Friday, September 18, 2009

Hey - Was Ed Gorman Hanging Out in My Kitchen ?!?

I recently discovered a new (to me) author. I should be thoroughly embarrassed to admit to not knowing anything about this author previously. And ashamed of myself for not being aware of one of the mystery world's icons.

Ed Gorman is, I think it's fair to say, a prolific writer. He's written about 20 books, and is still writing them. They include five series and a couple of stand-alones. He's edited numerous anthologies. AND he co-founded and edited Mystery Scene Magazine (he is now Contributing Editor). He writes mysteries, crime fiction, horror fiction and western fiction, under three different pen names. AND he writes a blog. Prolific might be a fair term, don't you think?

The book I read was from Mr. Gorman's Sam McCain series - THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED (1999). This from Publisher's Weekly: "There's a dead-on sense of time and place (February 1958 in small-town Iowa) in Gorman's latest, which, despite minor problems with plot resolution, makes an enjoyable start to a new series. Narrator Sam McCain, "a young lawyer in a town that already had too many lawyers," earns most of his income by working as an investigator in Black River Falls for the wealthy and eccentric Judge Esme Anne Whitney, who smokes Gauloises in Chesterfield country and takes pleasure in shooting McCain with rubber bands. The day after a long drive to what turns out to be Buddy Holly's last concert before his fatal plane crash, McCain discovers the body of the wife of Whitney's rotten nephew, Kenny, and then is unable to stop Kenny from killing himself. Everybody, including the loutish local police chief, is sure that Kenny murdered his wife, but McCain has his doubts. Complicating matters are the troubles of a local former football star now crippled by booze and of McCain's teenage sister, who is trying to get an abortion. Gorman sketches the people of Black River Falls, especially McCain's family and various girlfriends, with a sharp eye, and even the very late appearance of a possible villain doesn't spoil the fun: despite the title, Gorman, as usual, rocks."

I'm excited about having more in this series to read and hope I enjoy them as much as I did THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED.


What I really want to know is how come a scene I was sure was a memory of mine, and mine alone, ended up in Mr. Gorman's book?!


Only thing I can figure is that he was hanging out with me in the Arcade Apartments in Cambridge, MD when we were kids. He's a few years older than me, but not much. He could have been one of the kids that, as my dad used to say, was "one of Kaye Alan's friends who was always underfoot." But no, I really don't think that's it either.

I guess I have to admit to myself that the memory I cherish must be a memory many of us must share. While I kinda hate that, it's nice to spend a little time remembering those simpler times. Times when wives could afford to be housewives if that's what they wanted, and young mothers could be stay-at-home moms, if that's what they wanted. Times when we kids knew we had to drop whatever ball we were playing with, in whomever's yard we might be playing in, so we could be home and seated at the dinner table at 6:00 p.m. NO excuses.

Times when moms and dads turned up the radio and danced in the kitchen.

From the time I was 3 months old until I was 16 we lived in a wonderful old apartment in Cambridge, Md. The Arcade Apartments. I loved that place and
I wrote about it some in my Father's Day post. All the rooms were big and spacious and the living room and the dining room had big bay windows with window seats. There was a wall separating those two rooms, but it was a large archway. The kitchen was huge, and off the kitchen was a pantry which was larger than most kitchens I've had in my homes since then.

That kitchen. Oh my how I loved that kitchen. My memories are many - and still quite vivid. I remember that we rarely used the dining room. I remember sitting around that chrome kitchen table for meals, and continuing to sit for long periods of time after meals talking. Just talking. We three talked about everything. And, my love of sitting around the table talking after a meal has never diminished. I have to feel a small sadness for families today who seem to rarely. if ever, even have a meal around a table together, let alone that special time following the meal. There was always time for Mother and Dad to have another cup of coffee (and yes, that ever present cigarette) just so we could talk.

And I remember the radio playing in the background.

There was always music.

For some reason, even today, when I see an old radio I immediately hear Teresa Brewer in my head singing "Music! Music! Music! - Put Another Nickel In, In the Nickelodeon."

