Thursday, April 15, 2010

Comings and Goings

Okay, I lied... This post isn't about "comings" and "goings" (plural), exactly. It's being written to commemorate one "coming" (a birth, or more precisely, someone's birthday) and one "going" (a death, that of someone I'm pretty sure you've all heard of, even though he was born and died in the nineteenth century).

1. The "Coming"

April 13th was the 82nd birthday of Herman Raucher, who is probably best known as the author of the hugely successful screenplay and novel, Summer of '42.

Usually, when I list authors whom I admire and/or have been influenced by at some point, I refer to writers of the distant, or more recent, past: Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Jack Kerouac...

It's not that I don't like anyone who's current (and I'm using a very liberal sense of the word "current"). At one point, several years ago, I joined the Stephen King Library with the intention of reading everything King had ever written... until I realized that he was writing 'em faster than I could read 'em.

But Herman Raucher, whose Summer of '42 I read when I was about fourteen, was truly an influence on my style.

Summer of '42 was originally a screenplay by Raucher, which was sold to Warner Brothers after having collected dust since the 1950s! During the film's production in 1971, the studio suggested to Raucher that a novel released just prior to the movie would help build interest, and he was naturally asked to write it. What he ended up writing -- it was his very first novel, by the way -- became a colossal best seller.

Why did I buy it? I was "about fourteen," remember? I'd heard it was a book about sex. This was in the early 1970s, when you had to go a lot further than today's spam emails to find "dirty stuff."

I was immediately hooked by Raucher's writing style, so "hooked" that I never bemoaned the lack of pornographic touches. He not only told the tale from the perspective of his younger self, "Hermie," but his narrative voice (as the adult Herman) was full of wisecracks about the events as they occurred, and I'd never encountered that before.

I often write like that, in case I had to tell any of you.

So... Happy Birthday, Mr. Raucher!

2. The "Going"

I won't bother to show a photo of the man here, but today is the 145th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln, who was shot by John Wilkes Booth on the previous night of April 14th, 1865. I won't go into all the details here, either, assuming you've heard them before now. They were in all the papers, after all.

It strikes me as rather odd that unlike most historical assassins, Booth was a celebrity before his cold-blooded act of murder. He was a well-known, popular actor from an acclaimed family of actors. Try to picture someone like Drew Barrymore putting a bullet in former prez George W. Bush!

I've always had a particular affinity for Lincoln, perhaps linked to the fact that the last successful assassination attempt on a US president -- John F. Kennedy -- occurred during my own youth.

Several years ago (early 1990s), I had an idea for a planned comic book called The Two Mr. Lincolns. (I got the initial idea from the title -- and only the title -- of a TV-movie or mini-series starring Ann-Margret called The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.) It involved a still-alive Lincoln, who had made a companion of a young man named Dave Lincoln in the present. (Dave Lincoln was not related to Abe in any way, I should mention; there are living descendants of the president, but none have the Lincoln name.)

The Two Mr. Lincolns was planned as an ongoing storyline which would be fleshed out in several loosely-connected comic book mini-series. Each story would have its own tone. It could be a serious murder mystery, or an outlandish spoof of some kind, or even a "space opera" story. I thought it had lots of potential. I even discussed the concept with a couple of artists.

A few years after "discuss[ing] the concept with a couple of artists," writer/artist Scott McCloud -- who was not one of those artists -- came out with a graphic novel called The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln. Scott McCloud is an extremely talented gent whose imaginative story, also involving Lincoln in the present (along with a second "Lincoln" who was an alien impostor, IIRC), had absolutely nothing in common with mine, thankfully... but I'll always wonder if one of the artists I did talk to about my series had a later conversation with Mr. McCloud, a conversation which sparked McCloud's own idea.

Oh, well, it is an incestuous little business, innit?

Thanks for your time.


  1. Who can tell what sparks ideas in more places than one? I happens a lot in Blogland, I find...

  2. I really can't picture sweet little Drew Barrymore as an assassin. John Malkovitch yes... but not "Drewsie."

  3. Ach! Skip! Sweet little innocent assassins are the most diabolical (and scary) kind!

  4. The two Lincolns...what an interesting idea!

    I'm going to read My Island when I have some spare time...whenever that may be...but it is on my mental To Do list. :)

  5. Did you know they just uncovered a silent film with Lincoln in it? It was discovered in a barn...


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