Remembering Ron Goulart

We’re saddened to note the passing of our long-time friend, supporter, and contributor Ron Goulart, who died January 14 at age 89.

Author of more than a hundred books in his 70-year career, Ron’s history with AHMM dates from the early 60s with his story “Lost Tiger,” and he was a beloved contributor through the ensuing decades. A prolific author of novels and short stories, he was also a knowledgeable and dedicated fan of popular culture in many of its guises, including television, pulp fiction, comic books, and more, and he produced illuminating reference works on such topics. His fiction was constantly informed by and engaged with these interests.

Ron himself penned a wonderful reminiscence of his relationship with AHMM over the years, which was published in our 60th anniversary issue. We offer it here in memory of our friend and colleague:

From Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, December 2016

Ron Goulart, contributor

Many long years ago, when the world was new and I didn’t walk with a cane, a friend of mine and I decided to conquer Hollywood. We’d start with writing for TV shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, McHale’s Navy, The Jetsons, and Dobie Gillis. Then we’d graduate to motion pictures.

I had moved down from Berkeley to a cozy (make that small) apartment in Westwood, within walking distance of UCLA. I was writing, and sometimes selling, short stories to science fiction magazines and doing a little freelance advertising, mostly radio spots.

One of the other shows we tried to sell to was, as I recall, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Maybe this is what inspired me to try the magazine as a possible market. Our dreams of glory, as far as television was concerned, did not come true. In 1963 I submitted my first yarn, as I called them then, to AHMM via my then agent. The story was “Lost Tiger” and dealt with a missing girl who was her cartoonist father’s inspiration for his very successful comic strip Tiny Tiger. It was a private eye yarn and I was very much under the spell of ’30s and ’40s pulp magazine writers at the time. The lady who was handling my account at the agency sent me a note from the editorial department, and that must have been from Gladys Decker. She liked the story but the dialogue was much too hardboiled, and profane. If I could clean up my act, they’d like to see it again. I did and they bought it and the pages of the December 1963 issue marked my debut.

According to my records, I didn’t sell another story to AHMM until 1966. By then a fellow named Ernie Hutter was editor and the story he bought was “The Tin Ear.” This introduced my private eye John Easy. The magazine, possibly influenced by the Hitchcock television shows, made frequent use of what was called in the 19th century the biter bit approach or later the digging a hole and falling in it yourself approach. I fashioned quite a few of these and Hutter bought several—“The Trouble Was,” “Pick Poor Robin Clean,” “News From Nowhere,” etc. To the September 1971 issue I sold “Orczy Must Go” and that introduced the Adman series. I eventually wrote about a dozen of these. The anonymous Adman never actively participates in any of the murderous activities he talks about but simply listens and observes as a succession of prideful and compulsive characters confide their assorted schemes on how to achieve success, revenge, love, and money.

Eleanor Sullivan became the editor of Ellery Queen in 1970 and for a time also edited the Hitchcock magazine. I’d met her at a Bouchercon early in her career, and she seemed to like me and my work. She bought eight more of the Adman stories. Then in the early eighties, she seemed to lose interest in his career and after a couple of terse rejection notes I suspended chronicling his encounters for a time. A shorter-lived series involved Scrib Merlin, a would-be stand-up comic who was also an adman, but in Manhattan. He had an affinity for being on the scene of dying messages. The initial caper ran in Hitchcock in the November 1981 issue.

Eleanor did use other stuff from me and she purchased “Suspense,” which appeared in the July 1981 issue. This was the only story of mine that Ed Hoch ever bought for his version of the Year’s Best Mystery Stories. He wrote me a note with his offer, claiming that he just couldn’t help himself and that this one was just too good to pass up. I envisioned him tossing and turning for several nights in making his decision to include a Goulart story. He was a nice guy, though.

Cathleen Jordan took over the mag later in 1981. She was a very pleasant editor to work with. She invited me to lunch soon after she began and told me I was one of the regulars she intended to continue to use. I came up with yet another series. The first one in what became a bunch of yarns about a girl who was a part-time model, a cartoonist who drew and produced her own underground comic book, Bertha the Biker, and a compulsive liar was titled “How to Win at Russian Roulette.” Like Scrib, she mellowed and eventually she and the animation cartoonist she was living with married. I was meaning to let Casey and Wes have children, but by the time I got around to it, Casey was possibly too old. That’s the old wheeze about your characters having lives of their own and ignoring their authors. An earlier planned series-that-wasn’t made it through but two yarns. It dealt with an amateur detective who had an exceptional sense of smell. The first one was “Private Nose” in January 1982. The second was “Nose Job” and that ended the run. Too bad, because I had a list of titles for several more—”Follow Your Nose,” “Keep Your Nose Out of My Business,” “Hold Your Nose.” Maybe Cathleen was wise to end it early.

And of course my current Hitchcock editor is a gem, but since she’s going to be reading this I have to be circumspect.

I’ve been concentrating on nonfiction lately and have a new book about the life and work of Alex Raymond just out. But maybe, one fine day. . . .

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