Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Book: James Reasoner: Diamondback

This isn't supposed to be a forgotten book, since it's out available on Kindle and different other formats. You can also buy a trade paperback edition of it, if I understood correctly. James Reasoner's Diamondback was never commercially or traditionally published, so I think it figures here - and taking part in this meme I have a reason to finally write about it.

There's a story behind James's book: he wrote it on spec to a paperback publisher that had published his first novel, Texas Wind (which is great unto itself). The publisher went bankrupt though, before the manuscript was bought (or at least that's how I figured it; I may be a bit skimpy on details), and James's book didn't see the light of day. I think he tried to sell it to different publishers throughout the years, but without success. At one point he sent it to me. We'd talked about over e-mail about his career and writings and I'd already published one of James's early short stories in my zine, Isku (which was a print magazine at the time, now a webzine). I think there was some talk about getting Diamondback out in Finnish. (If I wanted to lose all of my money, this is exactly what I'd do: start publishing a series of translations of trunk novels!)

Then came the fire. James's and Livia's house burned down. I was devastated when I saw James's blog post about the fire. I was very, very glad to be able to help: I had two or three James's early short stories on my computer, plus Diamondback. James was glad to get them back - all of his files had been destroyed in the fire.

I wanted to do something more to help. But how? I was here on the other side of the planet. Then it came to me: I'll publish Diamondback and give the money to James.

I'd noticed lots of authors and publishers had started using Lulu and other PoD sites. I figured this might be the best solution: I'll do the layouts, put the book on sale and James will get the money. I thought it might be good to spice up the book a bit. I asked Bill Crider if he could do a foreword - sure enough, he did one. I asked Duane Spurlock (whom I knew through the WesternPulps e-mail group), knowing he had done some illustrations, whether he might want to do the cover. And sure enough, he did one. See the result above. I even asked for blurbs. I think I got one from Allan Guthrie, saying "James Reasoner is one of my favourite writers".

Everything was ready. Then I started downloading the thing on Lulu. Nothing came of it. To this day, I don't know what caused it. The file that Lulu would've used to print the book was too small in size - I think my computer is ("was" actually) missing a driver or something like that. Whatever it was, I was so frustrated I didn't know what to do. (My layout software is pirated, which is probably something I shouldn't confess, but that might explain the problems.)

So, basically I had a great book in my hands, but I couldn't do anything with it. I tried to think of other options. One of them was to do a small print run of books and try to sell them, but it would've cost too much, so nothing came of that.

I was very relieved to notice that James has now put Diamondback on sale on Kindle - and if I understood correctly, Bill's foreword to the book is included. And here, for the first time, in public is Duane Spurlock's cover for James Reasoner's Diamondback. (I'm so sorry for the bad quality of the picture. If possible, I'll change it. I think it's on my old computer, this is just taken with my cell phone of a print-out I did. The colours are misleading.)

Oh, what's the book about? It's a great action novel in the mold of classic men's adventure series, but with a dash of social conscience thrown in. James has written some very good short stories about the Mexican immigrants and the same theme is visible here. The opening is great:

It was the heat, Tom Sloane had decided, that brought out the killing violence in people.

He was uncomfortable, sitting on the hard, cracked ground, but at least the sun had gone down several hours earlier, taking with it the broiling hundred-degree-plus temperatures. It looked like the heat wave was never going to break, and in the last two weeks, Sloane had seen more incidents of violence than he usually did in two months. Husbands and wives and children abusing each other, nervous hold-up men gunning down clerks in convenience stores, perfect strangers exchanging gunfire over an imagined insult on the freeway . . . Sloane was no stranger to violence, but it made him tired to think about it. He did what he could, and that was all any man could do.

As you all know, James is very good in action scenes and the same goes here:

Sloane was barely aware of Angela's muffled scream as the tip of the knife came up to meet his punch. He changed the trajectory of it a fraction, and the blade caught his coat sleeve and ripped it savagely. That threw the punch off, making it glance almost harmlessly against Arturo's shoulder.

The nose was the place to go for. In its damaged state, it would be the weakest link in the chain. Sloane feinted, drawing another thrust of the knife, then stepped inside and peppered Arturo's face with quick bursts of his fists. The man let out a howl and took an involuntary step backward, blood starting to show on his bandages. Sloane followed, grabbing his right wrist and hanging on. The left one was bandaged also, where Sloane had kicked it in the Red Bull, and he knew it would be worthless to Arturo. Sloane jerked and twisted again on the other wrist, and the knife fell to the floor, landing without a sound on the thick carpet.
Sloane let go of the wrist and backhanded his opponent. Another blow to the belly doubled him over. Sloane clasped his hands and brought them down on Arturo's neck, driving him to the floor. Dazed, the Mexican's scrabbling fingers found the knife and snatched it up. He put his other hand down for balance and tried to lever himself up.
Sloane kicked the arm out from under him.
So, what else do you need? Check out this link and order Diamondback to your Kindle or whatever reading device you're holding.

Here's the link to other Forgotten Book entries at Patti Abbott's blog.


Bill Crider said...

Some great history there, Juri. Thanks for posting it.

Anders E said...

That's a great story in itself. The life of a repo man may always be intense, but that is evidently also the case for amateur publishers.

George said...

People who think publishing is simple should read your posting. I'm glad DIAMONDBACK is finally available as an ebook.