Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Ed Gorman Day

Today, November 2, would have been genre novelist and editor Ed Gorman’s 75th birthday. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite make it long enough to blow out candles and lick cake frosting: he passed away this last October 14, having finally lost his long battle with multiple myeloma. Shortly after hearing of his death, I posted a fairly long tribute to his decades of labor as an author and to the support he’d given me as a blogger.

I hadn’t anticipated writing more about Gorman in the short term. But when author Patricia Abbott put out the call for as many bloggers as possible to applaud that late Iowa writer’s work today, I began racking my brains, determined to come up with some new angle to mine, some further way to enshrine his place in crime-fiction history. I thought about reading (or re-reading) and commenting on one of his numerous novels, but realized I didn’t have free hours enough right now to tackle such a project. I thought about profiling one of his series characters—private eye Jack Dwyer, perhaps, or 1950s small-town attorney Sam McCain—but again, time constraints inhibited my ambitions. So instead, I did what I do so often these days: I began with a Web search, keying up every article I could find about Edward Joseph Gorman Jr., hoping that somewhere amid all of those electronic bytes, I’d come up with a brilliant idea of how to proceed.

Instead, I found myself pleasantly immersed in long stories and briefer anecdotes about his life and literary career. I read Jon L. Breen’s piece (pdf) about Gorman’s role in founding Mystery Scene magazine back in 1985. I was delighted by this profile (pdf) of the author from that same periodical, published in 2002. I revisited Cullen Gallagher’s reviews of Gorman’s books starring a lawman-turned-bounty hunter named Guild, and leaped beyond that to this article from Criminal Element, in which David Cranmer critiques a re-released Gorman Western called Relentless. Then I discovered this piece, from Blogcritics, about the McCain books—featuring the author’s particularly wonderful explanation of why he decided to set those mystery yarns during the Eisenhower era. The original quote comes from Gorman’s blog:
Part of the reason I started writing the Sam McCain novels was because I was sick of hearing about how wonderful the decade of the Fifties was. You know, Ozzie & Harriet and Father Knows Best. Most egregious, to me, was Happy Days. By then even the Republicans knew better. If you were white, Christian, middle-class, straight and white collar, the decade was probably more decent to you than not. But given the racism, sexism, Communist witch hunts, union-busting and large pockets of poverty, not even Ozzie’s dopey smile could make the excluded Happy.
From there, I went on to listen to this podcast by author Dean Koontz, in which he recounts his first meeting with Gorman (a sometime literary collaborator) and “describes why it was both an unusual and wonderful visit.” Then I re-read this fine Mystery*File interview Gorman had (lucky guy) with John D. MacDonald, creator of both the Travis McGee yarns and a number of non-series works that Gorman actually preferred. Beyond that, I found and enjoyed this essay, by Tipping the Fedora blogger Sergio Angelini, in which he enthuses over Gorman’s 1993 thriller, Shadow Games. Finally, I revisited Gorman’s “What Ed Read” columns, which he composed for Bookgasm (with varying regularity) between 2006 and 2009—and in which he both mused on his own experiences in the crime and horror genres, and applauded the efforts of younger wordsmiths toiling in those same fields. (Ed always was a generous guy.)

Somewhere in the course of all this Internet surfing and links accumulating, I realized that I didn’t have to produce another protracted encomium to Ed Gorman. What I was doing—reading as much as I could find about this author and his years of word production—was exactly what I should recommend other people interested in his prose undertake. Writers offer themselves to the world through their art, but they protect themselves in the very same manner, showing us only what they want folks to know. We frequently learn more about authors by digesting what others have to say of their life and their work, than they confess themselves. The tributes Patti Abbott has gathered together today, plus previous pieces by and about Gorman on the Web, provide windows into his tastes and ambitions and quirks that help illuminate him as a writer, and also as a human being. Actually reading his novels or short-story collections will, I guarantee, be a rewarding way to complete the picture.

READ MORE:Interview: Ed Gorman (from 2007, Annotated and Updated),” by Ben Boulden (Gravetapping).

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