Saturday, July 31, 2004

Numbers Game

I wrote 22 pages today, giving me 290 for the month of July. Some years that would have been a really good month. This year I'm somewhat disappointed in it, since I was trying to average 400 pages a month and now it's doubtful that I'll do so. I know good and well that I'm too obsessive about this stuff, but that's who I am. It keeps me going.

I read three pulp Western stories today, by Lemuel De Bra, Harry F. Olmsted, and Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner). All three were pretty good. This evening I've started DERAILED by James Siegel, which I picked up because both Ed Gorman and Bill Crider recently talked about it on their blogs. I'm about 50 pages into it, and I'm wondering, "Is this book gonna get any better?" Not a good sign.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Ed Race; Bradley Denton

I'm finishing up the chapbook ED RACE: MURDER IN THE SPOTLIGHT by Emile C. Tepperman, a prolific pulpster who has achieved an added level of fame among pulp fans because so little is known about him. For THE SPIDER, in addition to writing some of the lead novels as Grant Stockbridge, he also wrote a back-up series of short stories about a vaudeville performer named Ed Race who juggles loaded revolvers and makes trick shots with them. Billed as the Masked Marksman, Ed is also a licensed private detective and naturally stumbles into crimes on a regular basis. I had read some of these before and liked them, so I bid on and won this chapbook on eBay recently. It reprints four stories from THE SPIDER. I'm not sure I like them as much as I thought I would. The plots are pretty weak, even by pulp standards. Tepperman wrote good action scenes, though. Overall I'd say this collection is okay, but probably only for devoted pulp fans.

I also read a very good novella in the September F&SF called "Sergeant Chip" by Bradley Denton. I think I've met Denton at an SF convention or two, but I don't actually know him. This story is narrated by a dog, which made me predisposed to like it since I'm a great fan of dogs. It's a near-future war story with a pace that never lets up and some poignant moments, as well as good action. I haven't read F&SF regularly since Gordon Van Gelder took it over, but both issues I've gotten since I recently subscribed have been excellent.

Not much gas in the tank today as far as writing is concerned. Seven big pages.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Real Life; Giant Lizards

Too much real life today; writing had to take a back seat to other stuff that had to get done.  I managed a little research for another new project, that's all.

I'm still reading the September issue of F&SF, which I think I mistakenly referred to as the August issue a few days ago.

A few weeks ago at Half Price Books I bought a boxed set of 50 "Horror Classics" on DVD.  Most of these are hardly classics, but that's all right.  Tonight we watched "The Giant Gila Monster", just your basic hot rods/rock & roll/giant lizard movie.  I don't recall ever seeing it before.  Cheaply made, with mostly bad acting and a goofy script, but pretty darned enjoyable anyway.  You probably had to be there in the Fifties to really appreciate it, though.  I was a little kid then, but I still remember the era fairly well.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Writing Biz; Rain

I found out that the non-fiction project Livia and I have been working on for a couple of weeks is likely a non-starter.  It's not completely dead, but it's now been pushed 'way on the back burner.  That's all right, I'm pretty busy at the moment anyway, and no research is ever wasted.  Meanwhile I wrote 23 pages on the Western, so I'm happy about that.

After all the storms and power outages in June, I was ready for some peaceful weather, even though I knew it was likely to get hot and dry.  So it did in July, hitting 100 degrees a few days and upper 90s a lot, with less than a tenth of an inch of rain for the month.  Until this afternoon, when a nice little storm front rolled through and brought us a couple of hours of good rain.  Oddly enough, I was writing a thunderstorm scene in the book while the thunder and lightning was going on outside.  That hardly ever happens.  For some reason it usually works out so that I write blizzard scenes in the middle of summer and scorcher scenes when it's freezing outside.

I'm still reading various short stories.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Short Stories

I seem to be in short-story-reading-mode at the moment.  These spells come over me every couple of weeks and last a few days.  As I often do, I'm alternating between sources for the stories.  In this case, it's a couple of pulp reprint chapbooks, SLAVES OF THE SILVER SERPENT by Lemuel De Bra and ED RACE: MURDER IN THE SPOTLIGHT by the mysterious Emile C. Tepperman, and the August issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  The De Bra story I read today wasn't as good as the one I read a couple of days ago, but it was still okay.