And Bill Haley - oh my! Whenever a Bill Haley and His Comets song came on, my mom and dad would dance. They would dance all over that big ol' kitchen. And they were good! I watched them jitterbug to Bill Haley more times than I can even count.

So, dang. Imagine my surprise when I read "They still dance in the kitchen on Saturday nights, the radio playing the old tunes, Benny Goodman and Harry James and Artie Shaw, . . . " That's Ed Gorman's Sam McCain talking about HIS mom and dad. Not my mom and dad. dang. Oh well, so I now share my memory of Mom and Dad dancing in the kitchen with a fictional character named Sam. I suppose things could be a whole lot worse. How sad to think about neither of us being lucky enough to have that memory.

Donald doesn't know this yet, but he and I have a date to dance in the kitchen tonight . . .


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Kaye, this is a wonderful post. Honestly, I didn't know Ed Gorman had a blog and had written so many books. Or that he was the founder of Mystery Scene! (And I've been reviewed by the thing!) Thanks for educating me. This book sounds wonderful.

I know we grew up in different times, but my parents also used to dance in the kitchen. And my grandmother would do funny little jigs all the time in hers. You really brought me back...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

And something I should have included in my post but forgot - he's also written over 100 short stories. amazing.

Aren't sweet memories just fun?! I love this about your granny!

Auntie Knickers said...

Great post -- and that Teresa Brewer song is one of the first "radio songs" I can remember. I look forward to reading that book, too.

Vicki Lane said...

Lovely nostalgic post, Kaye. You do have a knack . . .

Rob Walker said...

I have had the gret pleasure of knowing Ed long distance for many years, starting with his giving me advice and phone and email conversations during which we helped one another and talked shop. My latest book Dead On is dedicated to him as he acquired the book for Five Star, being now an acquiring editor for Tekno Books. But Ed has extended a hand out to more authors of horror and mystery than any man on the planet. Aside from that, Kaye, I loved your trip down memory lane. I had a rocky upbringing but I recognize a lot of the scenes you depicted here and the music.
Great post as always here.

caryn said...

I am sitting at the computer with tears running down my face remebering that exact scene in my families kitchen when I was growing up-NOT the dancing part, the sitting together around the chrome dinette eating and talking and laughing about the day's doings with the radio playing in the background. My folks weren't much for dancing, but they did sing along. After dinner my dad would still be whistling one of the songs from dinner as he read the paper in the living room.
What a great blog!
FYI, I have the this very book out of the library right now but haven't started it yet. Your post on DL has made me move it closer to the top of the heap.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

I'm so happy you've all enjoyed this. Thank you!

A knack! Vicki, I loved hearing that, and I appreciate it.

Nikki & Caryn - let me know how you like the book. I was able to find the others in this series at and expect all of them to show up pretty soon. (Caryn - you made me cry, sweetie.)

Rob - if you're in touch with Mr. Gorman, tell him, please, I surely am enjoying his Sam McCain!

Bo Parker said...

I find it poignant that you wrote what you did on the day that “Guiding Light” ended after 72 years on radio and television. It was the longest-running daytime drama in American history.

There was a time when the kitchen and the radio, tuned to daytime soap operas or nighttime music programs, were the setting and background for much of what we saw of our parents’ lives inside our home.

It was a time of small pleasures and large dreams. To know how things have changed is to know that the slot for “Guiding Light” will be filled with “The Price is Right.”

Earl Staggs said...

Awww, Kaye Darlin', this is another segment for your memoirs we're going to put together someday. (Yes, we are!) My parents didn't dance at home, but Carol and I did. Oh how we used to dance! I don't mind bragging that when we hit to floor to jitterbug, the other dancers stepped back to watch. Of course, if we tried to "Rock Around The Clock" now, we wouldn't make it past 9.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Earl, my friend - one of these days I hope to see you and your Carol on the dance floor; there's is nothing finer than a couple who loves to dance together. It is truly a thing of joy.

Bo - the irony of "the Price is Right" taking over the time slot for "Guiding Light" is sad beyond belief.