RARA-AVIS: Lawrence Block as Paul Kavanagh

From: DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net
Date: 01 Nov 2007

Paul Kavanagh is not listed as a pseudonym in the Library of Congress Card Catalog's entry for Such Men Are Dangerous: A Novel of Violence.  Indeed, the first printings of the book, both its 1969 hardback and its 1970 paperback reprinting keep up the illusion with the following prefaces (which don't seem to be in later reprints):
  Publisher's Note
              The manuscript of this novel was mailed to us some months ago.  The envelope was postmarked Miami and bore a postoffice box in that city as a return address.  A line on the title page indicated that the book was "by J.O. Kerr."  Readings by several members of our editorial staff   led to a nearly unanimous decision to publish the work, and a letter and contract were sent to Mr. Kerr at the given address.
              Not long afterward we received a letter with a Key West postmark and no return address.  The correspondent identified himself as the user of the pseudonym "J.O. Kerr" and consented to the publication of the work, with several stipulations.  "J.O. Kerr" was to be replaced as the author of record by "Paul Kavanagh"-which is the name of the book's lead character.  No contract would be signed; instead, this letter would serve as proof of the author's consent to the terms therein set forth.  All rights in the manuscript were turned over to the publisher, now and forever, on the condition that the publisher in turn donate the sum of one dollar to the charity of the publisher's choice.  Finally, the publisher would respect the author's desire to privacy and make no attempt to identify him, locate him, or enter into communication with him.
              The letter also included the following disclaimer notice, which we quote:
            All names which appear in this work are fictitious, including that of the author and protagonist.  There are no such places as Mushroom Key or Little Table Key in Florida or elsewhere, nor is there a town called Sprayhorn in South Dakota.  Neither the characters nor the locations and events herein described are based on any real persons, locations and events.  All that follows is the product of a man's imagination, and if any resemblances seem to exist between all or part of this work and real life in our real world, the author is sorry about that.
            After due consideration, we did dispatch a letter to "J.O. Kerr" in care of his Miami address, requesting clarification on certain points.  This letter was returned with the information that the addressee had relinquished the box and had left no forwarding address.  We hope Kerr-Kavanagh will forgive us for this, our first and last attempt to make contact with him.
            In view of the circumstances surrounding the manuscript and of the peculiar language of the disclaimer, we at once made every effort to determine whether the book was in fact a work of fiction.  After exceptional investigation, we can only state that we have been wholly incapable of confirming the existence of any of the book's characters or events.  Queries to governmental agencies have brought either immediate unequivocal denial or, in several instances, no reply whatsoever.  We have been unable to equate the unnamed intelligence agency in the book with any existing agency, nor can we establish the existence of any military operation comparable to that mentioned here as being located in the nonexistent town of Sprayhorn, South Dakota.
            We have thus had no course but to publish this book as a novel, and to echo the author's own disclaimer:  We assume this to be a work of the imagination, and if any resemblance is detected to real persons, places, events or institutions, we, too, are sorry.
            As a final word we might add that we have chosen to be somewhat more liberal than Kerr-Kavanagh has required.  Full royalties in accordance with established publishing industry standards will be paid to a charity or charities selected by our editorial board.
  Editor's Preface
              The editorial preparation of Such Men Are Dangerous presented certain problems which might be of general interest.  Since policy forbids arbitrary editorial changes without he author's consent, and since "Kerr-Kavanagh" was wholly inaccessible, the text which follows is a virtual verbatim copy of  the original typescript.  Certain structural alterations which might otherwise have been recommended to the author were not made, nor were even the most minute points of syntax revised.
            The reader will in a few instances note a failure of agreement between subject and verb and other departures from standard English usage.  There is a thin line separating grammatical inaccuracy from narrative style, and this is most notably the case in the first person narrative form.  No doubt
"Kerr-Kavanagh" himself would have insisted upon several changes had they been suggested to him.  Nevertheless it seemed preferable to err on the side of permissiveness and let the chips of grammar fall upon the rich soil of stylistic idiosyncracy, as it were.
            A variety of minor editorial chores were performed, however.  "Kerr-Kavanagh" showed a cavalier disinterest in consistency of capitalization, and here accepted standards were followed, with one exception:  the intelligence agency, never identified by name, appeared in every instance as "the Agency."  It was presumed that the author had a reason for this unusual use of the upper case and it remains untouched.
            The original manuscript was not divided into chapters.  After long consideration and careful study, the decision was made to apportion the book into eighteen chapters.  If the author has strong feelings to the contrary, he need only inform us and future editions will be corrected accordingly.
            Obviously, typographical errors, liberally salted throughout the original script, have of course been rendered correctly.
            The title is "Kerr-Kavanagh's" own.  It is presumably a reference to the familiar pejorative description of Cassius in Julius Caesar.  Since the author did not suggest that the passage be quoted as a frontispiece, we have elected to omit it.
  Paul Kavanagh is one hard man. He almost makes Parker seem warm, and loquacious. After being rejected as too much of a sociopath for "the Agency," Kavanagh, the character, just wants to left alone on his small island. However, an Agency man tracks him down and for one nasty job.

The illusion of Such Men being autobiography was ruined in 1971 when a second Paul Kavanagh book came out, The Triumph of Evil.  This was another "novel of violence," but this time it was a third person narrative about a seemingly mild mannered assassin (a preview of Block's later Keller?).
  A third novel by Paul Kavanagh, this time listed in the LCCC as a pseudonym, came out in 1974.  Not Comin' Home to You is a fictionalized account of the killing spree by Charlie Starkweather and Caril Fugate that was also the basis of the great film Badlands.
  All three were later reprinted with Block's name on the cover.  All three are well worth reading, but the first, Such Men Are Dangerous is an outright classic.

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