Saturday, March 15, 2014

Not Not in Kansas Any More

You were first steered toward the novels of Gaylord Dold by  another mystery writer, Dennis Lynds (1924--2005) who knew and was often compared to Ken Millar, AKA Ross Macdonald, for his noir and brooding mysteries.  Lynds, whose own one-armed PI and a few of his pseudonyms ventures, was no stranger to noir that leads to violence and the trespass from civility to crime.

Both William F. Nolan, whose mysteries you edited, and Rich Barre, whose work you edited, spoke of Gaylord Dold with the kind of admiration of which the subtext is, "How does he do it?  His stories take place in Kansas.  His detective works out of Wichita.  Who in Wichita would hire a PI?"


An added dimension to the growing association came when Rich Barre, back from a book-signing tour in which he'd sat on an author's panel with Dennis Lehane, asked you if you'd ever heard of a writer named Gaylord Dold, because Lehane had discovered him as well.

Not to forget J.F. "Jerry" Freedman, who'd got the word on Gaylord Dold from a writer he and Dennis Lynds much favor, Daniel Woodrell.  So, for that matter, do you.  Favor.  Small wonder, then, that you should begin seeking titles featuring Dold's PI, Mitch Roberts, set in the 1950s, after his experiences in World War II.  You later learned from a man you did not like in person, the actor Robert Mitchum, that Mitch Roberts was named after him, in some measure because of the noir films in which he'd appeared.

Yet another connection came when some of Dold's titles were taken by St. Martins Press, a publishing house with which you had some connection and where a former student now serves as an editor and where a client is now published.  Small syndrome in active display.

From time to time in critical commentary or review, it is said of a writer that he or she is "a writers' writer," an appellation both laudatory yet tinged with the sad wisdom of minimal sales.

You have no first-hand knowledge of Gaylord Dold's sales figures beyond the awareness that he is enormously prolific.  No one was as prolific as Donald E. Westlake, and he is also a writers' writer of whom you'd dare entertain a comparison with Balzac.  Yes, of course, Westlake and Balzac and the potential Balzac-Westlake connection are another matter, to be pursued in these vagrant essays at another time.

You do have first-hand knowledge of having read a number of Dold's novels, in the process finding yourself in substantial agreement with reviewers from major metro dailies in their belief that there is more to Dold's writings than meet the eye.  This is yet another way of linking to the "writers' writer" appellation.

Gaylord Dold and Daniel Woodrell are not far apart in geography or world view.  Each crafts a paragraph in ways seemingly lost by many floggers of plot and violence and outcome against the metaphorical side of the publishing barn.  

Woodrell's narrative has the twang of the Ozarks, the sense of speaking through a cud of chewing tobacco, the icy chill of an individual caught between poverty and personal pride.

Dold's people, although more often than not, while not German, have  unwanted familiarity with weltschmerz, a world weariness characters from noir movies and novels would recognize in a moment.  They are cynics in spite of their wish to think better of people, caught in that elegant inner conflict that reflects Dold's reading of Heidigger, Hegel, and, for a certainty, Camus and Sartre.

Both Dold and Woodrell are favored by writers and readers who wish to find resonance in what they read, complicated characters presented with complex issues in times where lunatic fringes, appearing in suits and ties or dresses on sale at Target, come forth in the scary, take-no-prisoners belief that they are right.

You happen to subscribe to a definition of story that begins with two or more persons arriving at a place with the conviction that they are right because God told them so.

On your list of favored books and authors associated with this blog site, the name Gaylord Dold appears.  One or two of your friends have asked you from time to time if that is a real name or one of your invention, to see if anyone else was stopping by to read.  From your first encounter with Mitch Roberts, you have held this sense of resonant frequency with his creator.  When designing this blog site in the early months of 2007, Gaylord Dold was on your list.

Imagine your delight yesterday morning when, consulting your list of email, you saw a message from Gaylord Dold.  "Hello Shelly Lowenkopf,"  the message began.  "I wonder if you'd send me an email.  I have a wonderful story to tell you about me, you, and Brian Fagan."

You did send him contact information.

Just wait until he finds out you have a wonderful story to tell him about Henry Miller, and the time you were present at a dinner hosted by Gloria Swanson, thinking it would be a seduction dinner for Henry Miller.

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