Friday, November 07, 2008

William Campbell Gault; Weird Tales

Shamus Winner David Fulmer has an excellent long review of Bill Gault's The Bloody Bokhara on The Rap Sheet tonight. One paragraph is particularly evocative of both Bill and his work:

"Gault was a writer with definite tone. Whether he was dealing in hot cars or hot lead, his brand of grit came from the same shadows of post-World War II America. Playing in both fields, he displayed a deep sense for the dislocation in the shallows of those years. From Midwest dirt tracks on hot Sunday afternoons to a seedy Los Angeles saloon in the wee small hours, the man nailed loners doing brave and often thankless work."

Ed here: I've written about Bill here several times. He's been one of my favorite writers since my teen years in the Fifties and one of my favorite people since meeting him via Mystery Scene in 1984. I probably talked to him twenty times over the years and I liked him all the more every conversation.

He embodied everything I like and admire about the working class and his work is suffused with that. He once spent a long conversation telling me about all the jobs he had before he finally got established full-time as a writer. I can still hear his great cigarette laugh as he told his stories. He was like most of us who write. He saw civilians as people to spy on for the sake of the work. This didn't diminish his fondness for people. I never heard him bitter or jealous. Even when he was telling me about how all the western writers working out of LA (Bill never wrote westerns, just knew these guys) told him stories about how Louis L'Amour would never give anybody blurbs--Why should I help the competition? (L'Amour had the same attitude when he had 75% of all western pb rack space--what competition?) He was laughing his ass off relating this. His usual target was himself and all the things he'd screwed up in his life. You'll find this particular attitude in virtually everything he wrote. "Loners doing brave and of thankless work." per the review.

I want to thank David Fulmer for writing such a eloqent piece. I hope it inspires people to pick up a Bill Gault novel. There are a lot of damned good ones.

--------Weird Tales

What was it that attracted would-be young literary writers back in the Thirties and Forties to try and sell to Weird Tales? Tennessee Williams sold them a story (and a pretty good one) when he was seventeen; Truman Capote tried them several times; and now we learn that no less a figure than Norman Mailer also tried to sell them at least one story.


Todd Mason said...

Well, for one thing, Martha Foley listed it as a consulted magazine in her BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES volumes, though when she started doing so, I'm not sure. So even if they weren't lucky enough to stumble across it on a newsstand, they might well have heard of it thus.

Call me parochial is you like, but I'm more impressed by how much WT published of Wellman, Bloch, Leiber and Sturgeon rather than Williams, Capote and Mailer, as good as Williams work can be. (Mailer can be amusing, but his machismic posturing and love of his own verbosity puts me off, where the late John Leonard or Avram Davidson or to at least some extent the verbosity of Saul Bellow could just soar...then there's that Irish guy.

Todd Mason said...

And I want a collection of Gault sports stories. Call me greedy.

Todd Mason