman seems to have mastered them all. Recently, he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions.

First off, congratulations on "Out There in the Darkness" being selected for 1999’s Best American Mystery Stories (even though, oddly, "Darkness" was originally published in 1996.) Working mainly in genre fiction for most of your career, is it odd to suddenly have your work anthologized with such "mainstream" writers as Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike?

Believe it or not I was recently asked to introduce John Updike when he spoke at a local college. I declined. I told the woman booking the evening that it'd be like having Lawrence Olivier and Bobcat Goldthwaite on the same stage.. I don't belong in the company of Oates and Updike. I'm a pulp writer and know my place. This isn't aw, shucks self-effacement. Just the simple truth.
I would have been embarrassed and I'm sure Updike would have been, too.

-In your most recent "Gormania" column (Cemetery Dance, Issue #33) you discuss the future of e-book publishing. With the number of downloads of Stephen King’s "Riding the Bullet" and The Plant, it seems that e-books are becoming more popular. Is this just a case of name-driven success, or are e-books about to take the publishing world by storm?

There has been a rush to judgement (in my opinion) on e-books. Certainly, they'll play a major role in future publishing but I think we're still a few years away from that. My grandkids will grow up with e-books. They'll be a natural form to them. Downloading books is still alien to Boomers like me.

-Your earlier books (from 1985’s Daddy’s Little Girl to 1992’s The Serpent’s Kiss) were all published under the name Daniel Ransom. Pseudonyms have a long history of giving authors freedom to write on subjects they wouldn’t under their own name; do you have a similar story?

Except for The Fugitive Stars, which is an adequate Fifties invasion-type novel; Zone Soldiers, which is my OK Keith Laumer sf adventure novel; and The Serpents Kiss, which I think is a good, solid horror novel, all the Ransoms (I'm not even sure how many there are) are crap and not worth reading. I didn't know any better/desperately needed the money.

-Your recent short story "Angie," (in the anthology 999) scared the crap out of me. This story seems to confirm the Jerry Springer mentality of the late 1990’s – a lot of glittery surface, with no moral fiber to back it up. This type of horror story is becoming more and more prevalent, the terror of dire actions without remorse. Any idea why?

Very perceptive. Jerry Springer exactly. That kind of floating sociopathy endemic in our society today. We know that serial killers are secretly proud of their bloody work; I think if I was humping my first cousin, I'd probably keep it to myself. I wouldn't go on Springer and have a fist fight with my other first cousin, who was also humping her. Even perverts should show some discretion for God's sake.

-Your fiction often focuses on small town America, especially in Iowa and the surrounding states. Is this a case of "write where you live," or is there something more intrinsically magical or mysterious about small towns?

Writing what I know. I'm one of those folks who live in little Midwestern burgs and pass through life pretty much without notice (except for my drinking days when I attracted far too much notice). I think small, I dream small, I don't want fame or fortune, I just want some kind of peace of mind and when my time comes to pass, to pass over without undue terror. My favorite noir isn't Bogart or Mithcum but Robert Ryan--that kind of gnawing Catholic sorrow.. There are millions and millions of me and I write about us because, if I don't always admire us, I think I at least understand us. My loved ones are my utmost concern. They give me joy and solace. Kissing my wife, holding my grandkids, making my mother laugh--those are my true pleasures. The rest of life is largely abstract and bullshit.

-The story you won the Shamus award for, "Turn Away," isn’t your typical detective story. It’s not often the tough-talking P.I. is allowed to grow old, let alone face questions of slow mortality. What prompted you to write this unique and moving story?

I've written my share of "typical" detective stories, I suppose, but I try not to. Old men have always fascinated me, especially the tough working-class old men of the various neighborhoods I grew up in. My Dad had a lot of factory friends like that and in the early Fifties they'd sit on our porch at night and drink Falstaff and swat mosquitos and catch fireflies in their hands and tell all kinds of stories about women and the big war they'd all been in and the things that scared them and the things they held dear. I'd sit on the porch and listen and long years later a lot of those tales found their way into my fiction. "Turn Away" could easily have been a porch story. I also worked for a year as a railroad yard clerk. Long winter nights I'd hear a lot of the old guys tell great tales.

