You can find the links at B.V. Lawson's blog. Have a good one.
So here we are in the infamous dog days of August and Your Friendly Host is planning to do a bit of relaxing before the Fall arrives. All that I'm saying is that the next Classic Mysteries podcast will be released this Sunday, August 24 rather than Monday, August 25. The following podcast will be released on Monday, September 1, which is Labor Day. So it's pretty much a one-time thing.
Should you come back? Well, the review this Sunday will be of J.J. Connington's Tragedy at Ravensthorpe, while the one for Labor Day will be Craig Rice's 8 Faces at 3. Both are worth your attention!
In between, Your Friendly Host plans to do some cruising, enjoying some Mouse time and generally unwinding. See y'all in September. Oh, and if you're reading anything good...why not tell me about it in the comments?
In my fifth-grade classroom in 1977, an old nun was telling us kids about the radio shows she used to love. “Ooh, The Shadow was very exciting. It always started with a creaky door …” My hand shot up. “No, sister, The Shadow started with organ music and laughter. Inner Sanctum had the creaky door!” The good woman must have wondered, How did this ill-mannered 11-year-old become annoyingly familiar with old time radio dramas? That was from my father.
Paul Francis Gleeson loved stories. He loved hearing them, loved reading them, loved telling them. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago, but for one brief season in 1979-1980 he was something more. He was a pulp writer. He wrote well-crafted short stories of murder and intrigue, twisted tales ending with ironic justice, or sometimes ironic injustice. Witty and unsettling vignettes of the human condition.
I can tell you his literary influences, because he continued to enjoy them--and share them--long after they vanished from the rest of the world. He kept old radio dramas on tape, and played them often. “So, kids,” he’d say, “you want to hear Suspense tonight? Or X Minus One?” He loved publisher EC Comics’ Crime SuspenStories and The Vault of Horror, and television’s Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.
He submitted his tales to the pulp mags of the day. The sci-fi he sent to Amazing Stories. The murders went to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen--as well as to Mike Shayne, the less-popular alternative to those. Besides the fiction, he submitted humorous essays to the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times; the Tribune printed one as a guest column. But none of the pulps would buy any of his stories. Every manuscript kept coming back, rejected. Until one did not: finally, Mike Shayne accepted the story “Unhappy Hour,” and printed it in their May 1980 issue. If you have trouble finding a copy of that back-issue now, it may be because my dad bought so many of them.
In the next issue, the magazine printed a letter from one Bruce Moffitt, a janitor in Brookfield, Missouri, who began his epistle quite dismissively, admitting he only bought Mike Shayne “to keep my file complete” and generally held the magazine in low regard. But he continued, “Then I began reading ‘Unhappy Hour’ by Paul Gleeson. This tale deserves to be anthologized. I’ve been smiling at my mop for the last hour.” I never saw Dad happier than when he read that letter, aloud, five or six times.
Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine went on to publish a second Paul Gleeson story, “Don’t Touch That Dial,” in the October 1980 issue. It was starting to look like Dad was actually on the cusp of achieving his goal of being a full-time lawyer and part-time world-famous pulp writer. But that is not how this story goes.
Sean’s brother Kevin Gleeson (left) with their father in 1980.
A few of the rejection letters contained handwritten notes from helpful editors who explained their decision. “We already run too many of these domestic murders,” said one. “Having the X’s turn out to be Y’s instead of Z’s was just not enough of a twist ending for me,” said another (except I redacted three nouns from that sentence, because, you know, spoilers). But most of them were generic and impersonal photocopies: “Your story has been read by one or more members of our staff, but we regret …” “We regret …” “… we regret …”
How much regret can a man take? Each must have his own limit, and while it is easy enough to say to aspiring authors, “Don’t be discouraged! Just keep at it, champ!,” it must also be said that Paul Gleeson had ample sources of regret in his life without volunteering for more. And so, sometime in 1980, he stopped writing. These stories, these thrilling tales of crime and folly, these fables for an amoral world, were consigned--with the rejection letters--to a cardboard box under Dad’s desk. While they sat, unseen and untouched, turning more yellow and brittle each decade, he never mentioned them again, but he never discarded them either.
