Discovering an Author That Everybody Knew About (a continuing series)

Cover illustration for "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane"

I don’t have a good memory for names, even book authors, which is a terrible trait for a writer who hoped to get into the industry.

It was only a few years ago that I realized that the Father Brown mystery books (admittedly, I had only read one at that point) were written by the famous writer G. K. Chesterton. I only found this out after buying a Kindle edition of Chesterton’s complete works, and finally read the rest of the Father Brown stories and much more besides.

I was a lot older than I should have been when I discovered that Ray Bradbury (an author whose name is very familiar to me) wrote noir detective stories.

Today, I was looking at a post on Facebook from my writers’ group about a rabbit named Edward Tulane. I had never heard of this book before, which gives you some idea of my scholarship in this field. So I looked up the book, and then immediately looked up Kate DiCamillo. I found out that she had written Because of Winn Dixie, Flora and Ulysses, and The Tale of Despereaux, all of which I had heard of, along with The Magician’s Elephant, which I actually have tagged on Netflix to watch soon.

I imagine more professional writers know all this stuff, and have read almost every book in their field. I’ll never be that thorough–writing is my second job and probably always will be. But at least I can have the fun of discovering things even if I’m far from the first. I remember introducing someone to Terry Pratchett who had never read him before. I almost envied him the joy of treading that ground for the first time. And that was fun, too.

E-book cover issues, continued

I complained in an earlier post how Ray Bradbury’s e-books were, in my opinion, badly treated as far as covers went.

I’m a fan of Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series. His latest book (Skin Game) just came out, so I picked up a new Dresden book in Kindle format for the first time. At the same time, there was an Amazon deal for the first seven Kindle books for $1.99 each, and what the heck, I snapped those up too.

Just for fun, before checking out the new book I started re-reading the series from the beginning, purchasing the remainder of the books as I went (not $1.99 each, unfortunately).

As with Bradbury’s books, most of the Kindle books had no cover at the beginning at all, just the title text and author. This was disappointing, as the Dresden series has some really nice covers on their hardbacks.

Oddly, three of the books did have actual illustrated covers. Blood Rites and Cold Days had the hardcover illustrations. Summer Knight had an illustration (not the standard hardcover one), but it was about the size of a postage stamp on my screen. This is a common Kindle graphic formatting error, but with a cover illustration it’s one you almost have to work at to screw up during the Kindle publishing process.

Come on, publishers! Your e-book designs reflect on your authors as much as the hardcovers in the store windows.

(For an example of a publisher that seems to have really worked hard on their e-books, check out the Harry Potter series, which you can only buy directly at the Pottermore website.)


Bradbury Kindle books: wonderful text and hack covers.

Steven Paul Leiva, a friend and colleague of Bradbury’s, comments here.

More “back of the bus” treatment of e-book backlists, I guess.

Particularly annoying to me was the scrapping of the Charles Addams cover for “From the Dust Returned.” Fortunately, there’s a nice hard copy on my shelf with the full front-to-back illustration.

Here’s the hard copy cover:

Charles Addams cover for print version of

And here’s the Kindle version:

Kindle cover for


As a Kindle user who would love to see many of my old shelf favorites on my Kindle as well, I wish I could say this was rare, but too many publishers (big companies, too) just hack out their backlist, assuming they bother at all. I’m not talking about obscure authors, either.

I wish I had a nickel for every e-book I have that was obviously shoved through a scanner/OCR process and put together quickly, apparently with no final proofreading. OCR typos are quite easy to spot.

This isn’t the worst example I’ve seen of a cheesy “make do” cover, either.

This half-assed approach is annoying–but at least understandable–for two or three dollar e-books created by amateurs (legally) from old authors in the public domain (Kipling and such.) I’m not sure what the excuse is for an author in print whose rights are still held by major companies.

I’ll take what I can get, and I understand that the backlist isn’t a major profit driver, but geeze.


Ray Harryhausen, RIP

Ray Harryhausen has died at the age of 93.

Ray Harryhausen

Harryhausen was a master of movies, not a writer, but anyone my age who loves fantasy and science fiction books was into his movie work at least as much as they were into the written work of Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, and all the rest.

Bradbury in particular was a close friend of Harryhausen’s. Most people know that Harryhausen’s Beast From 20,000 Fathoms was based on Bradbury’s story “The Fog Horn,” but not as many know that Bradbury’s short story, “Tyrannosaurus Rex” was based on Harryhausen.

If you’ve got some time to kill, here are the full versions of Jason and the Argonauts, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, and the “Tyrannosaurus Rex” episode of Ray Bradbury Theater.

DailyMotion link

DailyMotion link

YouTube link

Ray Bradbury, RIP

Ray Bradbury died yesterday. He was 91.

People who like to write fantasy and science fiction may remember a phase they went through when they tried to write like Ray Bradbury. Well, at least I did, back in high school. This turned out to be a lot like trying to follow a Tolkien elf through deep snow: you watch in amazement as he dances lightly over the snow ahead of you, barely leaving a mark, while you slog through the drifts, up to your waist and struggling for every step.

There was some Bradbury I liked better than other Bradbury, but none of it was bad. I have a shelf of his most famous work. It’s still growing. I hadn’t kept up you see, and while I’d gotten copies of new works when I learned of them I was amazed to find–at a used bookstore–two books of his that I had never read or even heard of. Short stories and detective novels! After all this time, I finally got to meet Elmo Crumley.

Needless to say, I did a sweep of the internet and found a few more new/old Bradbury books to fill in the gaps.

There are words in foreign languages for things that don’t have good English words that quite fit. There should be one for the wonderful feeling you get when you find out a favorite author wrote a bunch of things ten years ago that you haven’t read yet.

The number of people he inspired to become writers must be legion.

In my other life as a space entrepreneur and rocket designer, Bradbury stood as one of my greatest inspirations there too, with his love of space and people going out there. A Muse for all seasons.

Neil Gaiman, another snow dancer who makes wordsmithing seem so effortless, wrote about Bradbury’s passing on his journal.