Monday, April 03, 2006

Pro-File: Ed Gorman

Ed here: Six people, including Terrill Lankford today, said that I should answer my own questions so here goes:

1.  Tell us about your current novel?

My latest books are all in the Sam McCain series, three of them coming out within a month of each other in England, France and Italy.  My last mystery was two years ago, Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, which I thought would be the last of the McCains.  But then I got this idea…

2.  Can you give us a sense of what you’re working on now?

…for a McCain that brings him into the Sixties.  When I first started the series, Kent Carroll my editor and I talked about taking him from his early twenties to early forties.  We’re both big fans of John Updike’s Rabbit books.  We wouldn’t do every calendar year of course.  The McCain I’m starting now jumps three years.  And the next will jump two years more after that.  Jon Breen once said that I was “the poet of the mid-life crisis.”  The thing with McCain is that he’s been in mid-life crisis since he was seven.  Much like me.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

The writing and working with the right editor on the right book, as has happened to me a number of times.  I’ve been lucky.  But I’m not a social person so promotion and especially self-promotion embarrass me and make me uncomfortable.  I have an ego of course, and of course I’d like to have more success than I’ve had to date, but I’d rather get it by a contestant on “American Idol” saying “I don’t read the Bible much any more but I sure do like them books by Fred Gorman.”  Barry Gifford was once going to give me a plug when he was on the Today show but the weather guy ran long and Barry was lucky he got to plug his own book.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

How much publishing has changed in the past quarter century.  It’s unrecognizable for most people of my tenure.  Everybody’s running scared now and, I have to say, with good reason.  So much damned competition for the same dollar, though I still have a hard time equating reading books with Nazi video games and dumb-ass blow em up real good movies.

This is hardly my original thought, but publishing is much more like the movie industry today.  Publishing was always a business of art and commerce.  Now it’s just commerce, though given that fact I still say that this is the true Golden Age of the mystery.  There are so many good writers today you can’t keep up.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Since I live about four miles from cows and horses, I’m not sure I’m in a good position to give a vast international business any advice at all.  I have a rather limited view of the world from my window.  I feel sorry for editors today, I can say that for sure.  The steely expectations for success can make for a pretty unpleasant working environment.  

Especially when the operative corporative word is disposable.  I’m reading a great new book by Louis Uchitelle about how downsizing and layoffs have now become a regular part of the American employment system.  His portrait of sleazy “Chainsaw Al Dunlap” is especially sickening.  Chainsaw made many, many millions of dollars downsizing businesses.  He also destroyed many, many thousands of lives in the process.  Uchitelle’s point is that all the laying off is at best a temporary solution and almost never achieves its intended long-term goals.  But CEO’s don’t give a damn about long term.  They just want those bonuses and perks.

Thank God there are two or three publishers who refuse to go along with it and who are honorable and loyal people, one of them being Tom Doherty at Tor/Forge who’s long been known as somebody who really cares about his people and the books he publishes.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you’d like to see in print again?

Thanks to Hard Case and Stark House, a lot of my old faves are being brought back.  Dolores Hitchens and Margaret Millar are certainly two I’d like to see in print again.  Stark House will be doing a pair of Millars later this year.  Hitchens’ two private eye novels are knock-outs, especially Sleep With Slander.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel.  Most writers never forget that moment.

I’d never been able to finish a novel until I met Max Allan Collins.  I wouldn’t have been able to finish my first novel Rough Cut without his encouragement and advice.  I mean that literally.  We sent it to his agent, who is now my agent, but who passed on it because: “The most psychotic character in the novel is the narrator.”  I then sent it to another agent who held it for several months.  Whenever I’d contact him he’d say, “You write an awful lot like Dick Francis and I really don’t like Dick Francis.”  I took it back and sent it to St. Martin’s where an assistant editor, now the enormously successful agent Brian DeFiore, picked it out of slush, liked it and embarked on a three-month battle to get it approved by committee.  He called with the good word.  Carol and I stayed high for a week.

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