Saturday, January 29, 2005

Global Warming?

I don't know. You tell me. I know Michael Crichton doesn't believe in it, but the last science class I took was so long ago that the Periodic Table hanging on the cave wall listed only four elements (Earth, Air, Water, and Fire). I have a feeling that might be a little out of date by now. All I know is that it's not right for a man to have to mow his yard in January. Not even in Alvin, Texas. Not that I'm complaining. Posted by Hello

Oldies but Goodies

Someone sent in a comment asking me to recommend some more obscure paperback originals. I have two titles that I always mention. One of Fletcher Flora's The Hot-Shot, which you can pick up on abebooks for a fairly reasonable price. It's not a mystery novel, but it does have some criminous elements. The main thing it has going for it is that Flora was channeling Holden Caulfield when he wrote it. The Hot-Shot is the best pastiche of The Catcher in the Rye that I've ever read. My theory is that Flora was just so knocked out by the voice in that book that he couldn't resist giving it a try. You'll have to judge for yourself how successful he was, but I liked this one quite a bit.

The other title that I like to remind people of is Revenge by Jack Ehrlich. It's also available on abebooks. We're talking Jim Thompson territory here, and if you like The Killer Inside Me, this one should definitely be on your list. A more recent Ehrlich title, Bloody Vengeance, is well worth looking for. It's about a different kind of revenge, but it's a powerful statment. I'm not sure how serious Ehrlich was when he wrote it. You'll have to read it to see what I mean. It's really cheap on abebooks.

As always, remember that my recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt. I have no critical sense. I just know what I like.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Ed Gorman -- Runner in the Dark

You have to wonder why Ed Gorman isn't working for some big-name publisher. I mean, Runner in the Dark was published by iBooks, or at least that's the edition I have. Not that there's anything wrong with iBooks, the company that published my Bogart book, We'll Always Have Murder, but they're not exactly as well known as, say, Knopf. And, just to take one more example, another of Ed's excellent novels, Cage of Night, was published by Borealis Books, a division of White Wolf. What kind of distribution do you think that one got?

As Ed has mentioned on his own blog, he's written in any number of genres: mystery, western, horror, SF. He's a non-bestseller in at leat four fields. What Ed was to modest to say is that he's good in all of them, bestseller or not, and that his books are far better than anything the Big Names place on the New York Times list.

He also mentioned the other day that from time to time he's written "big" suspense novels, the kind that, if there were any justice, would replace James Patterson on the NYT list and a lot of others. (OK, he didn't say that last part. I did.) That's the kind of book Runner in the Dark is. It has just about everything: a "high concept" (crazed killer takes over TV station), big action scenes, a love interest, sex, lots of violence, "insider" details, great characters, length, even the "ticking clock." The cover blurb says that the novel is "In the tradition of great suspense novels by Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben," as if those two writers were anything alike. And as if an Ed Gorman book could ever be like a book by anyone else.

And maybe that's the trouble. Runner in the Dark isn't like anybody else's big bestselling suspense novel. It's a little too quirky, a little too edgy. Anybody can die at any time. And does. The next time you're looking for a book that will keep you turning the pages way past your bedtime, check this one out. Posted by Hello

ed gorman & company: Sarah Weiman's First Bad Review

ed gorman & company: Sarah Weiman's First Bad Review: "Sarah Weiman's First Bad Review

Sarah Weinman got a less than wonderful review on a piece of fiction she wrote. She talks about it on her blog today. Not surpisingly, she doesn't like the feeling a tepid review leaves her with. It's her first negative review and she wonders how her readers felt about their own first bad reviews. It's an honest and well-written reaction something all writers go through."

Ed goes on to explain his reaction to his first bad review. I have to say that I felt pretty much the same way, and that I still feel pretty much the same way when I get a bad review these days. But after a day or so I forget about it. What the heck, it's only one person's opinion, and certainly I've given books bad reviews before, too.

The thing is that when I started publishing novels, I quit doing negative reviews. I know how they make me feel, and I decided that I didn't want to make anybody feel that way. So for the most part, I talk only about the books I like and mention the others only in private communications. Now and then I might slip, but I really do try to keep my comments on the positive side. That hasn't stopped reviewers from saying bad things about me, however. Probably my favorite good review, the one that sticks with me, is from Kirkus. Usually the Kirkus reviewer hates my work, but he (or she, or whoever) really, really loved BLOOD MARKS. But he (or she, or whoever) couldn't resist getting in a nasty remark, so the review, and out-and-out rave, begins this way: "Crider, the author of two mediocre series . . . ." Sometimes you just can't win.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


HARRY WHITTINGTON BIO PAGE: "I signed, in 1964, to do a 60,000-word novel a month for a publisher under his house names. I was paid $1000. On the first of each month. I wrote one of these novels a month for 39 months."

