Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books: the links to the reviews, for 21 October 2016

The weekly round-up of books and related texts the contributors feel haven't yet received sufficient attention, at least (sometimes this is less true, either because the work in question has gotten its due to some degree, whether as an impressive item with a sustained reputation, or a disappointing obscurity...or even the rare item that has a much better following than it deserves.)  This week, I fill in for Patti (Patricia) Abbott, who's celebrating the natal anniversary of her husband Phil; she'll probably be hosting again next week at the Pattinase blog.

This week in memory of Ed Gorman and Clark Howard.

Sergio Angelini: Shadow Games by Ed Gorman

set in Montreal

Bill Crider: Counterspy Express by A. S. Fleischman

Mathew Paust: The Dig by Cynan Jones

Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine 75th Anniversary (Columbia University) (oddly-recorded audio--the podcast sounds not much better)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ed Gorman, 1941-2016

"You're a writer." -Edward Gorman, in an email several years ago.

The first fanzine I read was an issue of Science Fiction Review, a magazine edited and published by the late Richard (Dick) Geis, and that issue included among much else a bit of autobiography by Algis Budrys, a fiction-writer, editor and critic who has had rather a large influence on me; along with that essay, an interview, conducted by an impressed fan of his (and of other contributors to the literary legacy of the Fawcett Gold Medal paperback line), Edward Gorman. So that's how I was introduced to Ed, in 1978.

Like Budrys, or Geis, only perhaps even more so, Ed went ahead and did things that he clearly thought needed doing, not only establishing himself as a freelance writer, but co-founding the magazine Mystery Scene and engaged in the launch of the book-publishing house, Five Star, which have both done notable service to the field of crime fiction and beyond. He co-edited two (or, arguably, three) best crime fiction of the year annual series, and wrote well and often brilliantly in at least the fields of crime fiction, fantastic fiction (particularly horror), western fiction, and historical fiction. His editorial work has been impressive, beyond the magazine and annuals, often assembling key anthologies of crime fiction and more, not least with The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction and The Second Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction, and such notable compilations as the nonfiction collection The Big Book of Noir and the interview collections Speaking of Murder and Speaking of Murder 2. 

I've never been to Cedar Rapids, his long-time home town, nor met his gracious wife Carol Gorman (though she and I have exchanged a couple of emails or direct messages); I never met Ed in person, but we did correspond publicly and privately with moderate frequency; I was able to help him out in a few minor ways over the years, as when he was trying to find out when and on which channels the film adaptation of his story "The Poker Club" was going to be first telecast in the US and Canada. And he, as I quote above, encouraged me to take my ability as a writer seriously...something I haven't really done to the extent I might. 

Gorman had more gumption than that, and as many others have noted, a generosity of spirit and desire to help others, and to preserve the legacy of those too close to being forgotten, overlooked, underappreciated, that drove his professional career...along with the desire to tell the stories with the urgency and subtle grace he brought to them. 

The Stephen Fabian cover of that SFR issue where I first read Ed's words is a grim image of someone having a hole punched in his midsection by a futuristic weapon...the tight little ache in my gut, in learning Ed had succumbed to the myeloma that had been messing with him for 15 years, was predicted all those years ago. 

All sympathies to all his family and friends who knew him better, and those he was kind to over the years. His absence is a major loss. 

Among the blog reminiscences so far: 
Bill Crider
Patti Abbott 
Sandra Seamons
Kevin Tipple
Juri Nummelin 
Jon Jordan 
James Reasoner
Jerry House
Ben Boulden
J. Kingston Pierce
David Cramner
Jake Hinkson
Lee Goldberg
Molly Duffy, obituary in The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA)
earlier recognition
Gerald So
Dale Jones in The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA) (courtesy Pierce)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Richard Lupoff letter in FANTASTIC STORY MAGAZINE, Winter 1953

An attempt at enlargement to legibility:
Hank Luttrell's scan, a bit of nostalgia/personal history for Dick...though one will have to enlarge this image to read it (unless hawk-eyed)...

