RARA-AVIS: Ralph Dennis and the 70s

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 20 Jan 2003

In a message dated 1/20/03 4:02:57 AM Eastern Standard Time, owner-rara-avis@icomm.ca writes:

 Great stories, Richard, and thanks to Bill and you. Ralph Dennis
 goes on my TBR stack. I wondered why publishers dropped him.
 Market pressures? Fickle reading public? All of the above.
 Ed Lynskey

My original article appeared in Mystery Scene and was reprinted when Dennis died. Ed Gorman was a Dennis fan and Mystery Scene also printed an appreciation by David Everson, who had a nice series going about Ilinois politics. Everson became a correspondent of Dennis and he and I later discussed Dennis. I do not have the copies of Mystery Scene to hand to refresh my memory.

The key problem was that the editor that was Dennis' champion was let go and his replacement did not take up the slack. Whether the new editor didn't care for Ralph's work or just was primed to dislike everything by his predicessor does not make much of a difference. He lost his champion and he was dead meat after that.

Also, I have to notice that his hardback novel MacTAGGART'S WAR (1979) was not (to my knowledge) reprinted in paperback. It was a very ambitious novel and was of a type to be of interest to movie makers at the time but it didn't hit and the failure to get a paperback sale had to have hurt him. I very much liked the novel, which was a historical caper story that concerned the gold bullion shipped from England to Canada in June 1940. It had its flaws as Dennis overreached his abilities but it was superior to similar novels of the period.

Aside from the orphaning of his work, the reprinting started on his Hardman series with the third novel but that did not extend to the others as planned.
 It just wasn't to be.

I do know that Dennis was friends with Ben Jones of "The Dukes of Hazard" TV series fame and worked on some projects with him. Jones now has a museum some miles south of me and I hope to visit and meet him and ask about Dennis.
 Jones was elected to Congress about the time of Dennis' death so I can only assume that anything they were working on took second place to the political needs of Jones.

A couple of additions to my earlier post. I went into great detail about Oxford Books without mentioning that the stores died as a result of national chain pressure. I had it in there and then edited it out. The main store died along with the used outlet Oxford Too.

Also, I said I wanted to reconnect with his sister without mentioning that she had copies of his unsold novels. If I ever win the lottery or want to put it all on the line, publishing Dennis is something I would likely do. I do believe him when he said he pushed the envelope on anti-heroes and I also think this might have hurt him in that period and today might not be a problem.

Maybe one day I will see.

And damn you Bill Crider for egging me on. You knew you would set me off although you probably didn't count on the loop to Jud Sapp and all the rest.

Richard Moore

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