I have never been a fast reader, but from my first adult book, First Blood by David Morrell, which I read at the tender age of 10, I fell in love with the written word. Not all of it. The dry material that was on the school reading list couldn’t hold my attention.
The passing of Peter Straub reminds me of the library that has continued to outgrow the bookshelves I have room for. There were so many wonderful authors to choose from. Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon, F. Paul Wilson, John Skipp and Craig Spector. I could go on and on. Really, I could.
I connected with many of these authors because they were a part of the era I grew up in. The 1970s. For a long time, I was a constant reader of Stephen King, not because he wrote horror but because of his style. King made reading a story like eating your favorite dessert. You identified with a lot of what the author was writing about. The writing was sometimes raw and honest and even fantastic. King and many other authors were comparable to the talent in the music scene of the same era. Creativity was on fire in the 70s and although the music changed in the 80s, the writing just got better.
Getting back to David Morrell, I actually had an online conversation with him through social media. I made a remark about First Blood and how I preferred the ending in the book to the ending in the movie. It felt more real. He told me that Stallone had also wanted the same ending in the novel and they had shot it. He said that when they put it in front of test audiences, they hated it. So they re-shot the ending. If you don’t know, read the book, no doubt you’ve seen some of the movies. I told Morrell how young I was when I read his book, and his response was, that a 10-year-old shouldn’t be reading a book like First Blood.
My response was that with respect I disagree. He reinforced it. “Too young.” Very nice guy. I understand his opinion. He didn’t write the book with a 10-year-old as his target audience. Besides, most kids that age were reading The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew.
First Blood opened my eyes, I loved the language, especially the adult language, and the sex, and the violence, and adults talking about stuff that kids my age weren’t privy to.
First blood was a doorway to a place I’d never been. One that wasn’t censored or sanitized. When I finished the book, I put it down and thought about it for a long time. I grabbed William Peter Blatty’s, The Exorcist and read it. I lost a few nights of sleep from that one, but I kept picking up these adult books while getting a C- on a book report for some boring Bantam Book. If I couldn’t afford a grown-up book, my mom always had a Sidney Sheldon or Harold Robbins novel hanging around. I wasn’t a huge fan of either author, but I got through them. Robbins was easier due to the many sex scenes.
Back to Peter Straub, I think The Talisman co-authored with Stephen King will always be my favorite. There was magic in that book. I got to ask Peter Straub one question when he was doing an interview and that was. “Who came up with the idea for Wolf in The Talisman?” He replied, “That was all Steve,” referring to King.
Such a gentleman.
Farewell, Peter Straub, thank you for inviting us to the fireside.
Thanks for listening.
PS: Be sure to check out the Highwayman Series available in all formats on all platforms in all sorts of places all over the world. We haven’t reached space yet, but I’d love it if you give it a read. If you’re into crime thrillers, you’ll dig this.