Otto Penzler, the famed (and irascible) bookseller, critic and editor, is the subject of Elaine Flinn's latest interview over on Evil E. I wanted to share two of his responses, both dealing with Ross Thomas. (The questions were asked, in order, by myself and Jason Starr.)
DAVID: I know you’re a great admirer of the work of the late Ross Thomas, as am I. Is there anyone writing today whose work you’d compare with his?
OTTO: No. The spectacularly gifted Ross Thomas was in a class by himself. The closest I’ve ever read is Thomas Perry, whose Metzger’s Dog was so Ross Thomas-like that I almost thought Ross had written it under a pseudonym. Perry’s later books retain the similar, clear prose style, but the plots are not as varied as Thomas’. If you ever read someone as good as Ross Thomas, please let me know immediately.
JASON: What are the three most memorable books that you’ve edited?
OTTO: The Dark Fantastic by Stanley Ellin, a book about a racist that his regular publisher for more than 20 years, Random House, and the legendary editor, Robert Loomis, didn’t have the guts to publish. Out on the Rim by Ross Thomas, the first of a three-book contract for which he was paid a million dollars. I begged him to bring back Artie Wu and Quincey Durant, the stars of Chinaman’s Chance, and he did. Then, in the original version of the manuscript, he killed Georgia Blue, a character with whom I’d fallen head-over-heels in love. He allowed me to browbeat him into saving her life. Blood on the Moon by James Elroy. It was titled L.A. Death Trip and had three times as much violence as the published version, still one of the most violent books one is likely to read. Rewritten several times over an 18-month period, it was the first hardcover book of Elroy’s career and the beginning of a long friendship.
The whole interview is fascinating, so hop on over and check it out.