Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Jay Flynn Part Two

I exchanged a couple of letters with him shortly afterward, but at that point none of us seemed inclined to keep up a regular correspondence. It would be almost two years before Wallmann and I got to know Flynn well. And how that came about requires a couple of paragraphs of relevant autobiography.

In mid-1969 Jeff and I succumbed to an offer to write sex books for an outfit called Liverpool Library Press, aka LLP – partly for the money, which was top market dollar in those days ($1200 per title), and partly because it enabled us to finance our legitimate work. Soon we were collaborating on a book every two months for LLP. We churned them out in four or five days of intensive effort, so we could spend the rest of our time writing fiction we cared about.

Late that year LLP moved its base of operations from California to the Mediterranean island of Majorca, where the high-rolling publisher (an Ivy-League American) had rented a palatial villa. For tax and other reasons he preferred his writers to also live on Majorca – or at least somewhere in Europe – and so he offered to pay the way of anyone who was willing to make the move. Wallmann and I were willing. We took a freighter for Amsterdam in February of 1970, and we arrived on Majorca in a broken-down VW station wagon five weeks later.

Neither of us remembers corresponding with Flynn while we were on Majorca; and we have only dim recollections of receiving some kind of communication from him at Christmas of 1970, when we returned to California for a brief holiday visit. But we’re both sure that after we moved from Majorca to a small Bavarian town near Munich in the spring of 1971, we were not only in touch with him again but exchanging frequent letters.

Toward the end of that year Flynn wrote saying he was broke and looking for work – a letter that arrived at about the same time LLP’s publisher decided to move his headquarters to Paris and to increase the number of books he was publishing. LLP was in need of writers; Flynn was in need of work, and claimed to have been writing sex books off and on since his legitimate paperback markets dried up in 1962 (which was probably true). So we got them together, Flynn submitted some sample material, and LLP put him on the payroll.

It was six months or so before the publisher offered to pay his way to Europe. By that time Jeff had made up his mind to move again, this time to France. He and Flynn arrived in Paris not long apart, and met there for the first time in the fall of 1972.

I was doing well enough with legitimate fiction by then to quit the sex-book racket, and I opted to get married and to stay in West Germany. But I continued to correspond with Flynn, and the better I got to know him through his letters (he wrote great letters), the more he intrigued me. I used him as the model for the boozy ex-pulp writer, Russell Dancer, who first appeared in the “Nameless Detective” novel, Undercurrent, in 1973 and who made encore appearances in Hoodwink and Bones. There are a number of differences between Dancer and Flynn, but none of them is fundamental; the lines Dancer speaks in the three “Nameless” novels either were or might have been spoken by Flynn.

He stayed in Paris for a while, at LLP’s expense, and then moved to Majorca, at least in part because Wallmann and I had extolled the island’s virtues to him on numerous occasions. He somehow managed to rent the same small villa Jeff and I had occupied in Palma Nova, and stayed there for about a year, getting himself into and out of a series of minor misadventures with LLP (he was fired at least once, briefly, for delivering “unacceptable” material), a group of other LLP writers living on the island, and the owners of several bars and discos. Then his wanderlust got the best of him, and he hied himself off to Monte Carlo, near where Jeff and his girlfriend had moved from Paris.

In Monte Carlo, Flynn fell passionately in love with a 25-year-old suicidal West German beautician named Hildegarde. But their romance didn’t last long; she threw him over for a randy Bulgarian and went back to Germany. This so upset Flynn that he, too, fled Monte Carlo. He went first to Ireland, on the mistaken assumption that any writer could live there cheaply and tax-free. When he found out that in order to obtain the tax-free status he would have to exchange his American citizenship for an Irish one, he figured it was time to return to the States. Specifically, to New York to look for writing work, since the bottom was already beginning to drop out of the sex-book market.

He took a room in Rosoff’s, an old and now-defunct hotel-and-restaurant on West 43rd just off Times Square, and managed to scrounge up a contract to write several books in the then popular Lassiter paperback western series. The job didn’t last long; he screwed up somehow on one of his manuscripts and was fired. But it so happened that Wallmann arrived in New York just about then, on a business trip; and Jeff, who was doing a book for Belmont-Tower, one of the lower echelon paperback houses, learned that B-T was in need of an assistant editor and house writer. He recommended Flynn, and Flynn got the dual job.

This was 1975. By which time I had been back in the U.S. myself for well over a year, living in San Francisco and also making periodic business trips to New York. So it was in Rosoff’s in early ’75 that Flynn and I finally came face to face.

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