Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ed Gorman Day

Very early on, before I was properly writing crime stories, Ed Gorman reached out to me through my blog, offering encouragement and eventually a spot in two or three of his yearly anthologies. He wrote reviews of forgotten books most weeks, he sent me several of his books that he thought I would like. I think he shared this sort of relationship with many, many people. He offered to feature my books on his blog. In other words, a man who hadn't much time-- made time for a fledgling writer. I will miss him every day because I regard the people who write for FFB as my family. We never met in person but that's not really necessary any more.  Now here are some other words.

Max Allan Collins

Thirty-five years ago or so, I got a phone call. I was in my basement office in the middle of something, but I answered it. There was no caller ID then, though I wasn’t getting all that many phone calls, anyway.
This very distinctive, friendly but strangely shy voice identified himself as Ed Gorman. He lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (about sixty miles from my home, Muscatine) and was a writer himself, although he told me this in a modest, dismissive, almost embarrassed way.
Any call from a would-be writer sent up a warning signal. I had already been at it long enough that I was getting calls from local and area writers (and sometimes farther afield than that) wanting help that usually consisted of reading their book and/or giving them advice on getting published.
But this call didn’t seem to be like that. Ed Gorman was calling specifically to tell me how much he loved my QUARRY novels. At that time there were only four of them, published in 1976 and ‘77, and while the stirring of a cult reputation for the books was out there, this was different.
This obviously very literate, self-effacing, intelligent man knew all about the books and really, really liked them. He had been compelled, he said, to give me a call about them - which was something he’d been thinking about doing for a long time.
We talked for about an hour, and hit it off, both having rather dark senses of humor, but then he rather abruptly said he had to sign off. He had something he had to do. I asked him what, and he said, “I’m getting married in half an hour.”
In a way that’s all you need to know about Ed Gorman. He was a writer who wanted to tell other writers that he admired them, and why. He was funny and quirky and uniquely Ed – that he had chosen to call me out of the blue about QUARRY right before he was off to get married to the beautiful, wonderful Carol, seems so very wrong and so perfectly right.
We began talking on the phone regularly – so regularly, and for such long conversations, that I used to get in trouble with my beautiful, wonderful wife about the phone bill. I learned that Ed had been primarily a literary writer, with short stories appearing in various publications of that sort (it was much later that he revealed he’d also
written short stories for low-end men’s magazines). He said he wanted to branch out into novels.
As he came to know, and as I have said before in public, one of my proudest accomplishments as a writer was helping turn Ed Gorman into a novelist. He particularly took to one piece of advice. I said, “Think of every chapter as a short story. That won’t intimidate you – after all, you’re already a short story writer. And, anyway, with a chapter, you need the same coherent beginning, middle and end as a short story.” Very soon he sent me a novel.
It was good. There was a problem with the ending that I told him about, and he took it well, and gratefully. Then I learned he had thrown the book away and started over. I felt terrible about it, and for the only time in our friendship, I balled him out. I am someone who never throws any piece of writing away, a chronic recycler, and what he’d done appalled me. But he was impulsive and eccentric and his own harshest critic, so his action was as in character as it was rash.
Ed and Carol visited Barb and me in Muscatine, and we did the same with them in Cedar Rapids. Carol and Barb are writers too, very good ones, so the conversations over the years were four-way, not the boys over here and the girls
over there.
It took me a while to learn that Ed rarely traveled, and that he was in fact something of a hermit. Because we both lived in Iowa, and had writing styles that were not dissimilar, I for a time had the honor of being accused of using “Ed Gorman” as a pseudonym. What a writer that would make me.
“Is it true,” people would ask me, “that you’ve actually met Ed Gorman?” I actually had.
The thing is, being around people made Ed nervous. This still strikes me as strange because he made his pre-writing-career living as an ad man, PR guy and also writer of political speeches (politics being a lifelong interest, even obsession).
Stranger still is how charming and effortlessly social he was on the telephone. Scores of writers are bound to now come forward and say how well they knew him, but admit that they never met him.
I saw him quite a bit, at least comparatively speaking. With Carol and Barb, we met at restaurants; he and Carol came to book signings of mine (he very rarely did his own); we did a number of appearances together (doing Q and A as well as signing, at the late lamented Mystery Cat in C.R.
