Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Stephen Marlowe

Got an e-mail from one of the all-time paperback kings Stephen Marlowe. He's offered to write a brief memoir of his friendship with Evan Hunter. I'll have it here pretty soon.

I wish Steve would write a piece about himself. He has survived the publishing wars for six decades. And during that time written innumerable Damned Good Books.

I first read Mr. Marlowe when he was appearing under his real name (which he later changed to Marlowe) Milton Lesser. I don't remember the title but the magazine was Amazing and it was likely 1955. The story had to do (as I recall) with a monster inside the vaults of Ft. Knox. Very cool premise and he had a lot of military stuff in there (I believe he'd gotten out of the Army sometime in the early `50s). From then on, I bought everything of his I could find.

A year or so later I disovered the Chet Drum series. As much as they've been celebrated, I don't think they've ever been appreciated in quite the way they should be. Of all the private eye/adventure pb series, they were certainly the most literate and authentic feeling. I never understood the comparison to Mickey Spillane. I love the early Spillane books but they exist on an alternative world that is and isn't the earth most of us share. That is their genius.

Drum always struck me as a realistic, intelligent, reasonable, melancholy man who tried not to be cynical in an age in which cynicism was the price of survival. I prefered the books set in America to those set abroad. Drum's take on the mores of the time was wise without being dogmatic in any way. He gave us teenagers who were really people and politcians who were whoremongers cloaked in radiant white robes. He didn't seem unduly frantic about commies, either. He had an appreciation for good public servants,, whatever their stripe, and a genuine sorrow for the nobodies who got crushed beneath the jackboots of the powerful. Those nobodies being most of us.

And he wrote page turners. Plot almost never makes me turn pages. I've read and or written too many of them myself. Character and atmosphere grabs me and boy howdy did the Drum books deliver them.

So Steve, as soon as you do a piece on Evan, do one on yourself. Just think of all the money you'll be making.


Blogger Bill said...

I agree with everything you've said about Stephen Marlowe/Milton Lesser. I loved the "Johnny Mayhem" stories her wrote for Amazing in the '50s, and of course the Chet Drum books. One of the highlights of the Monterey Bouchercon for me was getting to sit next to him at the signing table.

5:09 AM  
Blogger Clark Nova said...

Mr. Gorman,
Wondering if you can help me out. I've noticed that you are 1 of 26 featured writers in the new Moonstone anthology Kolchak Chronicles. I'm adding books to IBList and can't seem to google-up a content listing anywhere. Could you possibly forward the stories and authors? If not, no biggie. Thanks for the blog - good stuff!

5:40 AM  

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