I also wrote 16 pages today, a decent day's work.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Willeford; Whitehouse; Longarm

Today was spent running errands and shopping, so no work.  At Half Price Books I picked up several Charles Willeford novels in the No Exit Press editions.  I'm not a big Willeford fan, but I figured these were probably worth having.  Also got THE YEAR OF THE SKY KINGS, a non-fiction book about air combat in World War I by the old pulpster Arch Whitehouse.  They had a couple of shelves of vintage NF paperbacks about WWI and WWII.  I'll probably buy a few more of them here and there, if nobody else gets them first.  A while back I wrote a World War I aviation story for an as-yet-unpublished anthology and enjoyed it so much I'd like to do more.  Not a big market for such things these days, though.

Got back home to find that the latest mailing from PEAPS, the pulp apa I'm in, had arrived, along with my author copies of the new Longarm, LONGARM AND THE TALL TIMBER.  When I wrote this, it was LONGARM IN THE TALL TIMBER, but that's nothing to quibble about.

Still reading THE AVENGING GUN, but I should finish it tonight.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Weather Report

It was cool and cloudy here today, with a nice north wind that swept all the pollution out.  All in all, about as nice a day as you'll find in North Texas at this time of year.  I even turned off the air-conditioner and opened the windows in my studio.  I don't know if that had anything to do with the fact that I got 21 pages written, but I'll take 'em however I can get 'em.

During a spare few minutes this afternoon I read Lemuel De Bra's short story "Slaves of the Silver Serpent" in the collection of the same name published last year by Black Dog Books.  This story originally appeared in a 1922 issue of BLUE BOOK, one of the all-time great pulps.  And "Slaves of the Silver Serpent" is one of the best pulp stories I've read in years, with an ending I didn't see coming at all.  This is the first thing I've read by De Bra, but I'll be reading more.  I'm also still reading J.L. Bouma's Western novel, THE AVENGING GUN.

I haven't talked much about movies on here, because we haven't seen many lately.  Tonight we watched the DVD of STARSKY AND HUTCH.  I have fond memories of the TV series, but as Livia points out, that's probably because we were dating at the time and watched it a lot at her parents' house.  As I counterpointed, I bought -- and read -- the novelizations by Max Franklin (really Richard Deming), so I must have liked the show at least a little on its own merits.  At first I thought the movie was going to be absolutely awful, but it improved as it went along to the point that I considered it merely bad, with a good moment here and there.  I usually like Owen Wilson, am less fond of Ben Stiller (though he's great in MYSTERY MEN, a mostly unseen and underappreciated film), and I enjoyed seeing the original Starsky and Hutch, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, in a cameo.  The movie looked good and the music was okay if you like Seventies music.  For the most part, though, the script just wasn't funny.  I don't have a problem with them doing a parody instead of a straight remake, but if that's what you're going to do, it had better be funny.  Oh, well, at least the John Travolta version of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL never got made, so there's something to be thankful for.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Back to Work, Sort of

I finished going over that big manuscript this morning, then spent the afternoon getting back up to speed on the Western I was writing.  I was only able to add a couple of pages to it, though.  I'm hoping the pages will begin to roll again tomorrow.

A couple of reviews of the recent reprint of my first novel, TEXAS WIND, have appeared online at the following sites: Epinions and Bleeker Books .  As always, I appreciate the kind words.

I'm reading THE AVENGING GUN by J.L. Bouma.  I've seen Westerns by Bouma around for decades, but this is the first one I've read.  So far it's pretty good.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Cave of a Thousand Tales

CAVE OF A THOUSAND TALES, Milt Thomas, Arkham House, 2004

This new biography of the legendary pulp author Hugh B. Cave was based on many personal interviews Milt Thomas conducted with Cave over several years.  Not surprisingly, it's a very intimate portrait of Cave as both a writer and a human being.  I knew very little about his childhood or personal life; all I knew was that he produced a multitude of stories that were both very well-written and very enjoyable.  Discovering that Cave was so prolific in part because he was trying to escape from some unpleasant personal circumstances gives the stories an added poignancy.

