Saturday, January 02, 2010

Rockin’ the Sixties

He’ll probably be pissed at me for saying this, but Ed Gorman is the tooth fairy of the mystery world--dispensing not only wisdom but actual paying jobs. We have never met, but one day I received an e-mail note from Gorman. He had read a piece about Fredric Brown’s The Fabulous Clipjoint which I’d written for the Chicago Tribune, and he asked if I’d like to write the introduction to a new edition of Brown’s Madball (1961) for a series he was putting together. A nice fee was mentioned. Madball was one of the first mysteries I ever read, and I would have written the introduction for nothing--but I didn’t tell Gorman that.

In addition to being kind, Gorman is one of the best writers of mysteries in recent memory. His eight-installment Sam McCain series, about a lawyer in Black River Falls, Iowa, during the 1960s, earned these glowing comments from Booklist: “Sam McCain is cut from the same cloth as Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder and Bill Pronzini’s ‘Nameless’-- series heroes who change as time passes. The sweet, nonviolent, naïve young man we met in the series debut (The Day the Music Died, 1999) is now comfortable pistol-whipping a witness ...”

Gorman also edits, along with Martin H. Greenberg, the annual Best Crime and Mystery Stories of the Year compilations, the most recent one titled Between the Dark and the Daylight (Tyrus Books).

Now for the best part: His latest Sam McCain outing, Ticket to Ride, just published by Pegasus, is one terrific read. The story is set in 1965, and the basically conservative townsfolk are planning to burn records by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan in front of a local church on Labor Day. That’s when the first young soldier from Black River Falls finally returns home from a strange place called Vietnam, in a coffin.

Ticket to Ride is a fascinating look at the war from both sides of small-town America. Sam is very active in the antiwar movement, and when a rich and powerful warmonger is killed in a fistfight with a young radical, Sam is the only lawyer in town who has the guts and heart to take his case.

If you’ve missed any of the Sam McCain series, you can rectify that by going to Gorman’s page at

No comments: