Monday, June 02, 2014

Titan Books--James Reasoner as Gabriel Hunt At The Well of Eternity

In 2008 I received an e-mail from Charles Ardai, the founder of the Hard Case Crime line. I was a fan of the imprint and had traded several e-mails with Charles in the past. Now he was asking me if I'd be interested in contributing to a new project he was starting, a series of novels about a globe-trotting adventurer named Gabriel Hunt. The series was inspired by Charles' love of adventure fiction, the sort of yarns spun by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Lester Dent, and countless other authors who rose to prominence in the pulps and whose work was reprinted voluminously in paperback during the Sixties and Seventies. Although Gabriel Hunt's exploits would be set in the present day, he was cut from the same cloth as Doc Savage, John Carter, El Borak, James Bond, Simon Templar...That was the rich vein of breathtaking adventures and hair's-breadth escapes into which Charles intended to tap with the Gabriel Hunt series. So, would I be interested?

I emailed him back right away and said, "Charles, I was born to write Gabriel Hunt."

That was the beginning of one of the most enjoyable projects I've ever been involved in. It was Charles' intention to write one of the books himself, and he was recruiting other authors to write the other five volumes in the initial contract with Leisure Books, the company that also published the Hard Case Crime books. He had gotten Glen Orbik, who had done some wonderful covers for HCC, to provide covers for the Gabriel Hunt books, so he sent me the rough cover sketches Glen had done and told me I could pick one of them to be the cover of my entry in the series. One of them featured Gabriel in a life-and-death struggle with a villain on a rope bridge over a deep chasm in a jungle. That one practically shouted at me that I should pick it, so I did. Knowing my story would need to involve that scene helped me come up with the plot. It looked like a Central or South American setting to me, so that started me thinking about something in one of those areas that could involve Gabriel. From there it was a matter of writing an outline, getting Charles' input on the story, and then launching into the manuscript, which was great fun to write. It's rather blatantly structured like one of the Doc Savage novels, with something happening in Gabriel's home base of New York City that draws him into an intriguing mystery, leading him to follow a trail packed with peril from Florida to Mexico to a lost valley in Central America.

See, I told you I was born to write this stuff.

So the book was finished, the cover was beautiful, Leisure published it as the first book in the series, which pleased me very much...and that was pretty much the end of it. Burdened by financial problems, Leisure's distribution wasn't great at this point, so a lot of potential readers never even saw the book. The reviews were mostly good—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY even gave it a starred review and put it on their list of best paperbacks of the year—but sales were anemic. The other books in the series followed, excellent tales by Charles Ardai, Christa Faust, David J. Schow, Raymond Benson, and Nicholas Kauffman, but then Leisure went under and the series was trapped in limbo for a while.

But Charles never gave up on it, and now the books are being reissued by Titan Books in beautiful new editions that we all hope will allow the readers to have better luck finding them. I'm thrilled that HUNT AT THE WELL OF ETERNITY is available again. It's one of my favorites of all the books I've written. I grew up reading adventure fiction in pulps and paperbacks, and while I was writing that book, I almost felt like I was back on my parents' front porch, stretched out in a lounge chair with a summer breeze blowing over me, AM radio rock'n'roll coming from a little transistor radio beside me while I dived into the latest pulse-pounding yarn I'd picked up from the spinner rack at the drugstore.

If I can recreate something of that feeling in today's readers (with more modern trappings, of course), then my efforts have been well repaid.


1 comment:

Cullen Gallagher said...

Great series, glad to know they're back in print again. I still prefer the original artwork, seemed more true to the pulp spirit.