Maybe I've linked this before, or maybe someone else has. Anyway, it's well worth reading four or five times if you're a Harry Whittington fan, which I am.

What I'd really like to know is more about that quotation above with the link. Who was the publisher, and does anyone know what these novels were? Since there are 39 of them, I'd love to have a chance to read them all.

Banjo Jones Reads Paris Hilton's Book


So you don't have to.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Andrew Klavan

OK, the other day I started to post something about Andrew Klavan, but I got sidetracked and wrote about blurbs instead. Today I plan to stick to the subject.

As I mentioned earlier, I started reading Klavan's books when he was writing as "Keith Peterson," and I liked them a lot. I've always felt that Klavan's True Crime, which came out some years after the Keith Peterson name had been retired, was basically a Keith Peterson novel. It had practically the same cast of characters that the Peterson novels did; they just had different names. But I'm digressing again. Let's face it: I can't help myself.

Anyway, little did I know when I was reading the Peterson books that Klavan had already won an Edgar for a paperback called Mrs. White, which was published by Dell under the name "Margaret Tracy." Apparently Tracy was a collborative named used by Andrew and Laurence Klavan, who I'm assuming is Andrew's brother. As a matter of fact, I just picked up Laurence Klavan's The Cutting Room at the library yesterday. OK, that's a digression, too. Or maybe it's two digressions. I apologize.

But here's another one. "Keith Peterson" also won a "Best Paperback" Edgar for The Rain. I wonder if Klavan's the only person to win Edgars under two different names, neither of them his own.

Back to Andrew Klavan as himself. I've read most of his books under that name. My favorite is The Uncanny, which is sort of a modern version of the English ghost story. I'm a sucker for ghost stories, and I really liked this book. It's a lot more than a ghost story, though, and I think the way it's put together is truly ingenious. (Be warned, however, that I've talked to several people who didn't like The Uncanny at all. Including my wife.)

What I've been reading lately is Klavan's two newest novels, Dynamite Road and Shotgun Alley. These books have it all: larger-than-life characters (and a few that aren't), humor, sex, violence, an amped-up style that I find amusing and effective, a narrative perspective borrowed from The Great Gatsby (and very well handled, I might add), several over-arching soap-opera plots involving all the main characters that continue from book to book (and seem far from being resolved in the second one), and just about anything else you (or at least I) could want in a book.

My wife, who's a big fan of some of Klavan's earlier novels (not The Uncanny, however) isn't especially fond of these new series novels, but I'm hoping they'll continue for several more years.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Collection of Sherlock Holmes Pastiches

BBC - Cult Presents: Sherlock Holmes

The link above is from Incoming Signals, and it leads to a new BBC collection of Holmes stories by Kim Newman, among others. Newman's The Night Mayor is a minor classic in my book, and his stories are always fun. You can choose to read the stories of to listen to them.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Ed Gorman on Robert B. Parker

ed gorman & company

I agree with this post wholeheartedly. I'm still willing to read anything Parker publishes.


I'm reading Andrew Klavan's Shotgun Alley, and I was going to write a post about how much I've enjoyed Klavan's books in general, but as usual I got sidetracked. It happened when I remembered that I started reading Klavan when he began writing a series of books under the name "Keith Peterson." The first book in the series was The Trapdoor, and for some reason I was sent a copy of the galley and asked for a blurb. I was glad to write one, since I liked the book a lot, but I don't think the blurb was ever used, probably because, let's face it, a blurb from me doesn't mean as much as one from some writer with a Big Name. And, of course, Klavan went on to become a Big Name himself, even if Keith Peterson didn't (though the Peterson name sold a ton of books, I think).

This thought led to another one, about the mysteries I've been asked to blurb for writers who went on to become much bigger names than I ever did. For example, Mary Willis Walker sent me a copy of the ARC of her second book, The Red Scream, and asked for a blurb. I liked the book a lot, but I told her that the editor probably wouldn't use my blurb. I was right. The blurb never appeared. The book did just fine without it and went on to win an Edgar.

I also received the galley of Carolyn Hart's first mystery novel. Once again, I provided a very positive blurb. Once again, it wasn't used. And once again, the author's reputation went on eclipse mine by a long way.

