Sunday, October 14, 2007


Carol's in Connecticut this weekend to see out sixth grandchild, eight-day-old Charlotte. I'm at home (going to the library is enough traveling for me) working hard at my novel and combating two three-month old kittens.

Tess is eighteen years and frail and sick. I spend as much time as I can with her. I have to give her four pills a day and every third day we have to hydrate her. She was always the scamp of our five cats so seeing her so slowed by age is particularly sad.

The kittens Nora and Lilly are another matter. If you ever want your home demolished we'll rent them to you for a day. Not that it'll take that long. Our offices are upstairs so while I work I can generally hear them knocking over things downstairs. Only serious crashing sounds send me down there. Nora likes to be held in the crook of your arm which slows the writing process and Lilly has developed a taste for gnawing on computer cables. Fortunately most of the time they amuse themselves by beating the crap out of each other.

FRANK GRUBER's books usually get a bad rap these days. I seem to be alone in finding his Pulp Jungle a bit high handed and uncharitable to writers other than his close friends. It's a revered book only because it's the only book we have on the pulp days by somebody who was there. (Though I may be confusing Jungle with a long letter he wrote to Fredrick C. Davis that was published in Writer's Digest in 1941--very arrogantly telling Davis how successful Gruber was in Hwood and how Davis, because he didn't practice The Formula or somesuch, was still hacking away for the pulps.)

I mention this because last night, while looking for a Wm. McGivern novelette in a group of six Mammoth Detectives from the 40s (I bought them at a good price for the McGiverns), I ended up starting to read Gruber's 60,000 word The Honest Dealer, a breezy mystery set in Vegas just as the war was ending. (I'm sure this was hardbacked under a different title.)

I'm still reading it and enjoying it. There isn't a whiff of reality or character development in it but the dialogue is so sleek and spiffy it keeps you turning the pages. I can see why he had a long run writing Bs in Hwood. I'm sure none of his stuff approached being memorable but I'm also sure that he wrote a nmber of entertaining programmers. You could do worse.

SECONDING Bill Crider here--Stark House will publish two of Bill Pronzin's very best novels next month. Like Bill C I believe that either Snowbound or Games should have broken Bill P out big-time. They're expert and compelling suspense novels.

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mybillcrider said...

Your comments about Tess and the kittens reminds me of a very short Robert Frost (I think) poem:

The old dog barks backward without getting up.

I can remember when he was a pup.

Juri said...

Davis broke out of the pulps in the fifties and wrote at least one excellent novel as by Stephen Ransome: I'LL DIE FOR YOU (Doubleday 1959). I've read some of Gruber's mysteries and westerns and they are sometimes average, sometimes a bit above average. Quite readable, though. I liked his THE FRENCH KEY a lot.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

My cats are Nick and Nora. They're 17. Brother and sister. Nora is like a kitten, but Nick doesn't even know his name anymore. It's sad to watch his dementia taking over. I don't know why I'm writing this. I just am.

Cap'n Bob said...

I had hamsters named Nick and Nora. Nora had a litter of 12. Alas, neither lived more than 18 months, which is average for a hamster.

Juri said...

Umm.. never had a pet.

Anonymous said...

Far better, warmer and more informative that Gruber's book is the best book I've ever read about the life of a working writer: SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE WRITERS BUT I WOULDN'T WANT MY DAUGHTER TO MARRY ONE! by Robert Turner (Sherbourne Press, 1970). I've read it several times, in fact. Highly recommended.

--Stephen Mertz