Tom Reamy

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Tom Reamy

Postby DavidTate on Friday, 17 January 2014, 10:24 pm

Tom Reamy died young, in 1977. He left behind one novel (Blind Voices), one short story anthology (San Diego Lightfoot Sue and Other Stories), and a scant handful of uncollected stories. He also left behind a lot of very disappointed readers, who had thought that they were onto something big.

To call his tiny body of work 'uneven' would be an understatement. But there are many people who feel that the novel and the best of the stories are as good as anything produced during the 1970s, which is saying something.

The most anthologized of the stories is probably "The Detwiler Boy", a gem of hardboiled horror.

The most disturbing of the stories, at least to my past self who read these decades ago, is "Under the Hollywood Sign". Harlan Ellison, in his introduction to the collection, wrote
"Under the Hollywood Sign," I think, is a perfect example of that one quadruple somersault from the highest bars that Tom could manage again and again, but which Reamy-clones never seem able to pull off. In this piece, as I say, we can hear the singular voice of Tom Reamy, singing a dangerous song of primal fears so deep and yet so commonplace that we automatically reject them, precisely because they may be universally shared. No one likes to imagine him- or herself as a potential point-beast ready to run with the slavering pack.

The best-reviewed story of the collection is the title story, "San Diego Lightfoot Sue", which I read in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction when it first appeared in 1975. It has also been anthologized a few times.

The story "Twilla" is an effective and disturbing horror piece of the sort Zenna Henderson might have written if she were not nearly as nice a person as she was.

My teen self loved the story "Insects in Amber", which is a shameless teenage wish-fulfillment story, and the weakest of the lot by any objective measure.

I have never read Blind Voices; I have never even seen a copy of it. Those who have read it speak very highly of it.
David Tate
Professor of Story Problems, emeritus
Rationalist with sombrero
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