EVEN MORE Bathos from the Fires of Hell

Introduction by Fender Tucker, Publisher


Jack Moskovitz has turned me into a real publisher. Before Jack I had never done such publisherlike things as suggest a revision of a manuscript, or reject a manuscript, or piss off a pulp icon by sending him a crappy review copy. That’s not the kind of publisher I was at Ramble House. I hadn’t learned my evil publisher chops. I’ve always considered myself a guy who gets literature printed. We mainly publish authors who have been conveniently out of the business for 50 years or more, usually due to their deaths of old age around the time of WWII. But we do have a few live authors and Jack Moskovitz is one of my favorites. My introduction to our first Moskovitz novel, HELL FIRE, tells how it began:

In late June of 2009 I received a letter (with SASE) from a Jack Moskovitz of Omaha NE asking me if I’d be interested in publishing his new hardboiled novel, HELL FIRE. It was typed on an old . . . typewriter and as unusual as that was, the book it-self was even more surprising . . . Here was one of those guys I read about in SIN-A-RAMA, a writer who risked going to jail for pressing a forbidden sequence of keys.

I was also intrigued by the typewriter, since it reminded me of the manuscripts of Harry Stephen Keeler’s that were loaned to me years back by Francis M. Nevins. Typewritten manuscripts are quaint, nostalgic and sincere, but most of all, they are extreme bitches to OCR and edit. But Jack said that even if I didn’t find the story publishable, I’d still have a hell of a read.

He was right. My first thought as I read and edited the badly OCRed text was: Remember all those stories you read or see on TV and in the movies where they simply ignore the fact that human beings generally excrete a few times a day? Stories whose plots would be drastically different if the author had to explain how the two Hollywood hostages maintained their splendid coifs and pristine pants, even though they were tied back to back for three days? Talk about too much, too soon!

Well, Jack makes up for those wimpy plots with a vengeance. He pulls no punches and he even throws in a bladder problem that had me cringing with every descriptive sentence. Yow! This is really scary! I’m sorry, but the most dreadful word in the English language has to be the word “catheter”.

But what really impressed me about Jack’s writing was his all-out attack on pronouns. Obviously he’s not getting paid by the word because he leaves out practically every opening pronoun he can. Makes the action move real fast. Can’t put the book down. Gotta get to the next paragraph.

I imagine if Jack had sent this to a major publisher they would have wanted him to beef it up to 400 pages and get into the details of that catheter thing, but I like this story just the way it is. It reminds me of the guitars in the early Beatle songs: raw, brash, a little bit arrogant. And most of all, authentic.

Not long after we came out with HELL FIRE Jack sent me a similar manuscript for a book called STRANGERS AT THE DANCE. It had a lot of the same elements as HELL FIRE (disgusting smells, cryptic plots involving ambiguous morality) but about half of the book was devoted to talk about putting on a stage musical. With lots of lyrics. I spent quite a bit of time getting it into publishable form from the ill-copied typing, but just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. I couldn’t imagine anyone liking the whole book. Half of it was bound to make the reader question his sanity for spending his time reading the other half.

So I rejected my first book as a publisher. Jack took it well and soon sent me SAVAGE HIGHWAY, a book that was in the same universe as HELL FIRE. It had all the unique Moskovicisms of the first novel and none of the lyrics of the second.

In the meantime I had sent out a few copies of HELL FIRE to friends in the business with ties to the good old days of 50s and 60s sleaze, including the estimable Earl Kemp. I was hoping he might remember Jack from back when and enjoy this 21st Century stab by the old author.

Well, Earl didn’t exactly enjoy the book. He didn’t say anything about the catheter, or the smells, or the odd Moskovitz style of leaving off pronouns, but he did have a bone to pick with my editing. In fact, he berated me in the style of Jack (showing that at least some of the Moskovitz effluvium rubbed off on him) for leaving in all sorts of typos, erroros, and inconsistencies that he felt I, as an editor, should have fixed. His e-mail to me was what you might call a “reaming”.

I felt properly chastised because I had left in a lot of things that I would normally have changed for a long dead author. I had never changed an author’s style before and I considered all the things I left in as simply quirks of an old sleaze writer. For instance, HELL FIRE concerns neo-Nazis who speak in modern Nazi slang. They use the term “herr” a lot. So when I read about someone referring to “herr old guy” I thought it was correct. I still do. Earl didn’t. He thought it was a bad editing error.

But Earl convinced me to make the book much more rational, stylewise, and I was now an official evil editor/publisher who messes with an author’s sacrosanct words. So both of Jack’s first modern novels were in print as skinny trade paperbacks at the Ramble house site and Amazon. Not many sold. The realities of print-on-demand publishing dictate a certain price and skinny books for $18 aren’t very appealing. Which is why, when Jack sent me two more novellas this year, BODY IN THE ALLEY and CAGED!, I decided to glom all four stories together in a pungent slumgullion of sleaze.

I guarantee you that in this book’s 370 pages you’ll encounter more disgusting odors than William S. Burroughs ever dreamed of describing. You truly get your money’s worth of odoriferousness with THE STENCH OF DEATH. Don’t be concerned with what the stories are “about”. I’m not sure I was ever able to determine who’s good or bad, or even what the hell they’re talking about, but I do have a firm grasp on what Midwesterners smell like — and you will too.

I’m even going to send a copy to Earl Kemp. And guess what? Jack bought a nice new electric typewriter with new ribbons and now it’s quite easy to OCR his manuscripts accurately. So you can expect more of his smell-o-rama novels in the near future. My nose can hardly wait.