Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Robert Colby, R. I. P.

I heard from Peter Enfantino this morning that Robert Colby passed away last weekend. Colby was a prolific paperbacker for a number of houses, including Gold Medal, where he published what might be his best novel, The Captain Must Die, a book that I wish Hard Case Crime would reprint because it deserves a wider audience.

10 comments:

mtmorgan said...

Sorry to hear that. I really enjoyed Captain Must Die, Murder Times 5 and, particularly, Star Trap. He was a fine, neglected writer.

Todd Mason said...

Damn. I was just starting to read the CF digests when he was writing the "Paint the Town..." series...collecting those, or reissuing the collection(s), would also be welcome...(I wonder if Peter had interviewed him for his ongoing HITCHCOCK'S project...)

Bill said...

Peter mentions having spent a few days with Colby several years ago, but nothing about an interview. There could be one in one of Peter's old zines, maybe.

Gormania said...

I helped get a few of his books republished (one of the republications being a disaster so he had nothing to thank me for, believe me) so I got to know him somewhat over six or seven years. We had several very long phone coversations. He also wrote a very frank autobiographical piece about his life in Mystery Scene some years ago. He had the same kind of media background that would be common in my generation of writers--advertising, tv, radio--but he did it folllowing the Second World War, when it was still a novelty. He seemed to have a good sense of his worth as a writer. He knew when he'd done well by a particular novel and when not. He was a very nice guy who spent the last of his years taking care of his beloved wife who was even sicker than he was. Like far too many writers, luck never kissed him on the cheek, in that old Irish phrase. He got lost along with a lot of other good paperback men and women.

Bill said...

Thanks for that comment, Ed. I know that he appeared often at the paperback show in California, and I hope he got some sense of how much he was appreciated by those who care about the old Gold Medal writers.

Peter Enfantino said...

As Ed notes, Bob Colby spent most of his last few years taking care of his wife (who passed away, I believe, last year) and when she went, it took all the wind out of his sails.
I was lucky enough to visit Bob at his place in L.A. a couple times. His basement (his writing room) was decked out with all the different editions of his books. He showed them all to me with pride. On the wall was a portrait of his wife as a young lady. Coulda been a Hollywood star.
As usual, Ed Gorman is being modest. What Ed did for Bob a few years ago was to give Bob hope and to reinvigorate him. Doesn't matter if the movie deal never materialized or the big hardcover didn't happen.
I saw Bob four or five times after we published DEVIL'S COLLECTOR and talked to him on the phone several times (though sadly not in the last year) and EVERY TIME he brought up what Ed had done for him. Sit back in your chair, Ed, and KNOW that you did this guy some good. I know.
As for Todd's question: no, I never interviewed Bob. There's a decent interview and biblio in BOOKS ARE EVERYTHING #27 if you can get ahold of one.
THE CAPTAIN MUST DIE would definitely make a nice addition to the Hard case library.

Juri said...

Damn! I've read only one novel by Colby - BEAUTIFUL BUT BAD (Monarch 1962) and that one in a quite bad Finnish translation, but it was pretty good. I never see it mentioned when Colby is discussed.

And also some pretty good, hard-striking short stories.

Xavier said...

Another one of my favorite short-story writers leaving to a hopefully better world... So sad he never got the recognition he truly deserved.

Jack O'Connell said...

Peter Enfantino turned me on to "The Captain Must Die" a few years back and I couldn't belive that somehow I'd missed this fine writer. Bravo and thank you to Hard Case, Point Blank, Stark House, Five Star and all the others keeping the great mid-century paperback stories available. And thanks to folks like Peter and Gorman and Pronzini and Crider for spreading the word on so many masters who worked under the radar line.

Anonymous said...

I just found out about the death of Robert Colby from reading Peter Enfantino's memoir online. I am saddened to hear this. My ex-wife and I spent many enjoyable evenings at the home of Rob & Francesca back in the late 1980s, early 1990s. I am sad to say I lost touch with them after moving to Arizona in 1993.

Does anyone have any contact information for Peter Enfantino or on Francesca Colby, Bob's widow? I would very much like to get back in touch with her if she still lives.

Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks very much!

Sincerely,
Daryl F. Mallett
darylmallett@aol.com