FFB: Isaac Asimov, autobiographical works

Of all the writers perhaps best known for their science fiction writing, the most thoroughly autobiographied has been Isaac Asimov. There the anecdotes that introduced nearly all his 399 monthly columns, most about science or mathematics, for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (F&SF) (and perhaps a few in his similar work for Venture Science Fiction, Astounding Science Fiction/Analog, Science Digest and his editorials for Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine/Asimov's Science Fiction, among many others), and a slew of interviews throughout his life, he provided running autobiographical commentary in his collection The Early Asimov, the anthology Before the Golden Age, and much of the other relatively casual writing he contributed to such projects as The Hugo Winners volumes he introduced and wrote individual story introductions for. And there are the one essay and three volumes of explicit autobiography he wrote in his latter decades, as well as his collected letters (edited by his brother, Newsday editor Stanley Asimov), three retrospective collections of the range of his published work (one each to commemorate his 10oth, 200th and 300th published book, with the first volume of his autobiography Officially tied for 200th) and a final (so far) volume devoted to excerpts from his autobiographical writing with additional reminiscence by his widow, Janet Jeppson/Asimov. 

His earliest example of formal autobiography I'll deal with here is the essay he wrote for the Isaac Asimov issue of F&SF, the third in their irregular series devoting a portion of an issue to celebration of one or another major writer in the field who also has contributed notably to the magazine itself (the first two were devoted to Theodore Sturgeon and Ray Bradbury; since the Asimov, writers have ranged from Fritz Leiber through Kate Wilhelm to, most recently, David Gerrold, who might be the least F&SF-heavy of the honorees so far). Asimov's essay for that issue was "Portrait of the Writer as a Boy", and it served as a template for the Early Asimov and Before the Golden Age reminiscences cited above, as well as the seeds of the eventual book-length works. Like most of his F&SF essays, it was collected in a series of volumes for Doubleday,  this one Science, Numbers and
I (1968); my father picked up the 1969 Ace paperback reprint, and it was the first bit of science-fiction writer autobiography I remember reading. 

Asimov was soon being nudged, if not too hard, into considering writing a full-length autobiography; he reports that his usual response to such a suggestion is that his life had been exceedingly dull; he wrote. He had other jobs, most of them academic aside from his World War 2 work as a civilian and soldier, but otherwise he wrote. And it's true that relatively little of his life was devoted to much else beside his compulsion to write, and his desire to explain, and to have a reasonably good time when not writing or doing such similar activities as giving lectures or talks to audiences, and socializing in various circumstances, both among lifelong friends and acquaintances in sf/fantasy fandom, fellow writers, his academic and scientific peers, and the eventual wider circle of people who knew him to one degree or another, due to his work with the American Humanist Society or simply through the publicity attendant on his productivity and sustained popularity as a writer. 
His first near-bestseller, The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science, helped free him from any financial dependence on anything but further writing for the rest of his career, and the branching out he was able to do (into projects such as Asimov's Guide to the Bible and Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare, joke and limerick collections, other sorts of pop-history and eventually even bestselling sf novels). What he was doing throughout this period was also keeping a meticulous daily journal, a task he began as a youth and continued apparently till he could no longer, in his last months of life, as he was dying of AIDS in 1992, he apparently being one of those so unfortunate as to receive a contaminated blood transfusion. One of his last projects was to produce a third volume of autobiography, eventually published as I. Asimov, which was a somewhat more anecdotal, slightly less guarded roll through some of the same territory as his first two fat volumes, In Memory Yet Green and In Joy Still Felt, which also, of course, dealt with his life since the 1979-80 publication of the first two volumes, if not in as great detail as those had...he was writing and revising some of the third volume, and his non-fiction collaboration with Frederik Pohl, Our Angry Earth, from his hospital beds. 
As fellow F&SF columnist Algis Budrys noted in reviewing the books for the magazine, Asimov only occasionally draws great thematic lessons from the wealth of detail he provides, and doesn't dwell too obviously on some of his opinions of those closest to him...he makes no bones, in the first two volumes, about how much more he appreciated his daughter Robyn than his son David throughout their lives together, and how much happier he was with Jeppson than with his first wife, nee Gertrude Blugerman. Much of his early adulthood, and the accounts of if in all the volumes, was consumed by his fights with administrators and other sorts of boss at Columbia University, where he took his degrees, and Boston University, where he was for most of his life officially an associate professor at the medical of the small notes of triumph at the end of the second volume is that his old antagonists at the medical school had all passed from the scene, as he went from strength to strength in the outside world , and he was finally declared, with no greater requirement of time or coursework from him, a full professor of biochemistry. As Budrys also suggests, the accumulation of detail and how he manages to keep the recounting of those details lively through multiple hundreds of pages gives the reader some sense of how Asimov the man and writer worked...even when he's not so explicit as describing his plight ca. 1960, where he rather looked upon himself as a failure: not yet having had his breakaway success with the Guide to Science, still dependent on a low salary at a third-rate medical school, not happy in his marriage nor able to make his wife happy, his relations with his children a mixed bag at best, and decreasingly happy even with his work in sf, or his ability to continue to contribute to it (very much aware of his significance to the field in the '40s and '50s, but even as the decade wore on and his success began to flower in other writing, feeling himself more and more a dinosaur in the field of writing he loved best...something he wouldn't shake till the '70s, though he marked as a turning point a conversation with the ill-fated Evelyn Del Rey in the mid-'60s, when he noted his feelings of obsolescence to her, and she replied, "Isaac, when you write sf, you are the field"). Things got much better before they got worse again. 
I've yet to read the Jeppson excerpts volume, released on the tenth anniversary of Asimov's death, but I probably will, sooner or later. Having just been dipping back into the first two volumes, and finding them as easy to dig into as I did upon first reading them as a teen, I can say they are more than a useful look into Asimov himself, while of course first and foremost that. 

