I just found your email inviting my comment on Ralph Dennis.

   Deadman’s Game [reviewed here ] was to be the first in a series, and Dennis did write a second novel which was never published. It was one of several unpublished novels Ralph’s sister kindly let me read.

   To drop back a bit, I met Ralph Dennis one time when he was working at Oxford Books II in the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center in Atlanta. I recognized him from a picture the Atlanta Constitution ran some years before.

   While we chatted about writing, he noticed among the stack of used books I was holding a few of the Parker novels by Westlake. You know, he said, I created a character a lot tougher than Parker. At the time I had not read Deadman’s Game, but I expressed great interest.

   The story he briefly told was a common one in publishing. His editor who championed the character left the publisher and “orphaned” the series. The editor newly assigned to Dennis loathed the character and the violence. He rejected the novel and that was that.

   I wish now I had gone back there and befriended Ralph and shared a beer at the Stein Club or one of his favorite bars George’s on North Highland Street. I read his obit in the Atlanta Constitution in the mid-1980s. Then I wrote about him a couple of times and since I’ve heard from several old friends of his.

   Finally, I tracked down Ralph’s sister and learned much more of his story. I knew he had a BA and a master’s degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but I didn’t know he had another master’s from the Yale School of Drama and was on his way to a PhD when he had a serious falling out with adviser and dropped out.

   His sister said he was not very open to editorial comments from his agent or editors. That hurt him.

   She was very interested in getting him back into print and we had several conversations about it.

   She let me read several of his unpublished novels. Some were ambitious, mainstream novels. Others had criminal/suspense elements but were longer and more ambitious. More like a Stuart Woods.

   And there was the shorter novel labeled simply Kane. It featured a breakneck pace and the violence level was higher than most anything around in the 1970s. I thought republishing Deadman’s Game together with the second novel would make an excellent book, a fine reading experience. The second really completed the first. I could see why no publisher coming along later would be interested in this second novel as a stand-alone.

   Point Blank press agreed and even drew up a contract. But then Ralph’s sister died. Her children still wanted to move forward but her lawyer said there were technical problems having to do with the rights to unpublished manuscripts. We emailed back and forth for several years. I think he retained a Georgia lawyer to reopen Ralph’s estate. Eventually, I knew nothing was going to happen, and so far, that’s correct.

   A shame.

         Richard Moore