Finally, Debbie Crombie asked me for a blurb for her first novel. This time the editor actually used it, and of course Debbie's books have sold zillions since then.

What's the moral of all this? There isn't one. Unless it's that my blurbs, whether they're used or not, are good luck. But I don't really believe that. We happen to be talking about some very talented people here, and it's a certainty that their books would have gone on to have great success without my endorsement. And I've blurbed other novels that haven't done quite so well.

What did I get out of doing the blurbs? Well, I still have all those galleys, some of them signed. Maybe they're worth something, not that I'd ever sell them.

Ed Gorman

ed gorman & company

Looks like Ed Gorman has a new blog location. It should be available at the link above, and I know you'll want to check it out to see what Ed has to say.

Johnny Carson, R.I.P.

Johnny Carson was once asked what he'd like for his epitaph.

His answer: "I'll be right back."

Sadly, that won't be the case. Someone on Dateline last night said, "Steve Allen invented late night television, Jack Parr refined it, and Johnny Carson defined it." I think that about sums it up. I don't have any good Johnny Carson stories. I just know that I watched him for many years and always enjoyed the show. What more can you ask?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Fantastic Universe, September 1957

This is the issue of Fantastic Universe that I mentioned in the post below. Is that a great Virgil Finlay cover, or what? Posted by Hello

Happy 99th Birthday, Robert E. Howard

Over at Rough Edges, James Reasoner mentions that Saturday was the 99th anniversary of Robert E. Howard's birth, which reminds me that I'd been intending to say a couple of things about a collection titled The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, published in trade paperback by Ballantine in 2003. This is a reprint of the much more expensive hardcover published in 2002 by Wandering Star, and it's an attempt to give us Howard's stories as they were originally published, in the order of their publication. It's pretty clear from the editorial commentary that the people who put this collection together don't approve of editorial meddling, and that they really, really disapprove of the Conan pastiches that were written by the likes of L. Sprague de Camp and many others.

So I have to say right at the start that my first acquaintance with Conan came from those very pastiches, which I encountered in the SF digests back in the 1950s. The very first one I recall reading was in a 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe, which had a great cover of a flying demon carrying a helpless babe in his arms. The story was written by de Camp and Bjorn Nyberg, and I thought it was great. I later went on to read as many of the original stores as I could find, as well as the pastiches. I might have found Conan without ever having read de Camp's take on him, but then again, who knows? At any rate, I've always felt I owed de Camp something, but the editors of The Coming of Conan would almost certainly not agree.

Be that as it may, last week I started reading through the stories in this recent collection, beginning with "The Phoenix on the Sword." The collection includes not only the first published version, from Weird Tales, but also the unrevised first submitted draft. I'm a fan, not not enough of one to read the draft, so my comments apply only to the published story.

The thing that amazed me was how many "rules" of storytelling Howard violated. Most of the story is "told" rather than "shown," with a lot of it being nothing but exposition accomplished by having characters tell each other all kinds of things that they already know. There's also a shameless use of coincidence and an equally shameless deus ex machina. Not that any of that stuff matters. What redeems the whole thing is the great action scene. When Conan starts swinging his sword and ax, heads will roll!

The next two stories in the book were rejected by Weird Tales, and I can see why. The endings of both of them (like the ending of "The Phoenix on the Sword," in fact) are supposed to be at least shocking, if not surprising, and they're just not. (Maybe that's me, because I've read too many similar stories, and the endings would have been more effective 70 or so years ago.)

Howard didn't let a little thing like rejection bother him, and the fourth story in the book, "The Tower of the Elephant," though it has plenty of coincidence, is a much better story than the preceding ones, and the fifth, "The Scarlet Citadel" also has some wonderful stuff in it. I'm not as fond of the sixth story, "The Queen of the Black Coast," as some people are (again, the gimmick seems too predictable), but I like it quite a bit. I remember that when I first read it, many years ago, that it was one of my favorites. Hey, I was young and wildly romantic. What can I say?

There are seven more stories in this collection, and I plan to read them all sooner or later, along with those in The Bloody Crown of Conan, which I ordered not long ago. You might be asking, "But Bill, don't you already have the Ace collections, with the pastiches included? And don't you have the Berkley collections with the original Weird Tales versions and no pastiches? And don't you have the Ace Double with Conan the Conquerer? And haven't you read those all before?"

My answer is, "Yes. And your point is?" Posted by Hello