Saturday, November 29, 2014
Friday, November 28, 2014
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.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2014
(Need something to read this afternoon when you're too stuffed from Thanksgiving dinner to get out of your chair and aren't interested in what's on TV? Or this weekend when you're staying as far away from the shopping malls as you possibly can? Well, try a good old-fashioned action Western!)
Hell came to Santa Angelina on a beautiful morning, as the Texas settlement was practically wiped out by vicious outlaws led by the bloodthirsty lunatic Henry Pollard. Now Pollard is in jail in Alpine, waiting on his trial and an all but certain date with the hangman. The only real question is whether an outraged lynch mob will string him up first.
Not everyone wants to see Pollard dance at the end of a rope, however. His gang of hired killers would like to set him free, and so would his older brother, a wealthy cattleman who has always protected Pollard from the consequences of his savagery.
Riding into the middle of this three-cornered war is the Outlaw Ranger, G.W. Braddock, who may not have a right anymore to wear the bullet-holed star-in-a-circle badge pinned to his shirt, but whose devotion to the law means he'll risk his life to see that justice is done!
HANGMAN'S KNOT is another fast-action Western novel from New York Times bestselling author James Reasoner. Brand-new and never before published, it continues the violent saga of the Outlaw Ranger.
from Tales of The Bagman (I love stories about Max Brand)
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Lost Classics of Noir: Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders (and/or Charles Willeford) BRIAN GREENE
From The Criminal Element
In case you’re confused by the author credit in the heading here, let me just say that I join you in your befuddlement. This 1961 noir novel was originally published as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback original, withW. Franklin Sanders tagged as the writer. But over time it came to be revealed that Charles Willeford wrote some, if not all, of the book. Sanders may have been his co-author, but then Sanders may have also been a make-believe person. If you’re interested in reading up on that intrigue, there is no shortage of material available on the web. I’m going to leave that subplot alone and just focus on the book, which is a gem of a read.
But first a couple words on Willeford. I doubt I need to sell many readers of this site on the merits of his writing. Some Willeford fans might think of his Hoke Moseley series as his finest work, while others might prefer his earlier titles such as Cockfighter (1962) or The Burnt Orange Heresy (1971). Of the Willeford books I’ve read, it’s his second novel, Pick-Up (1955), that I value the most. When I first started this column, I drew up a shortlist (well, it was actually long) of books I might cover, and Pick-Up was among those. I haven’t gotten around to writing an appreciation of it, and maybe I never will for this series, as I have purposely been avoiding covering the same writer twice, in order to spread the hardboiled love. In any case, Pick-Up is a hell of a noir novel. If you like this kind of stuff and haven’t read it, do so. And while you’re at it, read the one I’m about to discuss; because whether it was written by Willeford or this Sanders guy, or some combination of the two of them, it’s pure.
Whip Hand is one of those novels that’s narrated by several different characters. The primary players are: a trio of Oklahoma bumpkins who, while in Dallas, kidnap the young daughter of an oil tycoon and collect ransom; a troubled L.A. cop who has fled to Dallas to duck an investigation into his questionable police activities; the father of the kidnapped child, and the man’s adult daughter. The plot-line is far-fetched, but in reading along you really don’t care, because the story is interesting enough, and the characters are memorable enough, to carry the tale past that problem. The gist is that the cop happens to run into the Okies at a Dallas bus station and, seeing the fancy bags they’re carrying around (the buffoons purchased ridiculously conspicuous cases in which to tote around the ransom money) and wondering what might be in them, he pulls a switcheroo number on one of the dudes and winds up with a satchel full of the cash. After that, he forces the guy to tell him how they got the money, and after that, he decides he’s going to do a vigilante job in bringing the trio to justice (and meanwhile see what might be in all this for himself).
for the rest go here:
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
MY FIRST NOVEL: DICK LOCHTE
I’ve written several times about how my debut novel, SLEEPING DOG, wound up in
print. The details have appeared on this blog not very long ago and also can be
found as an afterward in the new Brash Books edition of the novel. But, though
SLEEPING DOG was my first published book, it was not the first that I wrote.
