o/t: His Artist Wife

Earlier this year the John Joseph Adams-edited US magazine Lightspeed bought reprint rights in my novelette “His Artist Wife,” originally published a yonk or two ago in the Andy Cox-edited UK magazine Black Static.

Lightspeed has now put “His Artist Wife” up on the intertubes for all to read for FREEEEE, so please go and read it on the magazine’s site!

And, while you’re there, do think of buying the issue or even a subscription, so Lightspeed can continue to buy stories by me and other, far finer writers.

In the meantime, here as a taster are the first few paras of “His Artist Wife”:

You’re far more likely to have heard of my artist wife Lucille Hrade than of me. Her paintings have a way of communicating directly to people. They’re realistic—you can see the subjects of her portraits breathe, feel the heat of her sun-baked landscapes—but at the same time, like Andrew Wyeth’s work, they have just enough of what I call the askew in them to make you think you’re daringly enjoying experimental art. They’re ideal for feeding the pseudointellectual pretensions of the readers of color magazines, too, which is the main reason you’d be bound to recognize her work, even if her name doesn’t immediately mean anything to you.

It sounds as if I’m denigrating her art, but I’m not. Unlike many of the other painters whose stuff fills the mags you find in dentists’ waiting rooms, she’s good. There are paintings of hers not just in the Museum of Modern Art but in the Met. London’s Tate Gallery has a couple, and there’s one in the National Portrait Gallery there. Three in the Louvre, and so on. She’s a truly gifted artist.


The odd thing, though, is that, if you weren’t looking at one of her pictures while waiting your turn at the dentist, you might just possibly, at least until a few years ago, have been reading a paperback by me. Not that I’d expect you to recognize my name. I used it on a few short stories and one or two of my early novels, back in the mid-1960s, but as soon as my pace really picked up I had to start using pseudonyms. From 1964 until recently, over thirty years later, I hardly ever published less than a book a month, and some months saw two or even three appear. All paperbacks, of course—almost all, anyway; in the beginning there was a small spattering of hardcovers before my publishers realized where my true talents lay. I’ve written romances. I’ve written Westerns. I’ve written “adult” novels. I’ve written thrillers and mysteries and discreet erotica for ladies—some gay erotica, too, although I find that more difficult because I’m not gay. I’ve written fantasy and science fiction; I’ve picked up a couple of minor awards in those fields. My series of cozy detective stories featuring Fenella Reade was particularly successful; every now and then I think of adding to it. And then there are the books I’ve ghostwritten . . .

I was probably the last great King of the Pulps, and my reign was a long one.

Now that the mass market paperback’s popularity is ebbing, my output’s doing likewise. No problem. Even leaving aside Lucy’s earnings, I’ve managed to put aside enough money to keep me in comfort indefinitely. For the first time since I was nineteen, excited by the appearance of my debut novel—with my name on it, my real name!—I can sit back and take my time, no agent on my neck to insist that everything be done with an eye to selling-points. I can write the novels I dreamed of writing when I started off along this helterskelter road my life has been.

That’s the hope, at least.

In practice, it’s proving a little more difficult than I’d expected.

• • • •

Lucy was killed by a dagger through her heart. They found her body in the old St. Petrock cemetery, draped across the gravestone of one Harmony G. Wright, who died in 1799. For some time the cops tried to find if there was any significance in the choice of tomb—was Harmony G. Wright an ancestor of Lucy’s perhaps?—but that line of investigation led them nowhere.

Well, obviously it wouldn’t.

As soon as the decencies allowed after Lucy’s death, I moved my computer and my books in here, to the room that served as her studio for so many years and which I think will, long after all of us have been forgotten, retain a whiff of paint and turps and linseed oil; the smell has saturated the walls. There’s the scent of remembered Lucy in the air, too, equally permanent but perhaps detectable only by me; a scent of sun and olives and red wine.

Before moving in here, I used to work in a far smaller room at the back of the house. It has smaller windows, too, although that’s no great suffering since there’s nothing to see in that direction except, in the distance, the back wall of what used to be a . . .

And here’s the link again for the rest of it: LINK.


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