The first half of the book covers Cave's childhood, adolescence, his first attempts at writing, and his blossoming pulp career.  Thomas's account moves on to Cave's foray into the slick magazine market, his experiences as a war correspondent during World War II (I wish I'd known that Cave was around Guadalcanal; I would have had him make a cameo appearance in one of my World War II novels), his trips to Haiti, where he learned so much about voodoo that would form the basis for many of his later works, his years as the owner of a coffee plantation in Jamaica, his mainstream novels and his later horror novels, and the rebirth of interest in his pulp work that began with Karl Edward Wagner's publication of the collection MURGUNSTRUMM in 1977.  In reading this book I discovered that Cave was at the fourth World Fantasy Convention in Fort Worth in 1978, a convention that I didn't know about until it was over.  Within a few years, though, I met quite a few people who were at that very convention, including Bill Crider and Joe Lansdale.  Paralleling the story of Cave's professional life are the varied tragedies of his personal life.  You can't help but feel a little sympathy for Cave, who was a modest, genuinely decent man.

As for CAVE OF A THOUSAND TALES, it's a well-written, well-researched, beautifully-produced book.  I was a little unsure about Thomas's habit of fictionalizing certain incidents in the lives of Cave's parents and in Cave's early life, but the technique worked just fine.  I might have a quibble or two with certain of his comments about pulp history, but those are very minor points.  All in all, this is a highly readable account of the life and career of one of my favorite writers, and it's one of the best books I've read this year.

On another note, I'm glad to see that Ed's Place  is up and running again.  This blog by Ed Gorman is one of the sites I visit every day, and it's what got me interested in blogging in the first place.

I worked on editing and revising that big manuscript again today.  I ought to be able to finish going over it tomorrow and then I can get back to producing new pages.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The More Things Change . . .

While reading CAVE OF A THOUSAND TALES today, I came across a quote from a letter Hugh Cave wrote to fellow pulpster Carl Jacobi in late 1932.  Cave complains about having written 32 stories in that year, but at that point he'd been paid for only 19 of them.  He was running out of money, yet publishers owed him over $1500, which of course was a pretty good amount of money in 1932.  I wouldn't turn my nose up at it now.  That got me to thinking about my output.  So far this year I've turned in five novels.  I've been paid for one of them.  Of course, I've gotten some payments for books that I wrote last year, but still, getting paid always lags farther behind than the writer feels like it should.  That's why unless you're a big-name, high-dollar-advance writer, you've always got to have a lot of projects in the pipeline, so that some money will be coming in for something on a semi-regular basis.  It's a nerve-wracking way to make a living . . . but of course, nobody's got a gun to my head forcing me to do it, either.

This was a real-life day, no writing or revisions, etc.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

More Revisions

I spent the day working on that manuscript again.  It'll probably take another day or two to finish going through it.  As always Livia made some good suggestions and caught me in some mistakes (such as having somebody drive off in a vehicle that was out of gas only a couple of pages earlier).

I'm reading CAVE OF A THOUSAND TALES, the new biography of the late pulp writer Hugh B. Cave.  The author is Milt Thomas, and the publisher is Arkham House.  It's a beautiful book and very well-written and entertaining so far.  I haven't read everything Cave wrote, of course (he wrote over a thousand pulp and slick magazine stories and several dozen novels), but I've read a bunch of them and have never come across a bad one.  Cave was as dependably entertaining an author as I've ever read.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A Necessary Evil

Livia has been editing the big manuscript I finished a while back, and now that she's done, I've put writing my current book on hold so that I can go back over that one, incorporate her suggestions, and generally polish it up so that I can send it in.  This is going to take several days, which will put a hole in my new page production.  I'm not crazy about it, but it's got to be done.  I'm probably too compulsive about getting pages done, but since I've been this way for more than twenty years I don't expect that I'll change any time soon.

I've added my friend Frank Denton's blog to my favorites ( ).  Frank has the dubious distinction of being the first person to comment on my blog.  He also reads an interesting variety of books and is the first person I've run into in a while who talks about Lorna Doone without meaning the cookie.  (They do still make Lorna Doone cookies, don't they?)