After Dad died in March 2012, at 70 years of age, that box of old stories turned up, and my two brothers, my sister, and I had to figure out what to do with them. We decided that we would turn those 10 short stories and five humor columns, everything Dad had ever tried to get published, into a book. We also decided that we four surviving Gleesons would make this book together, each of us taking on a role suited to his or her talents. Kevin, the oldest, would write the foreword, explaining who Dad was and how these stories came to be. Colleen would be the editor, transcribing and correcting the manuscripts. Brendan, who had attended New Jersey’s Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, would illustrate the cover. None of us had ever produced a book before, but we knew we had the skills, the smarts, and the inspiration to do this one.
My job was to publish. Having labored in advertising, I knew about design and print production, but I had never published a book before, so I had to teach myself how. I studied the specs for the CreateSpace print-on-demand platform. I acquainted myself with such terms as folio, running head, and front matter. I figured out how to get an ISBN, and the difference between a preface, an introduction, and a foreword. I also had to learn how to format a book for the Kindle, but this was a pleasant surprise: it turns out that Kindle books are made with essentially the same code as Web pages, which I already knew.
(Left) Sean Gleeson today
Not wanting to make any mistakes on Dad’s book, I did a dry run. All by myself, I edited and published a little volume titled Subjective Grounds: Writings by Persons with the Initials S.G. (Really, it’s a whole book of short works by 11 authors with my initials. Pretty good stuff, too.) That process went smoothly--it only took two weeks from start to finish, and cost nothing--and helped me navigate all the stuff you need to do after a book is launched: Amazon controls for adding descriptions, fixing prices, running promotions, and other settings. So now, I was a real honest-to-God publisher.
But I also felt that a book should have “blurbs” on its cover. You know, quotes from prominent persons saying this author is a new star in the firmament, and that you are indeed fortunate to be about to read this wondrous literary triumph, and so forth. I figure they’re easy enough to get at large publishing houses; the bosses probably shoot a text message to Stephen King, saying, “Sent new galley, fax me blurb by Monday,” and go golfing on their yachts. But I had no idea how to go about getting blurbs. So I just asked nicely, and found that David Cranmer, the editor of Beat to a Pulp, was happy to supply a great quote. Dad’s brother Tony Gleeson, who works as an illustrator in Los Angeles, helped me get a second blurb from Terrill Lee Lankford, the author of Earthquake Weather as well as dozens of other works. (He even wrote the screenplay for Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers.)
We did it! Except for some guys at the bindery, I was the first man on earth to hold Screams from My Father: Stories by Paul F. Gleeson. The book my dad sired, and his children birthed. A dream come true after death. I am not exaggerating when I say it is beautiful. And I have to be honest, the very first moment I held it, all I could think was how damned sorry I am. I’m sorry he’s gone, and I’m sorry he was not happier in this life, and I’m sorry we didn’t think of publishing this book years ago (print-on-demand has been offered since about 2006) so Dad could have held it in his hands, and seen how much people love to read it. I held back a tear, maybe two. But I got over it; regret is a killer. And frankly, I doubt my dad would have allowed this book to exist while he lived. I imagine he has a better view of things now.
There will be no author tour, for obvious reasons. And we have no promotion budget, because I am not that kind of publisher, so you will see no ads for Screams from My Father. I have been sending copies of the book to various strangers, some in the media, some not. Every day I try to find a person I think should like the book, and I mail him one.
I even tried to look up Bruce Moffitt, the letter-writing janitor. I wanted to send him the anthology he wished for in 1980 while smiling at his mop. I was too late; he died in 2014. Mr. Moffitt, wherever you are, I want you to know your letter made my father smile too.
