Thursday, August 19, 2004

Crichton; Slesar

I gave up on PREY about 70 pages in. The writing was just too slick and soulless for me, and I thought every plot development was telegraphed 'way too much. Now, I realize that anybody who enjoys pulps and Adult Westerns as much as I do has no right to complain about a book being predictable, but what can I say? Some books work for me and some don't.

So I'm looking around for something else to read, and I take a cue from Bill Crider: I grab a Fifties science fiction digest. In this case, the July 1957 issue of AMAZING STORIES, with a giant hand clutching a rocket ship on the cover. Ah, that's better. The lead story, which I'm about halfway through, is a short novel by Henry Slesar called "A God Named Smith". I'm enjoying it immensely so far. And it's reminded me of what a good writer Henry Slesar was. I was first aware of him as a mystery novelist and short story writer. He won an Edgar, I think, for his novel THE GRAY FLANNEL SHROUD (which I haven't read), and he wrote a lot of stories for AHMM, many of which were reprinted in those Alfred Hitchcock hardcover and paperback anthologies, which I devoured on a regular basis. He wrote a good espionage novel called THE BRIDGE OF LIONS which was adapted into a two-part MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. episode. Later I read quite a few of his stories in PLAYBOY (which I really and truly did buy for the fiction, dammit). Later still I became aware that he was the head writer for many, many years on THE EDGE OF NIGHT, the mystery-themed soap opera. For much of that time he not only plotted the show but wrote 90% of the actual scripts. That's a phenomenal amount of work, and what's even more impressive is how good it was. I watched THE EDGE OF NIGHT for well over a decade and always enjoyed it. It was created (not by Slesar) as a cross between Perry Mason and regular soap operas, but under Slesar it took on more of a noir tone and was always tightly plotted and well-written. In recent years, since I've been picking up some of those old SF digests, I've discovered that he wrote a lot of stories for them, too. All in all, I've found him to be a solidly consistent and entertaining writer. And while I'm sure he earned a comfortable living, I'm also sure that he never made more than a fraction of the money that Michael Crichton has made. It probably shouldn't, but that bothers me somehow.

I emailed the outline for the first book in that new series to the editor and have already made some revisions based on her suggestions. Also wrote 14 pages on the Western I have in the works.

1 comment:

Mystery Dawg said...

I couldn't get into Prey either, so I passed it on the library.