Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ed

Those of us who are friends with Ed Gorman knew this day was coming, but that doesn't make the news of his passing any easier to take. I've had many wonderful friends in the writing business over the years, but only a handful I can say are truly like family to me, and Ed was one of those.

Ed was a wonderful writer, of course. Anybody who's read his work knows that. But he was an even better man and friend. It's not too much of a stretch to say that if not for Ed Gorman, there's a good chance I wouldn't even be a writer anymore. Time and again over the years, when I was having trouble selling and was ready to throw my hands in the air and quit, I'd get a phone call from Ed and he'd say, "James, I know this guy who needs somebody to write a series, and I just told him to call you," or "James, I know this guy who needs somebody to ghost a book real quick, and I just told him you're the man for the job."

On two occasions, it was Ed himself who needed a book written in a hurry. He'd sold some Westerns to Zebra but didn't have time to write them. He sent me an outline for a book called THE MAN FROM NIGHTSHADE VALLEY and told me to make it as much like a Max Brand novel as I could. That was no problem, since I'd been a Max Brand fan since I was ten years old, but I quickly read several Brand novels anyway to get in the mood and launched into the writing. The book turned out to be one of my favorites. Zebra published it under the name Jake Foster, with a pretty good cover and the title changed to HELL-FOR-LEATHER RIDER. Since the book's protagonist was a Pony Express rider, that sort of fit, although not as well as Ed's original title.

The other book I wrote for Ed was very different, a noirish Old West novel about a man unjustly blamed for a bank robbery returning to the town where the crime took place. Ed's title was THE PRODIGAL GUN. Zebra published that one, again as Jake Foster, under the less appropriate title RAMROD REVENGE. Many years later, when I republished these books under both of our names, I restored Ed's original titles to them.

I'm trying to remember when Ed and I first met. It was around 1985, I know that, and I believe it was Bob Randisi who put us in touch. Ed sent me a couple of his horror novels that Zebra had published under the name Daniel Ransom. I loved them: fast-paced yarns, funny in places, and genuinely creepy. I'm not sure Ed was that fond of these books in later years, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for them because they introduced me to his distinctive voice. His horror novel THE FORSAKEN (published by St. Martin's, I believe) has passages in it so poignant that they still get me a little misty-eyed when I think about them decades later.

But Ed was one of those guys who could write just about anything. His mystery novels and stand-alone thrillers were all top-notch. He could do excellent house-name books, although he preferred working on his own stuff, and who can blame him for that. But for my money, his best novels are his Westerns. Intricately plotted, tinged with melancholy, full of painfully sharp observations about the human condition . . . We might as well just go ahead and say that Ed Gorman was the best author of Western noir of all time.

When I said above that Ed and I "met" in 1985, I mean through correspondence, of course. Ed wasn't a guy who got around a lot. He liked being at home, and he didn't like crowds. We traded emails and letters for thirty years, though, and in the pre-Internet days we talked for hours on the phone. I'm one of the lucky folks who met him in person, at the WWA convention in Jackson, Wyoming, in 1992. Our visit was a short one, but I treasure the memory of it.

Forgive the somewhat scattered nature of this post. All sorts of memories are bouncing around in my head today. Ed never ended an email without expressing how much Livia and I meant to him. The feeling is mutual, my friend. We'll miss you forever. Rest in peace, Ed, and our deepest condolences to Carol and the rest of the family.

23 comments:

larry said...

Great tribute James.

Bill Crider said...

A fine tribute.

Todd Mason said...

Not scattered at all. Thanks.

Scott Parker said...

A good write-up, James. I never knew him, but in reading your tribute and others, I'm getting a sense. Thanks.

Cheryl Pierson said...

James that is one wonderful tribute to a good friend of yours. I didn't know Ed, but through this, I get an idea of the kind of man he was, and what a good friend. Someone who really cared and took time to show it. Well, now you know what I have to do...go snap up some of those books you mentioned. A very good window into Ed's personality and your friendship. Thanks so much for sharing with us on this sad day.

Ben Boulden said...

Great tribute, James. Ed was fine writer and a good man. And I agree, no one writes a better western noir.

jhegenbe said...

So sad to get the news, but great to read your tribute, James. Thanks for getting us back together again , toward the end.

Juri Nummelin said...

What Todd said. Touching and interesting at the same time.

Gerry said...

Touching and meaningful - thanks for sharing.

wayne d. dundee said...

A heartfelt and touching tribute, James.
Ed will be sorely missed by a lot of people.

Kit Prate said...

I'd let you do my obituary/tribute any time any day. (Although I'm not ready to kick the bucket just yet.) This is a great tribute to a great friend; and from what you have written well deserved. I've always had a soft spot for those writers who were not afraid to "pass it forward", and to share "the trade". Those are the fearless ones; and Ed was certainly that. I am sorry for your loss, though. I didn't know Ed, but Frank Roderus and I corresponded for a long time; and I truly miss him. How lucky we all are that he was there to keep kicking your butt.

Keith West said...

Great tribute, James. He will be missed.

Richard Moore said...

A fine tribute. He was a wonderful writer and friend to so many writers.

Charles Gramlich said...

I didn't know him as well as you but certainly treasured his writing. I can tell, though, that this is a big loss for you. My condolences to you as well as to his bio family. Our writing families can be darn close.

David Cranmer said...

I loved getting an email from Ed with the excitement that he had for a particular project he was working on—such an inspiration.

Cap'n Bob said...

I wish I'd stayed in closer contact with him over the years but at least I got to thank him for all that he'd done for countless writers, including me. We lost a fine person, great writer, and selfless friend.

Fred Blosser said...

I'd hoped to meet Ed several years ago, when a business trip brought me to Iowa, easy distance to Cedar Rapids, but it was bad timing -- he was scheduled for a book tour at the same time. He was salt of the earth.

RJR said...

Beautiful job, James!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I knew Ed Gorman through his blog and comments, and couple of books I read, and now I wish I'd known him better. Thank you for this wonderful tribute to this memory.

Barry Ergang said...

This is a wonderful tribute. I wish I'd had the honor of knowing him personally; he was obviously a fine man as well as an outstanding writer.

Neil Waring said...

Wonderful tribute to a fine writer and to those who knew him, obviously, a great friend. He will be missed.

Bill Pronzini said...

Fine, heartfelt tribute, James. Ed was truly the best of the best of us.

Ron Clinton said...

A lovely tribute, James, to a fantastically talented writer -- one of my absolute favorites -- and a man who was clearly a friend to many. I only communicated with him a time or two, but though his vast body of fiction and from the many sentiments expressed in the last couple of days, I feel like I have a good sense of the kind, gentle man he was.