Ed here: Before we get to the extremely important Peter Rabe trio I want to give a shout-out to the man who wrote the single best utterance I've ever read about Rabe. That would be Rick Ollerman. And that utterance leads off this trilogy.
Rick's got cred not only as one of the savviest and wisest critics you'll find anywhere; he also has the same kind of cred as a novelist. A while back Stark House published two of Rick's novels Turnabout and Shallow Secrets. If Gold Medal was still in business today these would be in their top ten bestseller list. The key word here is "today" because while the noirish elements may echo the Gold Medal masters the stories and the settings are very much contemporary. Nastily so. You want grim, you want fast-paced, you want in-your-face moments you'll find them here. But you'll also find nuanced characters and a style that serves the story yes but is capable of giving us real resonance and even a kind of ugly beauty. I not only enjoyed them I admired them.
From Stark House:
Daniel Port Omnibus 1: Dig My Grave Deep / The Out is Death / It’s My Funeral
- Peter Rabe created the archetypical gangster in Daniel Port and wrote about him in six different thrillers. These first three books introduce us to Port and his criminal world. Here is Port the mastermind, trying to get out of the racket he helped create, and Port the savior, defending an old criminal against a younger, meaner hood. Rick Ollerman provides another one of his exceptional introductions. Pub date: November 2014.
Scrolling through Facebook today I saw someone had posted a link to a Huffington Post article about the signs of being an introvert. See here: 23 Signs You Are Secretly an Introvert
I have know that I am an introvert for many years. As an incoming college freshman, we did the Myers Briggs test and I was nearly off the chart introverted. Several years later I took it again, thinking maybe I was just feeling extra shy in those early days of college. After all, I was nearly 1,000 miles from home and I didn't know anyone. Well, the second test showed once again that I am truly an introvert. Here are some of the signs from the article and how they play out in my life.
You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.
Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with them afterwards.
You actively avoid any shows that require audience participation.
You screen all your calls - even from your friends.
You have a constantly running inner dialogue.
I would add another one - you don't like to do anything that draws attention to yourself.
The first week in September, I will be attending a writer's conference. While there I will take pitches, do critiques, announce the winner of the mystery category at the banquet, and do two panels - one on editors and agents and one on publishing contracts. What does this mean to me?
Taking pitches is difficult. I sometimes get nervous. No reason for that as I do a ton of conferences. It's just part of the introvert thing. Talking to people. And I know that the person doing the pitch is also most likely incredibly nervous. All that energy is draining.
The critique session might be a little bit better. Or not. This will be a group critique so others will be talking, not just me. But it is a little unnerving. Another thing I read about introverts is that many of us have a lot of self doubt. As in, who I am to be giving these folks my opinion? Why is mine better the nexy guy's opinion? I feel terribly uncomfortable through most of this.
The announcing of the winner for the mystery conference? Not too terribly bad so long as I don't mess up anyone's name.
But here is what everyone will see - I put on my editor persona. I will talk to anyone and everyone. I am usually at the bar until it closes and up pretty early in the morning. I make friends with writers from different genres, talk business with agents and editors, meet with my authors, and check in with the conference organizers to make sure I am meeting whatever needs they have. At least once a day I will retreat to my room for a mental break - take a quick nap or watch some mindless TV. The rest of the time, I am on the clock, so to speak.
While confrences are incredibly draining, they also remind me why I love my job so much. Writers are the coolest people on the planet. A lot of them are introverts as well, which is why I think I can muddle through. The creative energy and excitement are awesome. I have also been able to arrange the timing so that I have been able to offer some people contracts in person. That is such an amazing experience.
So what is the take away of all this rambling? Be kind to each other. Events like conferences are stressful for so many reasons. And as a writer, you might run into an editor or an agent who is maxed out right at that moment. We are regular people, just like you, and conferences are hard work.
Also, don't expect me to answer the phone.