I'm still reading THE LAST KILL by Charlie Wells.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Assorted DVDs

While shopping in various places today, I picked up several DVDs that look interesting.  At Wal-Mart, at their famous bargain DVD bin, I got a collection of four spaghetti Westerns starring Lee Van Cleef.  Unlike a lot of Western traditionalists, I enjoy most of the spaghetti Westerns I've seen.  In fact, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is one of my favorite films, period.  And Van Cleef is always interesting.  Moving on to Half Price Books, I got a three-disc set of the Powers Boothe cable TV version of PHILIP MARLOWE, PRIVATE EYE.  I've heard both good and bad about these, but since I've never seen them I figured I ought to watch them.  Then at Sam's Club, what do I see but a two-disc set of ten Hopalong Cassidy movies, for less than ten bucks.  Couldn't pass that up, now could I?  I may have some of these on videocassette already, but I know I don't have all of them.  I really like Hoppy.  Now all I have to do is find the time to watch all of these (or even some of them).
Also at Half Price, I got a 1909 A.L. Burt reprint edition of Stanley J. Weyman's historical novel UNDER THE RED ROBE.  I've never read anything by Weyman, but he has a good reputation among fans of swashbucklers, so I thought I'd give it a try.  This novel is available free on-line, but I'd rather read an actual book if it doesn't cost too much.
As you may be able to guess, I didn't do a lick of work today.


Tonight I was able to finish NIGHT OF THE ASSASSINS, which is an excellent book,  a fascinating look inside the murky world of international espionage where personal grudges can take on much larger political overtones.  This reminded me a lot of the novels of John LeCarre and Len Deighton, but with a modern, post-Cold War point of view.  Next up is THE LAST KILL by Charlie Wells, a hardboiled private eye novel (Signet PBO) from 1955.  I've never read Wells before, but the book has a Spillane blurb on the cover, for what that's worth.
Earlier in the day I was able to write 16 pages before I got to feelin' poorly.

Saturday, July 17, 2004


Today was another pretty good work day, 23 pages, giving me a little over a hundred for the week.  This is a pace I need to maintain.
Reading NIGHT OF THE ASSASSINS.  This is a very good book so far, a nice blend of plot and characters.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Writing Life

I sat in my studio today and wrote 17 pages.  Sometimes that's just about all you can say about the writing life.
I'm between books at the moment but later tonight will be starting an espionage novel called NIGHT OF THE ASSASSINS, by Peter Ruber.  I read a couple of his books earlier this summer and enjoyed them very much. 

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Christmas in July

A potential non-fiction project came up unexpectedly, so I went out and did some research for the proposal today.  I was able to read some tonight, and here's what I posted about it on the WesternPulps group a short time ago:
I know it's almost as far away from Christmas as you can get, but tonight I read CHRISTMAS AT THE RANCH, a collection of three autobiographical essays by Elmer Kelton that was published last year by McMurry University in Abilene, Texas.  When I was a kid the local TV stations showed Christmas movies at any time of the year, so it wasn't at all unusual for me to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Miracle on 34th Street" in the middle of summer.  So it's no surprise to me that I enjoyed these essays very much, too.  Kelton writes about childhood Christmases spent on the ranch where he grew up and where his father was the foreman, as well as other holiday seasons spent at his grandparents' ranch.  The middle section of the book concerns the Christmases of 1944 and 1945, the one just before he shipped out for Germany as a member of the U.S. Army and the one he spent in Austria with the family of the girl he wound up marrying.  In the final essay he describes a holiday trip he and Ann took back to Austria in the Eighties.  As always with Kelton, the writing is clean and unadorned with any pretentiousness, with a poignancy and beauty of its own.  Those of us lucky enough to know and to have spent time with Elmer can hear his voice in the words.  It might have seemed even better had I read it at the proper time of year, but it's still a fine book regardless of the season.  Highly recommended.
On a weather-related note, I don't know what the official temperatures have been, but where I live it's been 100 degrees yesterday and today.  Summer is definitely here.
Today I stopped by a used bookstore that opened recently (I guess that would make it a "new" used bookstore). Bought only one book, Michael Connelly's stand-alone CHASING THE DIME, and that was more of a sympathy buy than anything else. Used bookstores have a terrible time making any money these days (except for the big names like Half Price Books). It was difficult enough twenty years ago when I was in that business, and it's worse now. But people still persist in opening them, and I still go into every one that I see and usually find something to buy.

13 pages written today. I'm just superstitious enough so that I wish I could have written one more.

I'm still reading that Candid Camera Kid story. Not much time for reading today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A productive but unexciting day. Took the van in for inspection. (It passed.) Came home and wrote 20 pages.

