|Fawcett Gold Medal July 1984|
John D. MacDonald is another writer whose passing I remember back in 1986. I grew up in the gulf coast of Florida and had read many of MacDonald's stories set in my home state. I'd read all of the McGee novels up to the point I finished high school, and was discovering his terrific standalone novels along the way. Dead Low Tide was the first of his non-McGee novels I'd read and remains a treasured favorite of mine. Again, another writer I never got to meet in person.
Now, I try to make it a point to go see writers whose work I enjoy when they come to town to promote their books. I let them know that their books are important to me. Too many leave us and I'll say to someone I know, "Did you hear [insert name] died today?" and am often met with a blank look in response and a "Who was that?" It's a drag.
Anyway, back to the books. The Good Old Stuff, published way back in 1982 is a collection of John D. MacDonald's "lost" pulp stories, compiled by Martin H. Greenberg and Francis M. Nevins, Jr. They presented MacDonald with several dozens of stories they felt deserving of finding a new audience. MacDonald then whittled the selection down to about 30 stories he deemed worthy of reprinting and gave his blessing to go forth. In the process, he did something that he admits, in his introduction, many fans might not appreciate. He "updated" several of the stories to make their settings as contemporary as possible. As for me, I would have preferred they remained as originally published in those crumbling pulps. Regardless, they're still crackling good yarns. Good and bad are fully delineated in these stories, and yes, the hero, always wins. But we get some awesome bad guys in the process. And as always, MacDonald's seemingly effortless prose sweeping you along for the action. "She was a plump blond and she lay dead in the trail on her back. There were streaks of drying mud on the right sleeve of her yellow sweater. There was more mud on her freckled right arm. Death had flattened her body to the ground. Her tweed skirt was pushed halfway up between knee and hip. Her heels rested in the mud and her brown sandals toed in." - Murder in Mind, Mystery Book Magazine, 1949. A year later MacDonald published the remaining collected pulp stories in a second volume named More Good Old Stuff. And yes, it is just as great as the first collection.
They were worshipers at a black mass the city had demanded be staged; not once, but a thousand times a day in this insane asylum of steel and stone. - The Whimper of Whipped Dogs, by Harlan Ellison.
|Pyramid Books, 1975, Cover by Leo and Diane Dillon|
Griff could hear Ivy's husband moving toward him in the darkness. Only the faintest sound of gravel betrayed his movements. Down here, deep in the gut of the Earth, it was another world. A world in which Kenneth Cory knew well as a geologist. A world in which Kenneth Cory was at a disadvantage. That was why Ivy and Griff had lured him down here. To kill him. - Down in the Dark, by Harlan Ellison as Ellis Hart.
What can I say. These guys were pros. They didn't bullshit around when it came to producing terrific stories. They put their asses to their seats and pounded them out. You should find their books and dig them for yourself.