Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pro-File: James Reasoner

Pro-File: James Reasoner

Ed Here: Bill Pronzini and I always say that we probably would have been happiest back in the Fifties when the paperback original field was new and thriving. I supsect that James Reasoner would have been happiest back in the Twenties and Thirties when the pulps dominated newstands. This doesn't mean that his books read like old pulp. On the contrary, his cult novel Texas Wind remains one of the finest private eye novels I've ever read and brings a distinctly modern viewpoint to the dusty truths of Texas. And that modern viepoint and style can be found in almost all his books. I think what he shares with the pulp boys and girls is their spirit and the simple love of telling good stories. You find this spirit and love in virtually everything he writes--and he writes virtually everything--westerns, mysteries, war stories, tie-ins, mainstream...and I'm sure I'm leaving out a couple of categories here. The pro's pro, James Reasoner.

1. Tell us about your current novel.

CALL TO ARMS, the first book in a new Civil War series entitled THE PALMETTO TRILOGY, was published in the fall, and the second book will be out in the spring, with the third and final book scheduled for next fall. These are in collaboration with my wife Livia, who is using the pseudonym Livia Hallam on them.

2. Can you give a sense of what you're working on now?

I just finished a house-name Western and plan to write a fantasy short story next, before moving right on to a historical novel which will also be under a house-name.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Seeing a new book of mine and knowing that people will be reading it and I hope enjoying it.

4. What is the greatest DISpleasure?

Waiting. You send the books in and then wait for all the other steps in the process to unfold.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Stop cancelling books -- and entire lines -- that make money, provide livings for their authors, and entertain their readers, simply because they don't make *enough* money.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

I don't know if they're forgotten, but how about Ed Lacy, George Harmon Coxe, and Henry Kane (the early novels, not the later stuff).

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

I had a post office box at the time, and one day there was a large manila envelope stuffed in it. Inside were several copies of a contract from Manor Books for my novel TEXAS WIND. No letter, just the contracts. But I didn't need a letter because I knew from the contracts they were actually going to buy and publish my book. I rushed home to tell Livia instead of going on to the real-world job I was holding down. The euphoria was tempered a bit when I actually *read* the contract and saw how little they were planning to pay me. We looked at each other and said, "That can't be right. That's all they pay for an entire *book*?"
Little did we know. They actually paid us even less.

But in the long run it was okay, because Manor published the book, and although I had sold short stories before, after that day I was an honest-to-gosh novelist.


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