Currently reading "Murder in Pictures", a Candid Camera Kid story by John L. Benton (Norman Daniels) from the June 1939 issue of DETECTIVE NOVELS. It's reprinted in BEHIND THE MASK #53, published by Fading Shadows Inc. This is the first Candid Camera Kid story, in fact. I've read later ones reprinted in other issues of BEHIND THE MASK and liked them quite a bit. The hero is two-fisted news photographer Jerry Wade, who's tough despite being only 5'6". The plots of these stories often are far-fetched even for the pulps, but the pace is really fast and Jerry and his reporter girlfriend Christine Stuart are likable characters. It seems to me that they would have been perfect for B-movies, but I don't think any were ever made based on this series.

Monday, July 12, 2004

So I'm in Wal-Mart today, browsing the book section, and I see a hardback copy of Michael Connelly's new novel THE NARROWS. Having just read and enjoyed THE BLACK ECHO, I thought I'd take a look at this one. I open the book . . . and the first line of dust jacket copy -- the very first line! -- gives away the identity of the killer in a previous Connelly novel. Well, there's a book I won't ever need to read, I guess. What's really frustrating is that the line of jacket copy could have been edited so that it would be equally effective and still not give anything away. I guess in these days of movie previews that detail the entire plot of the film, such things just don't matter anymore.

After running errands all morning and part of the afternoon, I came home and wrote 12 pages, plus finished up my zine for the next PEAPS mailing.

Currently reading the novelette "No Man's Guns" by T.T. Flynn in the November 1953 issue of BIG-BOOK WESTERN. Flynn is one of my favorite Western authors. This is actually a reprint of a story originally published in 1935 as "King of the Rio Gunmen", but I don't know where it appeared under that title.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Now that I've finally finished all the proposals, outlines, research, etc., that I needed to do, I was finally able to get back to actually turning out some pages of fiction today. 22 of them, in fact. I was pleased.

Finished THE BLACK ECHO and enjoyed it a great deal despite the fact that I had the mystery figured out pretty much all along. Connelly writes well enough that the solution to the crime isn't the be-all and end-all of the book. Like most "bestseller" type mysteries these days, it also suffers a little from being too long. That's one reason I like Robert B. Parker's work despite his sometimes-annoying regular riffs. The books are *short*. If the typical Spenser novel is more than 60,000 words, I'd be surprised. Of course, I probably shouldn't be complaining about such things, having not long ago finished the first draft of a book that runs over 135,000 words.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Livia and I went to the annual Parker County Peach Festival in Weatherford, Texas, today. Loud, crowded, and since I'm allergic to peaches I couldn't eat any of the good food that was available. (Homemade peach ice cream. Lordy, Lordy.) Despite that had a good time.

Still reading THE BLACK ECHO. This is a later paperback printing, from a different publisher than the original, and I swear it's full of OCR errors. What did they do, just scan one of the earlier paperbacks? Seems odd to me.

Friday, July 09, 2004

A little research, a little writing, trips to Wal-Mart, Lowe's, and another stop at Half Price Books. Today's loot from HPB:

THE WAYFARER REDEMPTION, a fantasy novel that's the first part of a trilogy by Sara Douglass. Last year I read her novel BEYOND THE HANGING WALL, which is a stand-alone but related somehow to the trilogy, if I remember right. Thought it was pretty good. I don't read much new heroic fantasy other than David Gemmell's work, but Douglass strikes me as okay.

NEW STORIES FOR MEN, a vintage paperback anthology published by PermaBooks, with stories by Budd Schulberg, John Steinbeck, T.S. Stribling, John O'Hara, Irwin Shaw, and others. The Shaw story is "The Eighty Yard Run", a great piece of writing, but for my money Shaw's best story, and one of my all-time favorites by any writer, is "Main Currents of American Thought". You won't find a better look into the mind of a freelance writer (and it's a scary place in there).

HARD PURSUIT, an Executioner novel by an acquaintance of mine. I haven't read a Mack Bolan book in a while, but I enjoy them now and then.

TEXAS EXTRA: A NEWSPAPER HISTORY OF THE LONE STAR STATE 1835-1935. Just what it sounds like, reproductions of newspaper front pages from days when something historically important happened. Books like this are nearly always helpful for research.

