Openers: There had been a gunfight earlier in the evening, but the, in a place like this one, there usually were gunfights earlier. And later, for that matter.
The name of the place was Madame Dupree;s and it was one of the big casino-drinking establishments that were filling the most disreputable part of San Francisco in this year of 1903. The Barbary Coast was the name for the entire district and, yes, it was every bit as dangerous as you've heard. Cops, even the young strong ones, would only come down here in fours and sixes, and even then a lot of them got killed.
-- Ed Gorman, "The Old Ways" (from Tales of the Great Turtle, edited by Piers Anthony & Richard Gilliam, 1984; and Pirate Writings #10, 1996)
I never met Ed Gorman, nor did I correspond with him or spoke to him, yet he was an important part of my life for several decades. Ed was a writer's writer. A good writer, not necessarily a great writer (although he had the talent to be one and some of his work could only be described as great). He was a writer who respected the craft, a writer who read and enjoyed and absorbed the works of others, a writer who became a friend to many others in the field, a writer lent his talents to others when needs be.
I don't know that much about his early life but, from what I have been able to glean from his writing, it was not an easy one. He grew up wearing hand-me-downs from his cousin, the child actor Bobby Driscoll. (Driscoll, like many other child actors, his life went downhill as he got older; he started using drugs at age 17, moved to New York in hopes of rekindling his career, became part of Andy Warhol's art colony for several years, left there penniless, and his unidentified body was discovered in a deserted East Village tenement in March of 1968, dead of drug-related causes [he was identified over a year later]; his life and death had a profound impact on Ed.) Ed spent twenty years in the advertising business and ran his own agency for a while. Those years were marked by alcohol, drugs, and unhappiness as Ed became a person he did not like.
His way out was writing and Ed wrote and published a number negligible stories.He published in many fields and considered himself a genre writer. In 1982, he married his Carol Maxwell, a teacher and children's and young adult writer. He credited fellow Iowa writer Max Allan Collins with showing him how to write a novel and his first novel, Rough Cut, was published in 1984. Soon after he left his day job and became a full-time writer. Although he has published in almost any genre, he is best known for his crime, suspense, and western novels. Among his series characters are Jack Ryan (ex-cop, part-time ator, and security guard), Tobin (movie critic), Jack Walsh (sentimental private eye), Robert Payne (psychological profiler), Sam McCain (small town attorney), Dev Conrad (political consultant). Noah Ford (western military investigator following the civil war), Dev Mallory (post Civil War Secret Service agent), Guild (old west bounty hunter), Anna Tolin (early female police officer), and the futuristic cops of Star Precinct.
Bill Pronzini called Gorman "one of the best American writers to enter the crime field in the 1980s, bring fresh ideas, characters and approaches." Pronzini adds, "His mysteries are an amalgam of pure entertainment, social commentary, symbolic statement, and in-depth studies of what he terms 'outsiders trying to make peace with the world.' " He was also been called "The poet of dark suspense." His best writing is marked by a distinct empathy for his characters, flawed as they may be. Much of his work was rapidly produced for whatever market he was aiming at -- his three-volume SF series Star Precinct (published as by "Daniel Ransom" and co-author Kevin Randle, a pair of very readable although unsuccessful women suspense novels in the Mary Higgins Clark style, "nonfiction" work for hire for so-called ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, and so on. His horror novels under the name Daniel Ransom are effective but rushed; the author said he never knew how to end a horror novel. There are probably a number of books out there that he wrote we may never know about.
But the stuff we know about...wow! Especially his mysteries and westerns. He had a special affinity for small town America (particularly his home state of Iowa) and its people and history. My favorites among his books has to be the Sam McClain series (about a struggling lawyer in the Fifties) and his Guild series of westerns; others may rightfully claim others as their favorites. When he was good, Ed Gorman was very, very good. Perhaps his impressive story was the Spur award winning story, "The Face" -- a must read.
Aside from writing, Ed Gorman was an impressive editor with over 80 anthologies to his name, often edited with his good friend Martin H. Greenberg. Ed was a co-founder and long-time editor of Mystery Scene, and was the force behind that magazine's Best of the Year anthologies, later continued under his own name. With Greenberg, Ed was responsible, for a number of single-author collections from Five-Star Press, often bringing light to the careers of capable writers of the past. He was no slouch at nonfiction, either, editing books about mystery writers, a Dean Koontz tribute anthology, and (with his friend Kevin McCarthy) an examination of the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (Ed's name was also included on the copyright notice of McCarthy's two novels; often copyright notices were the only indication that Ed had a hand in a book.)
Ed was a champion of many forgotten writers, bringing notice of past works in paperback that had disappeared over time. He seldom traveled, preferring to remain in Cedar Rapids and indulging in long phone calls to his many friends he never met in person.
Ed Gorman was diagnosed with incurable multiple myeloma in 2002. He production slowed down a bit after that, but he kept writing stories and novels that kept his readers enthralled. He died in 2016 and is greatly missed.
- Tom Piccirilli, Deceased. Horror novel. "Something is calling Jacob Maelstrom back to the isolated home of his childhood -- to the scene of a living nightmare that almost cost him his life. Ten years ago his sister slaughtered their brother and parents, locked Jacob in a closet...then committed a hideous suicide. Now, as the anniversary of that dark night approaches, Jacob is drawn back to a house where the lines between the living and the dead is constantly shifting, But there's more than awful memories waiting for Jacob at the Maelstrom mansion. There are depraved secrets, evil legacies, and family ghosts that are all too real. There's the long-dead writer, whose mad fantasies continue to shape reality. And in the woods there are nameless creatures who patiently wait the return of their creator." Piccirilli was a blazing, brilliant writer in many genres, gone far too soon.
- [unknown author], April Kane and the Dragon Lady: A "Terry and the Pirates" Adventure. A juvenile novel published in 1943, illustrated with drawings adapted from the comic strip in 1939. James Reasoner reviewed this book on his blog back in 2007 and states that it was based on a sequence from the original comic strip. His review is here and can do better justice to the book than I can: https://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com/2007/05/april-kane-and-dragon-lady.html
- A giant fusion reactor hotter than the sun may produce unlimited energy without waste https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/nuclear-fusion-reactor-hotter-than-the-sun-to-provide-unlimited-clean-energy-to-the-world/
- Virginia ambulance worker April O'Quinn was one of five people chosen in American Girl Doll's "Heroes with a Heart" contest and now there's an American Girl doll in her image https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/frontline-hero-and-emt-turned-into-american-girl-doll/
- A masked Batman -- dubbed the "The Superhero to the Homeless" -- delivers food to needy in Santiago https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/batman-feeds-homeless-across-santiago/
- A vicar overcomes his vertigo by climbing the 165-foot spire on his church https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/vicar-overcomes-vertigo-to-climb-165ft-church-spire/
- St. Louis first-grader creates foundation to feed homeless https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/st-louis-first-grader-creates-foundation-for-homeless/
- A lost pup has become the official mascot of joy for thousands in a Rohingya refugee camp https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/foxtrot-the-dog-un-mascot-at-the-coxs-bazar-refugee-camp/
- Teen makes daily trips during lockdown to clean road sign and trim hedges https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/selfless-teen-is-local-hero-after-tidying-dirty-road-signs-and-hedges/
- Police officer pull man in wheelchair stuck on railrods tracks just seconds before a train comes https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/police-pulls-man-in-wheelchair-stuck-on-lodi-railroad-tracks/
- And for your moment of joy today, here's a mother gorilla with her newborn baby https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/see-worlds-youngest-gorilla-being-hugged-by-mom/