Friday, April 18, 2008

Harry Arnston

I had a pleasant surprise a few months ago--Terry Arnston, the wife of the late author Harry Arnston, emailed me with a few tidbits about her husband and his work. We then swapped a few emails and I feel like I not only know Harry better as a man--he was always a disembodied email or bulletin board post to me as a teenager--but I also learned something about his body of work.

Harry was a true artist. His technique and skill improved with each novel and I can only imagine where it would be today if he was still writing. And, very probably more importantly, he was generous to not only his fellow writers, but also to those who were unproven. In my recollection his posts were always kind and helpful. He always had a good word for a teenager--me!--who knew more about fantasy and imagination than the reality of writing and story-telling.

Here is a sampling of what Terry wrote about Harry.

Harry published nine books in a ten year period. Baxter's Coice, Death Shock, The Third Illusion, Trade Off, The Venus Diaries, The Warning, Body of Evidence (a novelization of the Madonna movie, which he hated with a passion), Act of Passion, and The Big One. Several [of Harry's novels] were optioned for film several times, but were never made. He was published in 14 countries; Japan, China, Lithuania, etc. He wrote one other novel, American Terrorist, but it was never published. I tried to sell it but no one was interested in publishing a deceased author; no more manuscripts to come and they felt the subject was too frightening--blowing up the capital in Washington D.C. Of course 9/11 hadn't happened. Harry was always prescient.

The Prodigy years were some of his happiest. He loved helping new writers in what was, I guess, the precursor to the blogs. He spent an hour or so each evening answering questions and teaching on Harry's Bar & Grill. It was a great site and I was truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of notes I received when he died. There were several hundred. Harry also taught at various writer's conferences, Southcoast Writers, Eckard College, Southern Writers at University of Georgia, (he was from Toronto, Canada but proud to be an American citizen.)

He had a million stories in his head [and] never took more than two weeks off between books. One of his legacies was helping establish the Florida Chapter of Mystery Wrtiers of America, which honored him at the Edgar Award dinner. The other legacy was to me, and it was inspiring me and teaching me to write. I have published five books under the pen name Catherine Arnold. I had finished my first manuscript in 1995, which he edited and sold under a two book contract that was signed a few months before he died. The Catherine Arnold titles are: Due Process, Imperfect Justice, Wrongful Death, Class Action, and Journey.

Ben here: I'm more impressed by Harry and his work each time I read one of his novels, and after corresponding with Terry that appreciation has skyrocketed. And damn how I would love to see American Terrorist in print. I've been reading and rereading a few of his novels over the past several months--I just finished his novel Trade Off and plan on writing a review when I find time--and they have each retained an impact that is still relevant. It would be great to see one of the paperback houses--maybe Leisure--put a few of his titles back on the shelves. And print American Terrorist while they're at it.

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