-You've been successful in so many genres (mystery writer, horror writer, anthology editor … the list goes on and on), is it difficult to secure a place in the literary world? Is it better or worse to be a "brand name?"

I've mismanaged my career from the start--I should have concentrated on one type of book--but I've done a number of things I'm proud of so fuck it.

-Your Sam McCain series has been referred to as "a Bob Greene newspaper column set inside a mystery" (Publisher’s Weekly). Much of your fiction takes place in "bygone days." Is it difficult to capture a sense of nostalgia in this type of fiction without sounding stodgy?
'm not sure most of my fiction takes place in bygone days unless you mean my westerns. The McCains I write just because now, in my Fifties, the emotional truths of my youth (and I mean small truths, nothing cosmic) have come clear to me. I don't think of it as nostalgia so much as a kind of retroactive therapy.

As the editorial director of Mystery Scene magazine, you must constantly see new and exciting talent emerge (my newest favorites are Dennis Lehane and Harlan Coben.) Any standout writers you’d recommend?

-I never answer this question. I'd leave somebody out and hurt his/her feelings.

-Okay, because this is a Stephen King web site, I have to give you the requisite Stephen King question: name your top three favorite works by King, in any category.

Night Shift, The Shining, Pet Sematary/Misery. Plus all kinds of other stuff. The funny thing was, I didn't care much for him at first and made a negative comment in Twentieth Century writers that I've always regretted--to the degree that I literally cringe every time I think about it. Then my then-girlfriend was reading Salem's Lot and I picked it up one night and stayed up all night reading it (literally) and it proved to be one of the two or three most influential books I've ever read--like Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. It changed my whole approach to writing. I re-read King now constantly.


Todd Mason said...

The only time I recall being driven to respond to you with "Nonsense!", Ed, would be in your response to question one, above.

And Goldthwait has yet to embarrass himself at quite the level of THE BETSY...

Ed Gorman said...

Are you sure Goldthwait WASN'T in THE BETSY?, Todd:)

Todd Mason said...

Well, as he's about my age, Goldthwait (I'm guessing), like myself, would've been happy to be on-set for the Kathleen Beller sequences...and would have no other place as a 16yo boy kicking around that film (except perhaps he could've come up with a better script at the time--I suspect I could've, as a 14yo, too...and I suspect Harold Robbins definitely thought he could've, as well).

Kelly Robinson said...

Thanks for sharing an interview I missed, but I have to confess to being distracted by the introduction. Are you talking about the writer Stephen Booth? He designs your website?! What the heck...?

Ed Gorman said...

Yep Stephen Booth is both writer and website designer.

Mathew Paust said...

Wouldn't you have been surprised to find that Updike loved your work? Einstein might have, too. I do know he read Erle Stanley Gardner. Bill Tangney was at Princeton when word reached the school that Einstein died. Tangney, who was on the Princetonian staff, rushed to Einstein's office, blocked the door with a chair and frantically searched for something that would give him a man-bites-dog angle. He found it behind some physics books in one of the great man's bookcases. Several well-worn Perry Mason mysteries. Tangney's story beat the big papers.

Ya just never know sometimes...

skivvy said...

I just finished reading "Out There in the Darkness". Enjoyed it immensely; it's one of the more fun reads in that collection of Best Mystery Stories.

MikeGibbonz said...

I love the Daniel Ransom books! They are pure pulp horror fun. I've read Gorman as Gorman books and they are fantastic, but the Ransom stuff has a certain gleeful trashy energy that I love. Its like a really talented filmmaker, like a Richard Linklater making a b-horror film. Just wanted to counterpoint Ed's own disapproval on his Ransom stuff.