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Lester Del Rey (or Leonard Knapp), Evelyn Del Rey. Frederik Pohl, Carol Metcalf Ulf Pohl

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books; the links to the reviews for 7 October 2016 (new addition)

The weekly round-up of books and related texts the contributors feel haven't yet received sufficient attention, at least (sometimes this is less true, either because the work in question has gotten its due to some degree, whether as an impressive item with a sustained reputation, or a disappointing obscurity...or even the rare item that has a much better following than it deserves.)  This week, I fill in for Patti (Patricia) Abbott, who's attending to other business; she'll probably be hosting again next week at the Pattinase blog.

Patricia Abbott: Let Him Go by Larry Watson 

Sergio Angelini: Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham

Yvette Banek: Picture Miss Seeton by Heron Carvic

Bare Bones crew: EC Comics, November 1951

Elgin Bleecker: Old Hellcat by T. T. Flynn

Brian Busby: The Keys of My Prison by Frances Shelley Wees

Bill Crider: Fantastic, February 1958, edited (after a fashion) by Paul W. Fairman

Martin Edwards: The Skeleton in the Clock by "Carter Dickson" (John Dickson Carr)

Will Erickson: Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden edited by Stephen Jones

Curt Evans: "So You're Going to Write a Mystery" by Kurt Steel; correspondence, including critique of Kurt Steel,  from Raymond Chandler

Barry Gardner: Caught in the Shadows by C. A. Haddad

John Grant: The Agony Column by Earl Derr Biggers

Rich Horton: Their Husband's Wives edited by William Dean Howells and Henry Mills Allen

Jerry House: Quicker Than the Eye by Ray Bradbury

Bernadette Inoz: The Wrong Man by Jane Jago

Margot Kinberg: The Good Boy by Theresa Schwegel

Tracy K: From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

George Kelley: General Murders by Loren D. Estleman

Rob Kitchin: Slicky Boys by Martin Limón

B. V. Lawson: The Hand in the Glove by Rex Stout

Steve Lewis: What's in the Dark? by "Ellery Queen" (Richard Deming in this case); Post-Mark Homicide (aka The Widow Gay) by A. A. Marcus

Neer: Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler

John F. Norris: recent vintage acquisitions; The Hex Murder by Forester Hazard

Mathew Paust: The Glass Character by Margaret Gunning

J. Kingston Pierce: the cover paintings of Paul Rader, as for Find My Killer by Manly Wade Wellman

James Reasoner: The Comstock Lode by Tom Curry

Richard Robinson: Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Gerard Saylor: Lights Out by Ted Koppel

Kevin Tipple: The Territory by Tricia Fields

"TomCat": The Moai Island Puzzle by "Alice Akutagawa" (translated by Ho-Ling Wong)

Prashant Trikannad: books by weight: a quartet