Yesterday's links to James Reasoner's interview and to the J. C. Penney catalog from 1976 sent me into a veritable frenzy of nostalgia, from which I have yet to recover.
In the late '70s, I'd been contributing reviews and articles to mystery fanzines for years, starting with Len and June Moffatt's JDM Bibliophile, Lianne Carlin's The Mystery Lover's Newsletter (the title later changed to The Mystery Reader's Newsletter) and Al Hubin's The Armchair Detective. I continued in such fabulous venues as Jeff Meyerson's The Poisoned Pen, Guy Townsend's The Mystery FANcier, and Andy Jaysnovitch's The Not-So Private-Eye. Later on, there was MDM Cap'n Bob Napier's inimitable letterzine. It was around 1976 that Steve Lewis' personalzine The Fatal Kiss that lured me into the ranks of DAPA-Em, where I remain happily ensconced today.
From letters appearing in some of the fanzines, I learned about two other Texas mystery fans, both of them on their way to becoming famous: James Reasoner and Joe Lansdale.
I was at an AggieCon around 1979 when I saw a guy and his wife sitting in the hallway outside the dealer's room. I read the guy's nametag and discovered that he was Joe Lansdale. I still remember how I introduced myself: "I think I know you from another fandom." Joe was skeptical (go figure), but when I told him I'd been reading his letters in The Mystery FANcier and The Poisoned Pen, we immediately became pals. We began corresponding right after the convention.
I'd already been corresponding with James, I believe, thanks to letters in the same fanzines. Even then, James wasn't big on attending conventions, so I hadn't met him yet. That would come a little later.
I was living in Brownwood, Texas, teaching at Howard Payne University, where I was in a writers' group with four or five others. I was writing poetry, some of which was being published in little magazines, and even in a couple of national magazines. Jack Davis, husband of one of the group members, is the one who suggested that he and I could write a Nick Carter novel. I wasn't so sure, but Jack sent off for the guidelines, and we got started on what was to become The Coyote Connection, which eventually sold and which was published in January 1981.
At the same time Jack and I were writing The Coyote Connection, James was working on Texas Wind, and Joe was writing, among other things, Act of Love. All three of those books came out about the same time, and I can well remember how elated all three of us were. I was getting a much later start than James and Joe, a point that was brought home forcefully to me at the 1981 AggieCon when I met Lew Shiner. He spotted me in the dealer's room and introduced himself, saying that Joe Lansdale had told him he should meet me. I've never forgotten Lew's next words: "I thought you were a young guy, like us." While I've never forgotten, I have, over the years, managed to forgive him.
My first meeting with James occurred soon after the publication of The Coyote Connection. My half of the flat fee for the book was $1250. I used the money to to buy my first VCR, and I bought it from James Reasoner's dad, since James said he'd deliver it in person. He brought it to Brownwood and helped me hook it up. Later we went to Greenleaf Cemetery and visited Robert E. Howard's grave. (In case you're wondering, the first thing I ever taped was The Great Race.)
As I mentioned, James and Joe have gone on to fame and fortune. The fanzines, I'm sad to say, have all but disappeared. Certainly the print versions are long gone. Sure, rara-avis, DorothyL, Crimespace, and The Big Adios are great. And Mystery*File is a wonderful resource, but I miss the print zines. We have things like Crimespree, The Mystery Readers Journal, and Mystery Scene, but it's not quite the same.
Yesterday was the birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said it much better than I can: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
Well, some of us, anyway.