and elsewhere). Despite his extreme discomfort with crowds, he came with Carol to periodic screenings of my films at the Cedar Rapids Film Festival (sitting way in back).
For a number of years Barb and I, and writers Bob Randisi and Marthayn Peligrimas, would meet Ed and Carol for quarterly get-togethers at the Ox Yoke Inn in the Amana Colonies. These were lively, frequently hilarious bitch sessions about the writing life. Bob was a great friend of Ed’s (they started Mystery Scene together), and is a great friend of mine. Writers know a lot of other writers, but mostly it’s friendly acquaintances. Bob, Ed and I were real friends.
At Terry Beatty’s wedding some years ago, Ed – who loved Terry and his work – made an unprecedented move by attending the reception. I might be slightly overstating, but Ed was damn near the life of the party. Laughing, chatting, circulating. I was astonished.
Later I asked him, “What happened to Ed Gorman, the guy who can’t stand being in even the smallest crowd?” He told me he’d been a nervous wreck at the reception, a total screaming mess inside. I had witnessed an amazing performance.
Once, responding to my efforts to get him to a Bouchercon, Ed told me didn’t like driving long distances because he’d been in a car crash. I asked him why he didn’t fly there. He said he’d also been in a plane crash. I asked him why he didn’t take a train. He said he’d been in a train crash. Asking him why he always took the stairs in tall buildings, he said he’d once been in an elevator when it fell. There’s also a story about an escalator, but you get the drift.
Was he kidding me? I’m not sure. Really I don’t think so. He was a self-described bundle of neuroses, yet as grounded a writer as I’ve ever known. He worked hard and well and fast, and never compromised his craft and art. Now and then he would rail on about some writer whose work he disliked, but never in public, and no one had more generous, enthusiastic things to say about other writers and their work than Ed. Mystery Scene was in part about getting writers who were otherwise being ignored their due by way of articles and reviews. He worked with Black Lizard and founded Five Star to get books and writers back into print.
I think it’s fair for me to say that no other writer in our genre ever did more for his brother and sister writers.
In 1992, around Thanksgiving, I got a double career whammy when my DICK TRACY contract was not picked up, and my Nathan Heller novel contract was unexpectedly cancelled. I shared my woes with Ed. Suddenly I had short story assignment after short story assignment from Ed and his great friend, Marty Greenberg. Ed and Marty keep me afloat for six months while I regrouped. They were also responsible for turning my wife Barb into a writer, largely with assignments for stories in the CAT CRIMES anthologies.
Ed was the most widely read writer I’ve ever encountered. He knew mystery fiction inside out, and he shared with me his great love for Mickey Spillane, John D. MacDonald and Rex Stout, among many others. But he knew science fiction just as well, and he had read all of the classics and literary novels from all sorts of eras, and bestsellers, too. I suspect he was a speed reader, but maybe he was just obsessive.
He was film literate, too, though his opinions often flew against critical opinion. He never cared for John Ford, for example, with the exception of THE SEARCHERS. He loved Robert Ryan — his favorite screen actor. My head is as filled with his opinions about popular culture as my own (simplified by our many, many areas of agreement). One area of disagreement: he didn’t like the Beatles but loved the Stones. I always told him he didn’t have to choose
Ed, of course, had a dark side. This came across as black comedy for the most part, and I heard for many decades his prediction that we were nearing the end of mystery-fiction publishing. It was over! Sometimes his gloom got to me, and Barb would say, “Were you talking business with Ed again?” I started making a habit of making him laugh when I could see that he was letting bleakness get to him. Of course, we’d always laughed together, each an easy mark for the other.
He was always complimentary about my work and gave me glowing reviews, and he was the first to really recognize any value in QUARRY, and he kept that up over the years. Surprisingly often, he would call and say that the night before he’d re-read one of the books, and make my day with effusive praise. I’ve never had a phone call like that from anybody else.
If for some reason you’ve never read Ed Gorman (which I doubt, if you’re coming to this blog), I have always been partial to the Jack Dwyer series, in part because I got to read the first one, Rough Cut, in manuscript. His horror novels, as Daniel Ransom, are first-rate. He was a terrific western writer, as well – Guild is a favorite of mine. The Poker Club became a good little film, though not as good as its novel source. And he was the best short story writer of my generation – seek out his collections.
In the last twenty years or so, I talked less with Ed on the phone – though still fairly frequently – as e-mails and blogs kicked in. His voice always had something apologetic in it, like he was afraid he was interrupting. He never was.
Those phone calls – and a phone call was where it all began – are precious to me now in my memory. How we laughed and laughed. What I’d give for another call from Ed right now. Me and a hundred other writers. But I’m the only one he called on his way to his wedding.