When we got home, more interesting things had arrived in the mail:

From Bob Randisi, copies of the new book THE FUNERAL OF TANNER MOODY. This is a Western shared world anthology/braided novel or whatever you want to call it. Novelettes tracing the life of a bigger-than-life Western character named Tanner Moody, written by John Jakes, Elmer Kelton, Kerry Newcomb, Jory Sherman, Peter Brandvold, Marthayn Pelegrimas, Robert J. Randisi, L.J. Washburn (Livia) and me.

The new issue of MYSTERY*FILE from Steve Lewis, a great mystery fanzine.

The new mailing from OWLHOOT, the Western apa I'm a member of, with a lot of great material, as always. As with MYSTERY*FILE, I've already skimmed through it and will give both of them a thorough reading later.

I'm still reading Connelly's THE BLACK ECHO. It's a long book, and I read a lot slower than I did when I was a kid. Back then it was a book a day most of the time, plus the every-Tuesday big stack of comic books bought at the drugstore across the highway from where I grew up. No, I'm not going to wallow in nostalgia . . . but I could.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I've read enough of THE BLACK ECHO now that I'm sure I'll finish it. Seems pretty good to me. I don't know why I picked it up twice before and failed to get interested in it. It's not enough for a book to be good, I guess; the reader has to be in the right mood for it, too.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Quite a weight off my shoulders today. I've been struggling with the concept for the historical novel proposal I need to do, hoping that something would come out of the research so that it would all make sense to me. Then this afternoon Livia said two words to me (and I'm not going to reveal what those words were), and enough of the pieces suddenly snapped into place that I could "see" the book in my head. Until I get to that point, I can't get much done. Now, I feel confident that I can write not only the proposal but the book, too, when the time comes.

Other than that, I took the van in to have it worked on, went to the dentist, and then picked up the van. I'm not a person who hates going to the dentist. It doesn't bother me much. Today's visit was okay, even rather pleasant.

Finished reading THE GOLD MOVERS. Len Meares was a very entertaining writer. I'm now reading THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly. I've started this book a couple of times before but never got very far into it. Quite a few people I know like this series a lot, though, so I thought I'd give it another try. Several years ago I read Connelley's BLOOD WORK and liked it, but that's the only thing by him I've ever read.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

I was up early this morning to take my father-in-law into Fort Worth for some out-patient surgery. I'm not a morning person at all. The rest of the day it felt like the time ought to be three or four hours later than it really was.

The advantage to starting so early was that I was back home early, so then I was able to turn around and go back out, as Livia and I hit four libraries and gathered a large stack of research books for the proposal we're currently working up. We also stopped by Half Price Books, where I found a couple of pretty good deals: a hardback first (no dust jacket) of SLEEP NO MORE, edited by August Derleth, and an ex-lib hardback first, with dust jacket, of Derleth's historical novel THE SHADOW IN THE GLASS. Good prices on both. The store also had a jigsaw puzzle of Frederic Remington's famous painting "A Dash for the Timber", which originally came from the gift shop of the Amon Carter Museum. I had to pick that up, too. And to top it off they had the 50 movie boxed set of "Horror Classics" on DVD, ads for which showed up in my email a few months ago. Most of these are hardly classics, and I'm not a huge fan of cheap horror movies, but sometimes they just can't be beat.

No real work to speak of other than the library visits.

Currently reading THE GOLD MOVERS, a Larry and Stretch Western by Marshall Grover, really the late Leonard F. Meares, a very prolific Australian author of American Westerns. Some of his books were published in the U.S. by Bantam under the pseudonym Marshall McCoy. He wrote over 800 books in his life, and over 700 of them were Westerns (over 400 in the Larry and Stretch series alone). The books are pretty formulaic, but usually very well-plotted and have excellent characterization, especially considering their length, about 35,000 to 40,000 words. I corresponded with Meares for several years before his death in the early Nineties, and he was always optimistic and a true professional. His enthusiasm for his work never diminished, which is unusual in a writing career that lasted forty years. Though he wrote under several different pseudonyms, the most well known one was Marshall Grover, and when our kids were little and watching Sesame Street, I always wondered every time the muppet character pinned on a badge and called himself Marshal Grover, if one of the show's writers was really a Len Meares fan.

