Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Walter Tevis: three uncollected stories (from BLUEBOOK and REDBOOK, 1955-58) and a new documentary with other older documents

Walter Tevis: A Writer's Gambit was debuted on Kentucky Educational Television the other day, and Barry Malzberg let a bunch of us know that it was up online for perusal already, from KET themselves. Whether it will be picked up by the PBS network or nationally syndicated by American Public Television (APT) or NETA (the National Educational Telecommunications Association) or even by KET itself, I don't know yet, but watch this can do worse than watch the hourlong documentary, which is very well done and told me some things about Tevis I didn't know, and which do help to explain the throughline of his work.

Among the interviews dipped into repeatedly in the video is one from 1984 with CBS Radio books guy Don Swaim, and here's the link to the Ohio University Libraries archive of the Swaim unedited audio files, and transcripts, of both the 1984 and a 1983 interview with Swaim.

Further interviews: 
David Pettus in Thrust: Science Fiction and Fantasy in Review, Fall 1987

Patti Abbott, who started this SSW roundelay last year, was recently wondering about who isn't read any longer, among the various sorts of literary lions of decades past...I wasn't so sure we could be too sure, and if anyone's case helps make my point, it would be that of Walter Tevis, whose brilliant work was all but completely out of print, at least in non-E-book form, and all it took was a very well-adapted mini-series and an all but captive audience of Netflix subscribers to make him a hot property again, with new editions of his work coming back in all formats...though a once-mooted expanded volume of Tevis's short fiction, which was well if rather incompletely represented by the 1981 Doubleday volume Far From Home is, as yet, unrealized. 

"The Man from Chicago", Bluebook, January 1955

"Sucker's Game", Redbook, February 1958 

"First Love", Redbook, August 1958

Three good stories, two clearly among the run-ups to writing The Hustler, of which there were several others, I suspect the first being the 1954 Esquire story, "The Best in the Country".  "First Love" is a not quite antiromantic vignette involving married and parental love nine years in, and makes its points gracefully. "The Man From Chicago" and "Sucker's Game" are clearly feeling out the choreography between the characters of Tevis's first novel; the younger pool-hustler in the later story is actually named Eddie, but doesn't yet have a surname. A volume of the proto-Hustler stories could stand by themselves, as the changes rung on the basic sports fiction/con-job situation themes...the English put on the balls in sufficiently interesting to make reading two of the stories in rapid succession rewarding, though as tucked into a larger Tevis Reader, it would make more sense...and neither Tevis nor Eddie and his compeers would look kindly at leaving money on the table (Tevis presumably didn't think adding the proto-Felson stories would add much to the allure of his collection at time of publication; he was excessively modest in some ways).

***And Random House/Vintage is going to take that bet, and intend to release a collection of (presumably) all the Tevis stories they can find (inasmuch as they note that All Tevis's work will be in print at once for the first time) in a Publisher's Weekly press release that Gordon Van Gelder reminded me of (or at least redirected me to). The working title, thanks to The Queen's Gambit and one of the stories going by this title, has been announced as The King is Dead.

Good, as I'd like to read the Esquire and Cosmopolitan and Saturday Evening Post stories that are currently locked behind paywalls, in at least some more convenient form...I have my first edition of Far From Home beside me at the moment, it the subject of a partially written paired review from three years ago in the backfiles here...

Notable, also, the stories in these issues alongside the Tevis items...Robert Bloch's "The Past Master" in the Bluebook along with a Steve Allen short sf story, his first attempt at published fiction apparently, which Judith Merril enjoyed reprinting in her anthologies a few times, a Michael Shaara in the newer Redbook, and others...the Redbook issues were from the period in which the magazine was being marketed to young (heterosexual) couples, with a short story or so in every issue tagged explicitly for Men (though it is telling that "Sucker's Game", so tagged, has a large douche ad in its third page of text), the Bluebook issue (the first to be cover-tagged "the New Bluebook") well into its transition from being the most prestigious and widely-respected of pulp fiction magazines to becoming, however briefly, a men's service magazine with some middle-class uplift and how-to aspects (practicing bowling with your spouse, a series of articles on the service workers who are rarely celebrated), before it fell over the manful cliff into being mostly a True Men's Adventure magazine with some more-expensive content added, a la Saga and True.

From the Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase (ISFDB):
  • Publication: Far from Home
  • Author: Walter Tevis
  • Date: 1981-01-00
  • ISBN: 0-385-17036-X [978-0-385-17036-9]
  • Publisher: Doubleday
For more of this week's Short Story Wednesday entries, 

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