Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ed Gorman--A Few Thoughts

My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Ed Gorman tonight. I returned from the memorial service of my girlfriend's grandfather today to learn of Mr. Gorman's passing, so it's been a long day.

I only knew Mr. Gorman through his writing, and while he didn't necessarily help shape my voice, he contributed to the development of it, and exposed me to other writers whom I may not have discovered myself.

My initial exposure to Mr. Gorman's work came through the first Black Lizard short story anthology, which had been a Christmas gift one year. I must have read his introduction a thousand times, because he talked about the pulp writers of yesteryear with such enthusiasm and awe that it was contagious. I went hunting for every author he named--Vin Packer. Peter Rabe. Lionel White. Many others. If I found a Gold Medal book in a used bookshop, I grabbed it, because he spoke of Gold Medal as if it were the Bible, and everything within was sacred writing.

He was right, most of the time. He said those authors wrote more about life than plot, and those authors showed me there was a lot more one could put into a story than blondes, bombs, and quasi-Bonds. Black hats weren't necessarily bad, and the white hats weren't always good; the gray hats were the ones you could trust.

He wrote so lovingly of John D. McDonald that I built a small collection of John D.'s work, and when Mr. Gorman said that writers should memorize Dead Low Tied, I went out and bought it. I read that book cover-to-cover on a flight to Montana once. He was right again. Wonderful book.

Mr. Gorman wrote of the pulps with such affection and you could tell he wanted to show us the best of the best, and any anthology that had his name on it, I grabbed. I'm sure I'm missing a few, and it might be nice to find a complete bibliography (I'm sure one exists) for the books I'm missing. His introductions to each story were also well thought out and gave you an insight into the author presented, and I may not have liked every story, but I read every word just to see if he was right.

And then there was his own work. I didn't read all of his books, but I read enough of them. He showed me a western could be as modern as anything Hammett or Parker put down, and made me want to write one someday (which I have, for the Blaze! series; more to come on that in the future).

Mr. Gorman is responsible for one of the most moving, chilling, and, I think, best short stories ever written with "The Long Silence After". I dare anybody to read that and not still be thinking about it ten years later, and after only one read too. That story sits with Block's Eight Million Ways to Die and Goodis' "Black Pudding" and Reasoner's "Graveyard Shift" as stories you can never forget even if you try, and why would you want to? Mr. Gorman's stories had heart. They were real. He believed what he was writing and it showed. No shortcuts or gimmicks.

I owe Mr. Gorman a lot for exposing me to the kind of power storytelling can have, and inspiring me to want to create that kind of power myself.

His path to publication was also inspiring. When, as a 20-something, I read that he hadn't published until he was in his 40s, I decided that I could take my time and not feel the need to rush. Oddly, I'm now in my 40s, and there is so much to talk about outside my independent publishing efforts that I don't know where to start. More to come as deals develop. Ludlum and Fleming didn't publish until their 40s as well. Maybe there's something about one's life experience that makes that age the combustion point for a writing career. We'll see.

Ed Gorman is gone but his legacy remains; he touched a lot of lives, and probably never knew just how many. But we are out there, and we will carry on writing about this crazy mixed up world so future generations can, maybe, make sense of it.