For whatever reason, I seem to be on several mailing lists for book reviewers and book marketing people. Occasionally they want to ask me stuff and so I answer it. Sometimes if I get one that’s particularly entertaining to fill out, I decide I’ll turn it into a column, and so here we are.
Your Favorite Book Cover:
Oh my God that is an awful question for someone like me. I can’t decide. It really depends on the genre and the artist and what kind of mood I’m in that day. The best I can do is narrow it down to a few favorite artists.
I think the artist that perfectly captured the spirit of the story more than anyone else is Gino d’Achille with his covers for the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books.
I know the Frazetta ones are more sought-after but these are the ones that feel more like Barsoom to me than any others.
Frank McCarthy’s James Bond covers for Bantam were a huge influence on me when I was teaching myself to draw, back when I was about fourteen.
I know when it comes to Robert E. Howard everyone thinks Frazetta is the one and only, but really I am more of a Jones guy.
That’s the late Catherine Jones, who was Jeff Jones when he painted these covers. As much as I dug the Chaykin version in Marvel comics, the truth is that the Jones version of Solomon Kane is the one I see in my head when I read the books. It’s just perfect.
I could go on and on. The George Wilson Phantom covers, the Jim Steranko Shadow covers, the Lou Feck re-envisioning of Star Trek…. honestly, it could be its own column.
I guess my real answer to this question is “pulp paperback 1970s covers.” That’s my favorite kind of book cover. Sadly, that style seems to have largely gone away, though Hard Case Crime and Tor Books are hanging in there.
A couple of others. But it’s mostly photo covers and giant lettering these days.
What are you reading right now?
A couple of different things. Still kind of on my Western kick. Right now I’m working my way through these two omnibus editions of Louis L’Amour.
What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?
I always meant to check out more from John Varley, ever since my old friend Joe and I saw him at the first Orycon, back when it was a little one-day affair at Portland State…. this was back when The Ophiuchi Hotline came out. I picked that one up up the following year and liked it a lot. I like Millennium too. (Book and movie both.)
But people keep telling me that those aren’t a patch on the Gaia trilogy, so let’s say that’s three of them.
Other two would be…. hmmm… the problem with this question is the word “always.” I usually get to the books I’m interested in fairly quickly. So this is harder than one might think.
I keep meaning to get around to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. That’s been on the list for a while.
Oh, and the rest of the Rama books by Arthur C. Clarke. I loved the first one, and I enjoyed the second one well enough, but the other two have been sitting by the nightstand for a while. They keep getting other books stacked on top of them. It’s been at least three or four years now.
So there you go.
What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
I’m going to go with The Star Web.
Just deadly dull. Put me off Laser Books for years. Eventually I gave the imprint another chance and today I have quite a few, but nothing by George Zebrowski. I gather he’s a beloved old-school SF author in some circles but my God that book just stank on ice.
What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?
Never warmed up to Harry Potter.
What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
Diane Duane’s Rihannsu books. Best Star Trek tie-ins ever.
The first two are stand-alones; the remaining three are a continuous narrative. There’s a nice omnibus edition with the first four.
Seriously, if you like Star Trek you will love these.
What are your three favorite poems?
I am revealing what a giant nerd I am (well, honestly, that ship’s probably sailed) but it’s Robert E. Howard’s two about Solomon Kane and another Howard one, Adventurer. I’m not much on poetry but I’m sentimental about these because I was allowed to use them for a school project when I was in high school.
Where do you usually get your books?
Used. Mail-order or Goodwill.
When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?
Same as now. Read omnivorously whenever I had the chance.
What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?
Probably End of Watch. The Bill Hodges books are the best thing Stephen King’s done in years.
Have you ever “faked” reading a book?
Not since high school. Even then the part I was faking was having to slow down. Usually I’d blow through the assigned novel in an hour or two and then be stuck waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
Good God yes. Why do you think I get so carried away talking about old paperback cover artists? That’s how I first found a lot of my favorite genre series things.
Not so much any more, though when we are on our back-roads bookscouting expeditions I’m more likely to take a chance on something with a cool cover if it’s cheap.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
Still very fond of both of them.
What book changed your life?
Hmmm. Probably either the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, the Educator Classic edition that started a lifelong love affair with the Holmes stories and eventually led me to writing my own… or David Gerrold’s The Trouble With Tribbles. The story of how he wrote and sold that episode crystallized my own ambition to be a writer myself.
Can’t decide so I’m going to say both of them resulted in some major life changes.
What is your favorite passage from a book?
Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. The whole book, but here’s a taste.
Hernandez looked at me and said: “Come back in the morning and sign your statement. We’ll have it typed out by then. We ought to have a P.M. report by ten o’clock, preliminary anyway. Anything you don’t like about this setup, Marlowe?”
“Would you mind rephrasing the question? The way you put it suggests there might be something I do like about it.”
“Okay,” he said wearily. “Take off. I’m going home.”
I stood up.
“Of course I never did believe that stuff Candy pulled on us,” he said. “Just used it for a corkscrew. No hard feelings, I hope.”
“No feelings at all, Captain. No feelings at all.”
They watched me go out and didn’t say goodnight. I walked down the long corridor to the Hill Street entrance and got into my car and drove home.
No feelings at all was exactly right. I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between the stars. When I got home I mixed a stiff one and stood by the open window in the living room and sipped it and listened to the groundswell of the traffic on Laurel Canyon Boulevard and looked at the glare of the big angry city hanging over the shoulder of the hills through which the boulevard had been cut. Far off the banshee wail of police or fire sirens rose and fell, never for very long completely silent. Twenty four hours a day somebody is running, somebody else is trying to catch him. Out there in the night of a thousand crimes people were dying, being maimed, cut by flying glass, crushed against steering wheels or under heavy tires. People were being beaten, robbed, strangled, raped, and murdered. People were hungry, sick; bored, desperate with loneliness or remorse or fear, angry, cruel, feverish, shaken by sobs. A city no worse than others, a city rich and vigorous and full of pride, a city lost and beaten and full of emptiness.
It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn’t have one. I didn’t care. I finished the drink and went to bed.
Who are your top five favorite authors? (Aside from number 1, in no particular order)
What book has no one heard about but should read?
The Shattered World, by Michael Reaves.
What books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?
Well, I already talked about Diane Duane’s Star Trek books. But Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm is pretty amazing too- nothing like Dean Martin. Think James Bond as written by Mickey Spillane.
What are your favorite books by a first time author?
I assume this means debut novels. Hard to beat Chandler’s The Big Sleep.
What is your favorite classic book?
My definition of ‘classic’ is probably not the same as most people’s. But I’ll say Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I have it here in a dozen different editions, comics, prose, DVD and so on, so I must like it a lot.
Okay! That’s it! Your turn!
Knock yourselves out in the comments below, folks. I’ll be back next week with something cool.