From Dave Zeltserman

 I suspect dozens of other writers are going to be writing similar tributes as mine, and 10000s of readers are going to feel the same way about Ed as a writer as I did. That was because as a person, Ed was one of those rare people who’d go out of his way to help you, and he was just such a damn nice guy, and as a writer not only did he craft  beautiful prose but he filled his stories with a such unique human quality no matter how dark the story. Ed was proud to be a genre writer, and excelled at it in all genres that he wrote: Westerns, mysteries, thrillers, and horror, and both short stories and novels. I don't know if this was much of a secret but Ed didn't much care for literary 'artiste' types. To Ed, the point of writing was to tell exciting stories that drew the reader in, and few did it better than Ed. Partly because of Ed's love of these genres, and partly because of his overall decency, there are few out there who championed newer writers like Ed did.

I never got a chance to meet Ed in person, and during the 15 years that I knew Ed we only talked a few times over the phone, but during those years we exchanged 1000s of emails over just about everything: books, politics, movies, television, the state of publishing, what was going on with our lives, Orson Welles, you name it, and just as Ed’s strong humanist qualities and decency came through in his writing, they likewise did with his emails. Just a great guy. And a great writer. That’s the easiest way to sum Ed up. Someone you can love like an older brother even though you never met him. Someone who’s passing makes the world just that much colder.

Ed, rest in the peace you so much deserved. Like everyone else, I don’t know if there’s anything after this life, but if there is, I’d like to think you’re right now with your buddies Tom Piccirilli and Marty Greenberg, hanging out with Hammett, Stout,  Cain, and the other greats trading stories.

Other tributes

Cap'n Bob
David Cranmer
Bill Crider
Cedar Rapids Gazette
Cullen Gallagher
Locus Online
Martin Edwards
Jerry House
George Kelley
B.V. Lawson 
Steve Lewis
Mike Nevins
Matt Paust 
Todd Mason
Mystery Fanfare 
 Rap Sheet Tribute
Charlie Stella
Ed Gorman's Sam McCain novels 
Western Fiction Review: Interview

Book Reviews;;
HARLOT'S MOON (by Sergio Angelini)
WOLF MOON, Cullen Gallaghe; GUILD, 
ELIMINATION, Terrie Farley Moran (Criminal Element)
Patti Abbott, GHOST TOWN 
James Reasoner, NIGHT CALLER (Daniel Ransom/Ed Gorman)


Anonymous said...

What a powerful couple of stories, Patti. And I think it's a great idea to have an Ed Gorman Day. He was such an influence for a lot of people.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Certainly on me.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Great tribute Patti, thanks for taking the time.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Glad you're doing this, Patti.

It's always been my personal opinion, which I did tell Ed, that the best of his work (and a lot was very, very good) was in his short stories. For those of you who, unlike me, do not regularly read them, go to the library or Amazon at any of his many collections. The atmosphere, the writing, the sense of melancholy, everything that provides a mood in a short space, he was a master. He was up in my top 5 favorite short story writers.

I also liked his Robert Payne books, especially the first, and his westerns, which were not like anyone else's.

He will be sorely missed.

Kate said...

He's left mighty big shoes to fill.

R.T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yvette said...

Enjoyed reading these tributes, Patti. I wish I were more familiar with Ed Gorman's work, but at least I can say that I am not a complete ignoramus. I have read Ed's Sam McCain series since the first book, WAKE-UP LITTLE SUSIE (all the titles in the series are rock n' roll song titles which is the first thing that caught my eye) and loved them. And I believe I reviewed one or two on my blog, though Google now prohibits me from finding my past posts unless I go post by post by post by post back into the mists of time.(I hope they're planning to fix that.)

I'm really looking forward to reading more of Ed Gorman's work, spurred on by these enthusiastic tributes.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

I decided to write another short piece about Ed for The Rap Sheet, to commemorate what would have been his 75th birthday. I hope you can add it to your links:


Jerry House said...

I'm so glad you're doing this, Patti.

Yvette said...

Actually, WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE is the second book in the Sam McCain series. The first title was THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED. Sorry for the mix-up.

TracyK said...

Patti, this is an incredible gathering of tributes to Ed Gorman. I especially am enjoying learning about his writing of Westerns and other genres I don't normally read.

Gerard said...

I have no tribute but did pick up a copy of STRANGLEHOLD to read.

Mathew Paust said...

You guys have got me weepy again. As Sam McCain I would never, never admit such a thing...but I'm not Sam right now. Come to think of it, Sam's feeling pretty down too at the moment. As are we all.

Todd Mason said...

Among my Ed reviews:
for the brilliant BLACK LIZARD ANTHOLOGY OF CRIME FICTION and its sequel.

Todd Mason said...

And this, with Ed's sapient and gracious comment:

Todd Mason said...

And thanks, Patti, for calling for this, and everyone for participating/sharing.

Martin Edwards said...

A wonderful tribute, Patti. Thanks from me as well.

Rick Robinson said...

I'm sorry I somehow missed knowing this Ed Gorman Day was occcuring, though other than having read his blog and the first three McCaine books and some short stories I had no contact. It seems he was a very, very nice guy, and he greatly missed. Thank you, Patti, for putting together these links.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Ed Gorman was one of the finest writers and one of the most decent people int he writing community. Although we never met, he was always helpful to me and to any other newbie who came on his radar screen. He is greatly missed and remains in my daily prayers.

Barrie said...

So enjoying reading through these stories. Ed Gorman certainly touched a lot of lives.

YA Sleuth said...

I didn't know him well enough, and I'm really enjoying these tributes. What a great way to celebrate him as a person. So sorry for everyone's loss.

Carol G said...

Thank you, Patti and everyone, for your tribute to Ed.

Carol Gorman

Cap'n Bob said...

I just wrote something on my blog, late but in under the wire.

Cap'n Bob said...

My blog address didn't make it through.

Bob Levinson said...

Ed was the best of the best and remains so in my memory. I think of him every day and how fortunate I was to know him.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think we all feel that way, Bob. He was the best.