I also read the first two issues of THE CIMMERIAN, a new journal devoted to the work of Robert E. Howard, and found them very interesting and entertaining.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Today was a bit more productive. Last night I figured out the plotting problems that had me hung up on my Western outline. Of course, the answers came to me during the middle of the night out of a sound sleep, so I wasn't sure if they would make sense when I wrote it all up today. Luckily, enough of it did so that I was able to get the outline done and can start the book later this week. Didn't do any research. To be honest, I don't like research or outlining. I like sitting down at the computer and actually writing the books. Everything else about the business is a necessary evil. Luckily Livia likes doing research and is a good plotter, so we complement each other well.

The rest of the day was spend buying groceries and some paving stones to put on Sugarfoot's grave, and working on my van. I was trying to replace a broken parking light assembly so the van will pass inspection, but I wasn't able to figure out how to get it loose, so I'll have to take it to the guy who does the mechanic work I can't handle myself (which is most of it).

Currently reading "Lawmen Die Sudden!", a novelette by Will Cook in the November 1953 issue of BIG-BOOK WESTERN. It's pretty slow so far and I'm not real fond of it.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

I forgot to explain yesterday why this blog has the name that it does. "Rough Edges" refers primarily to the untrimmed edges of pulp magazine pages (see, I told you I was a pulp fan). It was also the name of my first apazine when I was a member of the Robert E. Howard United Press Association (hereinafter known as REHupa). I'm currently a member of PEAPS, a pulp-oriented apa (amateur press association), and my zine there is called "Rough Edges Revisited".

I hope everyone had a good Fourth of July. In the Reasoner household it was quieter and more peaceful than yesterday, but also very unproductive. I read a little research material and tried to write a Western outline but couldn't come up with anything I liked. Workaholic that I am, a day like this drives me mad. I need pages!

Still reading that Max Brand novel, but I should finish it tonight.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Following the example of my friends Bill Crider and Ed Gorman, I've decided to start a blog. I may not post every day, and what gets posted here may be pretty haphazard sometimes, but I intend to talk mostly about what I'm reading and sometimes writing, as well as the events in my life I don't deem too boring. (Whether the readers find it too boring is, of course, up to them.) Don't expect anything about politics or religion.

To start things out with some griping, our phone service was out for five days this week, following a month of power outage after power outage due to a series of bad storms. If I had to choose between the electricity and the phone being out, I'd choose the phone, but I still don't like being without it. I like email and the Internet too much. The phone was fixed today (otherwise I wouldn't be posting this), but then this afternoon one of our circuit breakers went bad, killing the air conditioner in our living room. My wife Livia (aka L.J. Washburn) can fix 'most anything, and she was able to replace the breaker. Then this evening we discovered that Sugarfoot, one of our Nigerian dwarf goats, had Crossed the Great Divide. Now Sugarfoot, like all of our dwarf goats, was a cull, not a show goat, which means that unlike the cute little things you think of when you hear "dwarf goat", this old fella was damn near the size of a Great Dane. So we spent the evening digging a large grave in black clay, not the easiest task in the world, meanwhile fighting skeeters and trying not to think about all the chiggers that were bound to be crawling on us. We managed to lay him to rest properly, though.

The last thing I read was the August 2004 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I recently subscribed to F&SF after not reading it regularly for several years, and this was the first issue on my sub. It was a good one to start with. The best story is novella "The Tribes of Bela" by Albert E. Cowdrey. I'd never heard of Cowdrey before, but based on this story he's a darned good storyteller. "Bela" manages to be both a well-plotted, fairly-clued mystery story and a survival-on-a-hostile-planet adventure yarn. The other stories in the issue were okay, but sometimes unnecessarily obscure, in my opinion. I'm currently reading ON THE TRAIL OF FOUR by Max Brand (Frederick Faust), which originally appeared in the pulp WESTERN STORY in 1925. That's a typical swing in genres and time periods for me, because I read a little bit of everything. However, I'm really fond of pulps and moderate a Yahoo group called WesternPulps. Check it out if you have any interest in the subject.

For those of you who don't know, I'm a professional writer and have been since 1976. Yesterday I finished my 165th novel, so I'm sort of between projects at the moment. I have to do some research and come up with a proposal for a historical novel, and then the next thing on the schedule is a house-name Western novel. I have work lined up through the spring of '05, which in the world of freelance fiction writing is considered pretty good job security. Of course, it could all come to a crashing halt after that.

That's enough to start this off. Feel free to comment if the mood strikes you.