Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Pulpy Saga of Dan J. Marlowe

Author and Los Angeles Review of Books contributor Charles Kelly offers a quite fascinating look back at the career of frequently overlooked author Dan J. Marlowe. Just the opening paragraphs should convince you to devour Kelly’s piece:
Hollywood is for the young and tough, a place where you must be beautiful simply to survive, let alone prosper. God help you if you’re homely, aging, and physically beaten. Double that if you’ve lost the creative skills you’ve counted on, and forgotten much of your life and all the people you’ve known. Double that again if you’re a writer. Let’s say it’s 1978 and you are Dan J. Marlowe, once one of the hottest suspense novelists of your day, author of such hard-boiled Fawcett Gold Medal paperbacks as The Name of the Game is Death, The Vengeance Man, Never Live Twice, and the Operation books, featuring a bank robber turned international agent. It’s 1978, yes, and the market for that kind of book has evaporated. You’re 64 years old, suffering from amnesia, glaucoma, and the consequences of a stroke. It’s painful for you even to lift your hands high enough to type.

Though you’re chubby and unathletic and wear dark, horn-rimmed glasses, in the past you’ve been hell with the ladies. Now those ladies are ghosts to you. You’ve spent more than 15 years living in Harbor Beach, Michigan, a picturesque, isolated town on the shore of Lake Huron. You made a good living, served on the city council, partied with the Rotary Club. And you found time to indulge in your own secret sexual quirkiness. Now you’re broke and short of options. So you’re moving to the City of Fallen Angels to share an apartment with a former bank robber. To try to put your writing life back together, maybe even get movies made from your books.

You’re a Hollywood Untouchable because you’re a lousy money-maker, and you’ll stay that way. People hear your name and confuse you with Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s iconic detective, or with your mystery-writing contemporary, Stephen Marlowe. You’re the wrong Marlowe, in the wrong time, the wrong place. So what are the chances you’ll be remembered with fondness? What are the odds that nearly four decades later, megastar horror writer Stephen King will honor your talent by dedicating a novel to you? Well, you’ve always been a gambler--a professional one for seven years. You’ve played long shots and won. Maybe you’ll do it again.
Convinced? Then go off to read the whole article here.


Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

Looking forward to reading that one, Jeff. Thanks for the link. Charles left a comment on the third post in my series on Marlowe last month. He also has a feature on Marlowe in the third issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Fatale, out last week.

RJR said...

I have fond memories of Dan Marlowe, even though I only met him a couple of times. When he moved to L.A. he lived with Al Nussbaum, former bank robber turned writer and good friend of mine. Al has always said that Dan saved his life by corresponding with him in prison. By taking Dan in he was only returning the favor.
It's a great story. Dan had to learn to write again after his amnesia, and actually did sell some short stories afterward.

Al Nussbaum was once on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List. He served 14 years of a 40 year sentence, and came out a writer. Issues of AHMM in the 70's often contained several Nussbaum stories under different bylines.