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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Before We Even Met


This week several writers are remembering a man who was an influence, a peer and a friend. Maybe you’ve heard of him or read his works. Maybe, if you are very lucky, you had the chance to meet him in person.

His name is Charles L. Grant, and I knew him as Charlie.  He died ten years ago and I miss him.

Charlie was a powerful, subtle and always entertaining wrier. He knew how to bring a shiver down my spine (NOT an easy task, rest assured) with a few words. He also understood and appreciated the art of subtle storytelling. Not everyone gets that. There are a lot of writers out there whom I enjoy, but a goodly number of those very people simply do not have the skills required to make a quiet shiver.

The first time I met Charlie, he was gracious and kind. The second time I met him he chewed me up one side and down the other for not taking care of business properly when it came to my career. He yelled at me regularly about things like getting an agent and reading my contracts carefully. He was, in many ways, a mentor to me when I was just starting out. Rest assured, a substantial portion of the advice I give to other people I learned from him.

Charlie lived in northern New Jersey and I lived in Georgia. Most of the time when we talked it was at conventions or occasionally on a long distance call that, back then, cost more than we probably should have spent as writers.

Except, of course, when I was reading his works. At those times, we talked endlessly. We chatted about the lives of the characters he created from thin air and breathed life into. Well before I met Charlie in person, he’d told me all about THE PET, and took time to sit at THE TEA PARTY (My very first excursion into Charlie’s writing and one that still sticks with me today.) I read every volume of SHADOWS, the anthology that Charlie edited, as soon as I could get my hands on it.

Charlie was a monster when it came to writing. Look him up and you’ll only sew a few books, but he edited a lot, he wrote a lot and he sold a lot under pseudonyms. Lionel Fenn wrote mysteries. Simon Lake wrote horror and suspense. Felicia Andrews wrote gothic romances. They were all Charles L. Grant, who made my output seem insignificant in comparison.

Charlie was an amazing writer.

Charlie was a drinker and a smoker. They took their toll on him in the end and he left us far earlier than anyone would have liked. I point that out only because it wrenches my soul to think about how different the world would have been if he’d been with us for longer.

Charlie lived in New Jersey when he passed. I still lived in Georgia. I could not make it to his funeral. I still miss him.

But when I miss him the most, when I think about his laugh and it gets stuck in my head, I go over to my library and I choose a book from his rather extensive collection of works, and we talk again, like old times, before we even met.



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