That was a novel I pounded out on an electric typewriter at the tail end of the
1960s, while in my post-college youth toiling daily in Chicago as a member of
the promotion department at Playboy magazine.
The novel was then titled THE FROG PRINCE, and it was a satiric comedy novel
very much – honestly, waaay too much – influenced by Joseph Heller’s CATCH-22,
which was then, and is now, my all-time favorite novel. Unlike that book’s
protagonist who was trapped with a lot of oddball characters in a war horribly
short on logic or even common sense, mine was entangled in a
much-too-comfortable job at a men’s magazine where logic and common sense were
not just missing, their absence was waved like a flag. The novel being a work of
fiction, its magazine was not Playboy. Its name was Ogle, and its symbol was not
a rabbit but, as the book’s title may suggest, a slimy tailless amphibian.
Beyond that, THE FROG PRINCE was pathetically close to autobiography, even at
its most bizarre moments.
There was only one person at PLAYBOY who knew about the book – the noted science
fiction writer AJ Budrys, who was then the editor of Playboy Press. During one
of our lunches, he offered to “look over” the pages. He liked them and his
suggestions and encouragement were responsible for my finishing the manuscript.
Before he moved on, AJ recommended me and the novel to a couple of agents. One
was in the late stages of retirement and not taking on new clients, the other
passed away shortly after I’d sent her a copy of the manuscript, no cause and
effect there to my knowledge. At that point I began sending inquiry letters and
sample chapters to publishers, maybe ten, with six replying that they’d be
willing to look at what I’d done. This was during the dark days before
electronic files could be emailed and I spent hours lurking around the office
Xerox machines after hours, making copies of the book’s four-hundred-plus pages.
My effort resulted in several form-letter kiss-offs, a short note from a
Doubleday editor that he’d been amused, but not enough, and a longer note from
an editor at Dutton stating that she felt the ms. had “something” but needed
work and, if I were willing to listen to her editorial advice, she’d try to get
me a contract and an advance.
I immediately wrote back that I’d be happy to follow her advice. Then began
weeks of waiting. Finally, she mailed back her regrets. There would be no
contract. Her boss was “not quite as sanguine about the novel’s potential,” were
her exact words, still branded on my memory after all the years.
So, THE FROG PRINCE was tossed into a trunk where it rested gathering dust until
about nine years ago. By then I’d published four crime novels and a short story
collection, been nominated for every mystery award, won the Nero, and been
translated into more than a dozen languages. I’d just finished co-writing a
series of legal thrillers with attorney Christopher Darden and was about to
embark on a series with THE TODAY SHOW’s Al Roker. I wanted to put out another
solo novel, but wasn’t sure I could get it done before starting in on the
That’s when I thought of THE FROG PRINCE. The main problem was that, by then, I
was a “mystery writer” and there was no mystery element in the ms. I thought
that problem could be solved without too much effort. Drop a body here and
there, shift a few things around.
It didn’t turn out that way. It never does.
I kept the novel in the Swinging Sixties, in my opinion, the period when men’s
magazines were at their, ah, peak. But I added a few significant events of the
era that were taking place beyond the magazine, like the Civil Rights Act and
the start of the Vietnam conflict, that I hoped would bring the story a little
closer to the ground than it had been. I kept the characters, and quite a few
scenes and then spent nearly seven months coming up with what I hoped was a
dark, funny fairplay whodunit that for a number of reasons (fear of a lawsuit
being one of them) I placed in 1969 Southern California instead of Playboy’s
home town of Chicago.
Also, since there were countless numbers of books called THE FROG PRINCE, most
of them for children (Amazon it, if you don’t believe me), I slapped on a new,
more unique title, CROAKED!
That’s when I showed it to you, Ed, and thanks to your recommendation, my first
novel finally appeared in print, nearly forty years after I’d begun working on it.