How did LOVE SONG by Phil Farmer come about? Not quite as most people might think.
And right up front, I have to say: I’m as responsible for its existence as any other person living or dead.
That’s what you call a narrative hook! And now that I have you by the line, I’ll reel you in with the following confession.
The other day I happened, through a series of events on line, to discover Phil Farmer’s website http://www.pjfarmer.com/. There I skimmed and scanned. Saw his listings of books and came across the LOVE SONG title, which I’d forgotten all about. That brought memories swiftly back.
One of them was the fact that one of dad’s Amazing Stories covers was used for Phil’s ebook GREEN ODYSSEY at Fictionwise.com. I have no objections to this, of course. I’ve done much the same thing with a lot of dad’s cover art for my own ebooks to be found on Fictionwise.com, too. And in fact used the original covers of other books I’d written which didn’t contain dad’s art. I suppose we all do this.
Seems a common reality that all artists and writers face on the internet.
In any case, that’s merely a side issue.
In the 1960’s on I was fairly active not only in writing, but also in packaging pocket books for local publishers in the Los Angles area. It all started out with Bob Pike who bought an original manuscript from me “Lost City of the Damned” for which I convinced him to us my father as the cover artist. Dad, Al Nuetzell, had made a reputation for himself as a s-f cover artists during the 1950’s, selling to Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Stories, Famous Monsters of Filmland. So this was the first cover he did for one of my books and the led to finally our teaming together to do a number of packaging jobs. [Earl has asked me to do an article on that period of my professional life, and I plan on doing so in the near future. But enough to say there were a number of projects that came into being after that first round with Pike Books.]
As a result of all this I had ended up working with a very good artists, after Dad had died in 1969. Bill Hughes by name.
Well, now. I was sitting one day by the phone and I got a call from Bill who was doing covers for RUBICON CLASSICS, a line of adult novels. I’d been packaging books for Powell Publications, using Bill as the cover artist after my father had become too ill to continue doing them for me. Bill was an outstanding cover artist and graphics man. I was lucky to meet and know him.
Well, anyway, he told me about this new line of sex novels, and would I be interested in taking over the packaging of it? The man packaging them for the publisher wanted out of the deal. So a new guy was being recommend: me, if I was interested.
Well, I was never the one to turn down a good deal. And this one looked excellent. They were paying a very good price for original novels. All they wanted was a lot of graphic sex. The publisher told me: The ideal story would have been a literary classic. Natch. And he'd love it to be nothing more than one prolonged seductive scene offering all the graphic details of two lovers sharing a magic moment of mutual passion. That kinda set a rather obvious editorial policy. WOW! And in a manuscript running some 200 pages or more! Give me a break! But advances were half on signing the contract, the rest on delivery of the final book, if I remember right. And solid delivery to the authors!
I remember that I was fairly busy with a number or writing and packaging deals at the time and was delighted that a cover artist (Bill Hughes) and a built in editor was part of this packaging deal. All I’d have to do was get the manuscripts from writers and write the cover lines. I didn’t even have to read the bloody stories. The editor would call me up and tell me what the book was all about and I’d use that information to do the required flyleaf and cover copy. This would be handed over to Bill who would have it all set up in type and then would lay the cover graphics all nicely together with his artwork.
A sweet deal with a bit of money in my pocket for very little effort on my part.
And for the writers it was a sure sale. Well, okay, that depended on the writers. I, being somewhat interested in an easy, fast buck, decided to go for some fairly well established writers who would deliver – and on deadline.
I decided I could tease some good writers into considering doing business with me. I contacted my own agent Forrest J Ackerman and got the phone numbers and addresses of some serious top grade writers. Okay. Writers who were not your standard sex book novelist, but rather into other more literary fields, like s-f. Or to put it another way: established professionals. [Or even put another way: Phil Farmer who was famous for his “The Lovers” a short novel that had broken all literary boundaries when it appeared in a s-f pulp magazine back in the 1950’s, would be an ideal choice. Back then, when this story originally appeared in print, the idea of sex in s-f was like oil and water. Bad mix. You couldn’t have one with the other. One or the other, but not mated. Well, not until Farmer exploded onto the publishing field with this story.]
Well, who could be better than a Mr. Phil Jose Farmer? Forry seemed to think this nice fellow would be more than willing to consider such a project as I was offering up.
So, along with a number of other writers I contacted him and what a delightful experience that turned out to be. He was very professional about it, and able to bring it all together on deadline and deliver the final manuscript without any problems. A total professional, of course. Natch.
Well, as it turned out RUBICON CLASSICS didn’t last long. This was around 1969-1970 and things came crashing down on the country, one of those depressive recessions. It wasn’t the only local publisher to feel the crunch. In fact Powell Publications was squeezed by the months on end where even truck drivers were pulling back and not doing their best to deliver pocketbooks to local distributors. When the books don’t get from the printer to the local newsstand something has to give! And that’s the publisher, unless they have enough money behind them to survive the prolonged crunch. Some didn’t make it by choice. The publisher of RUBICON CLASSICS decided to pull up stakes and take his losses.
Thus, there was the Phil Farmer manuscript, all paid for (that was one of the prime features of the deal: full advance on delivery of the manuscript). So what was he to do?
Well, I lost track of it all at that time and was into other things – surviving.
The next thing I learn is that Brandon House, the local BIG PUBLISHING HOUSE for hard cord sex books and magazines, had released LOVE SONG by Phillip Jose Farmer. This was, in fact, one of the bigger publishers in and around Los Angeles area. [As an interesting point, they were out with Fanny Hill before any New York publisher could got their editions on the stands.]
So. I just wanted to put the record straight. Brandon House may have ended up with LOVE SONG, but it would never have existed if Bill Hughes hadn’t called me and suggested I take over that packaging job for RUBICON CLASSICS.
To see the webversion with other pictures and material