MY FIRST NOVEL:
I’m not fond of The Stalker. It must have some merit, since it was bought by Random House and nominated for a Best First Novel Edgar, but it’s overwritten and loaded with other youthful flaws. More interesting than the book, I think, are the circumstances surrounding its acceptance and publication.
I wrote it in San Francisco during the latter half of 1969. At that time I’d been selling short stories for three years and had just co-authored a couple of sex books with Jeff Wallmann. (How I got into that racket is another story.) Technically, I suppose, my true first novel was a godawful piece of crap called A Mother’s Love. Oy.
The sex books “earned” Wallmann and me an invitation for an all expenses paid move to the Mediterranean island of Majorca, where the publisher was based for tax purposes, to join his stable of writers. We jumped at the chance. On the advice of Joe Gores I submitted the ms. of The Stalker to Lee Wright at Random House in January 1970, shortly before Wallmann and I left for Europe on a German freighter bound from S.F. down through the Panama Canal, across the Atlantic, and up the English Channel to Amsterdam. We chose that mode of travel not only for the experience but because it gave us time to do collaborative contract work plus a few solo short stories. (The trip was supposed to take 21 days, instead took 28, and had more than a few harrowing moments – also another story.) When we finally arrived in Amsterdam, a letter from Lee was waiting at American Express, saying she would buy the novel if I would make extensive revisions. Lord, yes, I would!
Wallmann and I bought a car and zigzagged our way down to Spain, then across to Majorca by ferry. Once we were established there, Lee sent me a long list of revisions, I made them all to her satisfaction, and she accepted the book. In retrospect I wish she’d suggested more improvements, a lot more.
I was still living on Majorca – I wrote the first Nameless Detective novel, The Snatch, during my 14 months there – when The Stalker was published. I may not care for the novel itself, but I’ll never forget the thrill of receiving and holding the first copy in my hands on a balmy afternoon in early 1971. No professional experience has matched it since.
Ed here: I think the Stalker is a solid first novel. I reread it not long ago and it holds up nicely.