Monday, October 22, 2007

Saddlebums Interview: Ed Gorman


Ed Gorman has been writing professionally since 1983, when St. Martin’s Press purchased his novel Rough Cut. Since then he has proven to be one of the most reliable and prolific writers—I use the word prolific in a positive sense—working. He has published novels in several different genres, including mystery, suspense, science fiction, horror, and western.

Mr. Gorman has been nominated for several writing awards, and he won the
Spur Award in 1993 for his short story “The Face.” He has been called “the poet of dark suspense” by Bloomsbury Review, and “a master storyteller” by the Dallas Morning News. I have been an avid reader of his work for several years, and no matter what Ed Gorman chooses to write, you can count on one thing: it will be very entertaining.

He lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with his wife, writer Carol Gorman.

I have been reading your work—everything from westerns to mysteries to horror and science fiction, and I’m impressed with its overall diversity. My question, is there a specific genre you most prefer to work in?

Mystery and suspense, I suppose. But I’ve worked in horror and science fiction with great pleasure.

“I could never come close to finishing a novel until I met Max Allan Collins who gave me two great pieces of advice—look at each chapter as a story and never look back until you’ve finished the book.”

I want to talk a little about your publishing history, what is the first novel you published? Was it a long time coming, or did you hit print pretty quickly once you decided to write it?

I wrote a lot of stuff for men’s magazines in the Sixties and Seventies. I could never come close to finishing a novel until I met Max Allan Collins who gave me two great pieces of advice—look at each chapter as a story and never look back until you’ve finished the book. Then worry about revisions. I finished Rough Cut and shopped it around. Agents felt that the narrator was more psychotic than the villain. I sent it to St. Martin’s Press where it was fished out of slush and bought. This was 1983.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Probably around age eight. The nuns fed me Jack London and I discovered Ray Bradbury on my own. After reading those guys I never faltered in wanting to be a published writer.

It is my understanding that you have written several novels under house names, mostly in The Trailsman series. When you write under a house name do you approach it differently than your other work?

I do the best work I can on every project.

Most of your western fiction is non-traditional. You seem to use many of the same elements as one would find in a mystery novel. Your Noah Ford character from the Cavalry Man novels has more in common with a modern mystery protagonist than he does with the traditional western outsider. Is this an effort to move away from the traditional western, or simply expand the definition of what a western is? Do you think these novels would be more popular if they were marketed as a western mystery rather than a traditional western?

I think you have to find a special angle to sell crossover books. Steve Hockensmith with Holmes On The Range brought something fresh and exciting to the crossover and has been very successful for doing so.

Is there a book, or a few books, that you have written and are particularly proud of?

My favorites are The Autumn Dead, Blood Moon, The Night Remembers, and Cage of Night in suspense; Wolf Moon and Ghost Town in westerns.

Most writers are voracious readers, and I’m wondering what you read for pleasure?

On my nightstand presently I have the Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner, Ten Stories from Detective Aces pulp magazine, a history of the Homefront during World War Two and a huge volume of the original Jonah Hex comic book stories by Michael Fleischer.

“Mine is the last generation that really grew up on westerns. I saw them in the theaters and on television and I read them in comic books and paperbacks.”

Now I want to turn to the western genre specifically. What first led you to the genre?

Mine is the last generation that really grew up on westerns. I saw them in the theaters and on television and I read them in comic books and paperbacks. Writing them came naturally. I owe Bob Randisi a lot for first getting me published as a writer.

What are a few of the western writers who have most influenced your work?

Max Brand, Elmore Leonard, Loren D. Estleman, Clifton Adams, Dorothy Johnson would be a few of them.

If you could bring back the work of one western writer who would it be? Is there a specific title?

I’d bring back six or seven of the best Clifton Adams novels.

You also write mysteries, and it seems there has been—both historically as well as today—a significant amount of authors who do good work in both genres. Do you think there is a relationship between the mystery and the western that promotes this crossover, or is it simply the economics of professional writing?

Again, I think it’s generational. You don’t find many—or any that I can think of—of the Thirty-somethings writing westerns and mysteries today. Loren is the last of the breed. He’s in his Forties I think. And he’s one of the all-time best, too.

The mystery genre is thriving, but many believe the western is in decline. What do you think about the western genre today, and what do you think the future holds for the western story?

I’ve been asked this a couple of times. I wish I had some wisdom on the subject. But I don’t. To me cops replaced cowboys.

Okay, now lets get down to your current work. What is your latest novel?

My current novel is Fools Rush In. This is my take on how small town Iowa responded to the Civil Rights movement of the early Sixties. I have another novel called Doom Weapon, the last in my Cavalry Man series coming in paperback from HarperCollins. It’s probably out now though I haven’t seen a copy. In the spring I have a St. Martin’s novel called Sleeping Dogs, a political whodunit. I used to write speeches for congressman. Lots of anger in this book.

Can you tell us about the novel—or any other projects—you are working on now?

My next novel will be in the suspense realm. I never talk about work in progress.

I have one last question, and I must warn it is a little vague. If you could chose any project to work on, what would it be?

That’s a good question and you know, I have no idea. My best stuff seems to have just happened without much planning on my part. I wrote three or four novels that were part of a Big Plan to increase the size of my audience. I think they were adequate, one of them I like, but somehow they weren’t as much fun to do as the work that somehow seems to get done on its own.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gorman, I really enjoy your work. Thank you for such wonderful stories. Thanks to you and Ben for such an interesting interview.

Anonymous said...

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