Friday, May 29, 2009

Forgotten Books: THE OPEN SQUARE -- Ford Clark

Is today a vacation day for Forgotten Books?  I'm kind of out of the loop, so I'll do one even if it is vacation time.

Back in 1966, the day before Judy and I were to move to Austin, where I'd be attending grad school at The University of Texas, a guy named Charles Whitman got on top of the 27-story Tower and opened fire on people all over the campus and nearby streets.  The event brought The Open Square a brief moment of notoriety, and I went out and found a copy as soon as I read about it.  It was a Gold Medal Book, after all.  How could I go wrong?

The notoriety stemmed from the fact that in Ford Clark's novel, a college kid named Ted Weekes climbs up into a tower with a magnum rifle and opens fire.  That's about where the similarities end, however.  Clark's novel is about a lot of other things: a city manager who thinks sex is dirty, hiswife, a cop named Ashton, and the small town held hostage by the gunman.  It's a nice picture of a time and a place, the way a lot of Gold Medals are.  You've probably never heard of it before.  I know I haven't seen it mentioned, or if I have, it's been many years.  It's truly a forgotten novel, but it's certainly worth a look if you ever run across it.

9 comments:

George said...

Another great choice! It is so obscure, THE OPEN SQUARE isn't even in the KELLEY COLLECTION! The only Ford Clark book at SUNY at Buffalo is THE WICKED WALK ON EVERY SIDE.

Ed Gorman said...

Ford Clark lived in Iowa City and died way too young of cancer. He was a hell of a good writer.

Todd Mason said...

FFB on break, but to be a forgotten book on a forgotten day is a special distinction. I've started reading one similarly obscure, SOMEWHERE THERE'S MUSIC, by George Lea, but haven't finished it yet...nor my last week's FFB entry...

Anonymous said...

Just watched Peter Bogdonavitch's first film for Roger Corman called "Targets" starring Boris Karloff (it's Karloff's favorite film) which deals with a sniper randomly killing people from, among other places, behind a drive-in screen while a film plays. Highly underrated film and quite disturbing.

Brian O'Connor

Bill Crider said...

That's the one with snippets of another Karloff film used in it, right? I think I have the paperback novelization around here.

Todd Mason said...

Yes, TARGETS has Karloff (or "Karloff") playing essentially himself (as "Orlok") and somewhat amusingly has him rather tired of doing films such as THE TERROR, the utterly dull Corman quickie Karloff did with the young Jack Nicholson, which is presented as his new/last film in TARGETS. TARGETS would've been the poetic end to Karloff's career, but no such luck...he did some scraps chopped into Mexican quickies afterward, rather similarly to the home-movie footage of Lugosi Ed Wood built PLAN 9 around. Pity we didn't see more of Nancy Hsueh after this, as well.

starviego said...

In his book "A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders" author Gary Lavergne says the fictional police chief in Clark's novel is named "Chief Miles" which had the same name as Austin's police chief at the time of the Texas tower incident--Bob Miles.

However, in my own copy of Clark's novel, the police chief is called "Ashton" with no mention of a "Miles." Was Lavergne simply wrong about this, or was the character's name changed in subsequent reprints of the book?

I need to know!

Bill Crider said...

I've never seen a reprint of this one.

starviego said...

Thank you for the prompt response.