DarkEcho Horror
Blowgun by Rick Berry

Ed Gorman: Writer's Writer, Reader's Joy

First appeared in
DarkEcho: 08.13.98 [V.5 #32]

In his introduction to Ed Gorman's collection CAGES, F. Paul Wilson explains why other writers "hate" Ed Gorman:

Any writer worthy of the designation hates every other writer who can turn out goodstories on a regular basis. And we loathe that rare writer with the audacity to produce outstanding stories on a regular basis in multiple genres.

Ipso facto none of us can bear Ed Gorman.

Horror, science fiction, western, mystery, thriller, noir, suspense, black name it and Gorman has not only written it -- he's written a damned fine example or twenty. And while being exemplary, he still writes distinctly and with individuality. Invariably (and correctly) he is referred by reviewers as a powerful and original storyteller. British crime magazine A Shot In The Darknoted recently: "If George Orwell had written thrillers, he might have written them like (Gorman's): never a word too many, never a word too few, never a word that doesn't come from the heart."

In the past eighteen years, Ed Gorman has published more than twenty novels, five short story collections, and many short stories. His work has appeared in everything from Redbook to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fictionand he's won numerous prizes including the Shamus, the Spur, and the International Fiction Writers Award. Gorman's been nominated for the Edgar, the Anthony, the Golden Dagger, and the Stoker. He edits anthologies, writes nonfiction, serves as editorial director of Mystery Scene magazine (where he writes a column), writes a column for Cemetery Dance, and is a highly respected reviewer.

Ed Gorman I've personally heard perhaps a dozen writers refer to him at various times as someone who helped them, made an important recommendation for them, assisted or advised them somehow. And I've never heard a bad word about the man.

Gorman loves to write. Reading was a way of escaping a troubled childhood for the future author and as early as third grade, he had a "good time...scribbling out stories." "The process," he says, "somehow made me feel adequate, something I rarely felt. I still don't feel very adequate and so, I suppose, writing for me is pleasure and therapy at the same time."

A former advertising executive, Gorman is a recovering alcoholic who has been dry 23 years. "When I sobered up, I realized I had all this terrifying free time on my hands. I started writing again. But it wasn't until I met my second wife, who was a great encouragement, that I started writing seriously. I promised myself I'd finish a novel for my fortieth birthday (I'd started but never finished a few hundred of the damned things). I not only finished it, I sold it [ROUGH CUT] to the first publisher who saw it, despite the fact that three agents turned it down, two of them remarking that the narrator was more psychotic than the villain. The first newspaper review was headlined, 'A hate letter to the advertising industry.' Which it was."

He's been a full-time writer now for ten years and admits, "While economic necessity plays a part in my multi-genre career, I'm one of those writers who hates writing the same sort of book back to back. I generally do two books a year, so I usually do suspense-western-suspense/horror, etc." Does he like any genre better than another? "I grew up devouring paperbacks of every stripe but romance. I love horror, suspense and western equally. Though it's not my strong-suit, I've even done four sf novels and had a good time writing those, too."

"Good stories are good stories," says Gorman, "whatever their kind. I ask only one thing of the book I'm working on -- that it keeps me interested. And that means characterization. It's what has made Stephen King the greatest mainstream dark suspense writer of all time -- his people. I was rereading his "Graveyard Shift" recently and, man, that's every factory I ever worked in. The sociology of the place...he got it all down perfectly. Then I picked up the new Rona Jaffe book and read a description of a small college socked in by a winter snowstorm, this astonishingly accurate portrait of the whole campus -- socially, sexually and spiritually. It blew me away. The thing is, you can bring these same gifts (I just wished I possessed them on the King-Jaffe level) to any kind of story you write. Any kind."

There are those who contend that Gorman has gifts on that level as he has been favorably compared to King, Robert Bloch, Thomas Harris, Dean Koontz, James Ellroy, James Lee Burke, and more.

Where does Gorman see horror going these days? "It's much more sophisticated. Just as crime fiction is moving away from the confines of the strict whodunit, horror is moving away from the confines of straight booga-booga. Look at Ed Bryant, Roberta Lannes, Brian Hodge, Kris Rusch, John Shirley, Richard Laymon, Peter Straub, Richard Christian Matheson, Richard Chizmar, Tom Piccirilli, Edo von Belkom -- so many, many good writers (and I am probably forgetting some) have eschewed the cliches and found their own voices and slants. Horror has become serious fun to read again."

As for advice for new writers Gorman says, "Simple: read and write. They're in some ways the same thing. At least for a writer. Study what you read. The Jaffe piece I just mentioned? I photocopied it and went over it two or three times today. You can bet that somewhere in my next third-person novel, I'm going to try and do my version of it."

Gorman might still be studying himself, but any writer can benefit from reading this master writer...and like Paul Wilson learn to hate him. Leisure has recently re-issued COLD BLUE MIDNIGHT (see review) and you can easily find many of his novels and anthologies. You can still get the collection MOONCHASERS, but try to track down a copy of Deadline Press's collection CAGES -- it's superb.

[Note (April 2002): In the last few years many of Gorman's books have been re-published and he's added another dozen or more newtitles to his already lengthy list. (Read the review of The Poker Club here.> You can keep up with him via a new column for Horror World and the Mystery Scene Web site which incorporates his official site.]

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