Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Mail I Get (with apologies to Lee Goldberg for stealing that title)

The other day I went to the post office and found a thick envelope in the box, with a return address of someone I didn't know. When I opened it, I found a 21-page handwritten outline for a Longarm novel, plus a 12-page handwritten letter explaining the background of the story. That's as far as I read. I set the package aside immediately and haven't looked at it since. I don't intend to.

This isn't the first time I've had someone try to give me a story idea, but it hasn't happened in quite a while. I know the fellow who wrote it had the best of intentions. He's a fan of the series, he came up with what he thought was a good idea, and he went to the trouble of writing it down, as well as finding out that I'm one of the authors. For those reasons, I feel kind of bad that I've been ignoring it and will continue to do so.

Because I just can't afford to allow even the appearance of having swiped something from somebody. It could get me in trouble legally, and it could get me in trouble with my publisher, and I don't want either of those things to happen. On top of that, I like coming up with ideas for my books. That's part of the fun of it. Don't get me wrong, Livia gives me plots all the time and I'm very grateful for that, and if a fellow pro I've known for years were to say to me, "Hey, you ought to do a book about so-and-so," I might do it if the idea appealed to me. I think those are very different situations from someone I don't know sending me an unsolicited book outline. If that sounds elitist, I'm sorry, but that's the way I feel and I'll bet a lot of other professional writers do, too.

So if the person who sent me that Longarm outline is reading this, I appreciate the effort you put into it, but I won't be reading it. Maybe you should try to write a Western novel of your own. It won't be easy to sell in today's market, but you never know what might happen. That's one of the great things about being a writer.


beb said...

Even as a non-writer I can appreciate your dilemma.

Richard R said...

"unsolicited" is usually a bad thing, in any circumstances. Whomever sent you the thing should take a look at John Scalzi's blog where at various times he has addressed this issue. The gist of which is "if I didn't ask for it, I don't want it". At least it didn't come with postage due.

Jerry House said...

Guess I won't be sending you the manuscript for Longarm Versus the Martians.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Here's free idea: Longarm and the Unsolicited Manuscript.

James Reasoner said...

Somebody already had Martians in a Slocum novel, or so I've heard. I haven't been able to find a copy of the book in question to check it out, but one of these days I will. I know there's a J.T. Edson novel where Dusty Fog meets people from outer space, because I've read it. Don't recall the title, though.

Lee Goldberg said...

Oh. I guess I should have typed up my idea for "Longarm Meets Longleg" instead of handwriting it. Sorry about that.


Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

@James - to my knowledge JT Edson never wrote one where Dusty Fog met people from outer space.

What he had was a tarzan descendant (and dusty fog's buddy mark counter descendant too!) called James Allenvale Gunn, nicknamed Bunduki (gun) by the natives because he is - what else - blazing fast on his draw.

He ends up getting transported to some weird planet that's basically a tropical jungle, and does most of what tarzan did in lots of the edgar rice burroughs novels .. and would be harder to do in the 70s and 80s because most of africa is already explored and nobody's going to believe tales about lost temples in the middle of what's now likely to be a major city with an airport rather than a jungle ..

Those were utterly useless books. I'd stick to his floating outfit series, even the later ones with the recycled plots and huge footnotes about the floating outfit folks, calamity jane etc

(yup, old JT had her in there too, as well as Belle Starr .. lou cameron did feature those two in bit parts in two or three longarms, but as they were .. rather than as cute young and well stacked blondes who also happened to be pretty decent gunfighters)

I've exchanged lots of email with you about longarm so I'm not going to give you a longarm plot, just want to see some more longarms that are true to the archetype that Lou created. You've been reasonably close to what Lou did (though lou's longarm never did use a texan accent, or use words like hogleg or smokepole) :)

Several other Longarm authors just dont know the character, or even much about the old west, or about the fact that the US Marshal's Service just aren't set up to do the job of a beat cop (there's one or two - written by the same guy who made longarm live in an apartment, where he's standing around on a denver street late at night with a junior colleague, and sets out to go catch a pickpocket or something of the sort .. sigh).

Those longarms actually read more like "hard boiled cop" pulp rather than westerns. As for the sex in those.. cameron's longarm actually had real feelings for the women he had sex, even one night stands, with. Not the case in may of the others.

@Lee - Longarm meets Longleg, really? :)

James Reasoner said...

I remember seeing Edson's Bunduki books, although I never read any of them. I'm pretty sure about the one where Dusty Fog meets the aliens, though. Livia remembers reading it as well, when we were on one of our Edson binges back in the Eighties. I think the book may have been THE FAST GUN, but I could certainly be wrong about that. I'll have to do some digging and see if I can find it.

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

I've been on my share of Edson binges. Far less ill effect than binging on mcdonalds burgers I guess :) I dont remember "The Fast Gun" though.

Suresh Ramasubramanian said...

Some of the best he wrote -

1. Trail Boss

2. The Ysabel Kid (the first one)

3. The Bad Bunch

4. Trigger Fast (intros 'Waco')

5. Hell in the Palo Duro (an outlaw town / hideout, you've written one of this type for longarm, so has lou)

6. Beguinage

7. The Rushers (havent read this one but an interesting storyline, some US army captain gets killed, Dusty wears blue instead of gray to take his place)

8. Waco's Debt

Worth reading, out of about 60 he wrote.

Anonymous said...

James, you are right about the Edson book. It is called The Fast Gun and has Dusty Fog meeting space aliens. I thought it was good.


James Reasoner said...

Thanks for confirming my recollection. My memory isn't as reliable as it used to be.

I agree that the Edson novels you listed are good ones. I remember QUIET TOWN as being pretty good, too. With Edson, usually the earlier the copyright date, the better the chance that it'll be a good book.