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Lawrence Block is Jill Emerson: Shadows (USA 2016)

From the Publisher:
One morning in the spring of 1958 I woke up in my room at the Hotel Alexandria with a paralyzing hangover (which was not unusual) and an idea for a book (which was). I sat in front of my typewriter, and within a few hours I had produced a chapter-by-chapter outline of a novel. I had all the characters sketched out and knew how they'd relate to one another, and how the rather elementary storyline would resolve itself. I even had a title: SHADOWS.

At the time I was working as an editor at a shady literary agency, but I'd already arranged for my departure, as I'd be resuming college in the fall in Ohio. Sometime in May I gave up my room at the Alexandria and went home to Buffalo, where I turned that outline into a book. My agent sent it to Crest Books, then the country's premier publisher of lesbian fiction.

They spent a couple of months reading it and thinking it over, during which time I wrote and sold several lesser books to Harry Shorten's Midwood Books. Then, a couple of months after I'd returned to Antioch and gone through a lot of sturm und drang that needn't concern us here, Crest accepted Shadows. They had some editorial suggestions, and the only one that bothered me was their insistence that I cut a chapter in which one character, Peggy, gets drunk after a love affair ends badly, and is raped on her way home. The editor thought it was extraneous, and for years it bothered me that I hadn't stood up for my auctorial rights.

They changed my title to STRANGE ARE THE WAYS OF LOVE. They also changed my pen name. I'd known a lesbian novel ought to have a woman's name on it, and I picked Rhoda Moore. They decided on Leslie Evans instead, so it could be gender-neutral, and then switched it to Lesley Evans, which made it more specifically female. Welcome to publishing, young man. Or young woman, or whatever the hell you are...

Okay. It's clear to me now, almost 60 years later, that the book ought to set sail under its original title, and since I'm republishing it myself, that's a decision I get to make. It's also clear to me that SHADOWS is in fact Jill Emerson's very first novel, as it's far more of a piece with WARM AND WILLING and ENOUGH OF SORROW than with anything else I've written. So that's how I'll publish it, right? As SHADOWS, dammit, by Jill Emerson-and while I'm at it, why not restore that missing chapter?

So I started reading the book. I don't much like looking at my early work. Once, when a publisher was issuing a collection of my earliest magazine fiction, he asked if I'd reread the stories and write an introduction; "One or the other," was my reply. Reading SHADOWS was an experience, as there was so much I didn't remember. I'd put Jan in my first NYC apartment: 54 Barrow Street. I'd sent her to Caricatures, my favorite MacDougal Street coffeehouse. I remembered the lesbian bar, The Shadows; in real life it called itself Swing Rendezvous, and Jan wouldn't have had much trouble hooking up there.

And the writing struck me as okay. "This kid can write," I said to myself, "and maybe someday he will."

But here's the stunner. I was looking for the place where that Peggy chapter used to be, and what I found was...the chapter itself! It had been hiding in plain sight for over half a century. All along I thought I'd let myself be talked out of it, and resented that editor while berating myself for knuckling under, and the damned chapter was right there.

Go know. I'd been all set to recreate that chapter, matching my style to Jill's, and now I didn't have to. So I changed something else.. There are a couple of scenes in which Laura criticizes Peggy for her potty mouth, and it was hard to know why, as Peggy didn't say anything stronger than "pain in the ass" and "goddamned." Well, how could she, back in 1958? In print, that is to say? So I spiced up her speech a little and let her say the F word.

Lawrence Block is Jill Emerson: Shadows. CreateSpace Publishing, ISBN: 9781539543329 (October, 2016), 196 p., $9.99.






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