Friday, 2 November 2007

A master class in short story writing

I’ve belatedly caught up with a two-volume set of short stories by Ed Gorman which was published in the spring. The set initiates an ambitious project, The Collected Ed Gorman, and these two books, introduced respectively by Lawrence Block and Max Allan Collins, bring together many of his short crime stories, with another volume in the works. I was familiar with some of the stories, from a Crippen & Landru gathering, Famous Blue Raincoat, but the vast majority were new to me.

Gorman is an accomplished novelist, yet I’m sure that Collins is right to say that he is ‘a short story writer at heart’. Any writer (certainly including someone like me) can learn a lot about the craft from studying his short stories. Take ‘The Moving Coffin’, for instance. This manages to be witty, clever, scary and poignant – quite a feat. The over-optimistic parole officer Ralph is one of a host of quickly yet brilliantly drawn characters; the loyal criminal’s wife Delia is another.

Like many writers whom he’s encouraged by phone or email, I’ve never met Ed, but he’s become a significant influence upon my career – originally through his involvement with ‘Mystery Scene’ and US publishing, most recently through his excellent blog. His work doesn’t have such a high profile in the UK, but I’ve admired his writing since my first encounter with it – a novel called The Night Remembers, published in the early 90s. More recently I’ve tracked down and enjoyed a couple of entries in his elusive but entertaining Sam Cain series.

A word for the publisher. I must admit that I’d never heard of PS Publishing, but they turn out to be a venture run by Pete Crowther and his wife Nicky, whom I got to know years back via the Northern Chapter of the Crime Writers Association. They focus mainly on sci-fi, fantasy and horror fiction, but this excursion into crime is wholly successful. The books are elegantly produced, and the limited slip-cased edition signed by Ed, and by Block and Collins respectively, would make a terrific and generous Christmas present for a deserving enthusiast for the best in short mystery fiction.

1 comment:

Ed Gorman said...

Per our agreement I'm sending you that Jag with the blonde behind the wheel. Thank you very much for your most charitable comments. Ed