Thursday, February 19, 2009

Andrew Fox and The Good Humor Man

A very welcome surprise arrived in the mail today: the Advance Reader Copy of Andrew Fox's new novel, The Good Humor Man, Or, Calorie 3501 -- from here on to be referred to as simply GHM (but don't let the simplicity of these three letters detract from the quality of this very fine novel).

Andy emailed me in January 2008, with the subject line: "A Novel Which May Perk Your Interest." And indeed it did! In this novel, the entire health of the world is at stake, but there is just enough wit to take the edge off. To use a well-worn cliché, this book has everything: a Middle Eastern assassin, gun-toting women, high-speed chases, pop culture excesses, mystery, romance, and most important of all -- Elvis Presley! (Elvis himself isn't actually in the novel, but let's just say that part of him is!) The story line moves from Los Angeles, to Memphis, to New Orleans, to Tampa, and finally to -- where else? -- Las Vegas! The story also deals with such issues as government-sponsored health care, anti-obesity laws, elderly dementia, agri-cloning, and body image. Have I left anything out? (Actually, what's left?)

Andy, along with his agent Denise Dumars (of the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency), had been trying to find a home for GHM for quite a while. A number of editors liked the novel but couldn't figure out how to market it, or they felt it was too over-the-top, or they didn't like the humor (or they were really worried their boss -- or his/her boss -- wouldn't like it), ad nauseam. As for me, the "serious yet sardonic" style of the writing reminded me of the work of both Terry Bisson and James Morrow, and thus Tachyon Publications, who regularly publish these two authors, immediately came to mind. I contacted publisher Jacob Weisman, and told him about the novel. To make a long story short, Jacob acquired GHM, I edited it (along with a great effort by the author himself), and now we have the actual book.

The Good Humor Man is a postmodern Fahrenheit 451, with a dash of Carl Hiaasen, that dares to ask the question: Can Elvis save the world sixty-four years after his death?

Did you know that Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is based on a previously written novella entitled "The Fireman"? So GHM not only pays tribute to Bradbury in terms of its title, but also down to the setting and tone of the book's final scene (which mirrors 451's). Of course, GHM wouldn't even exist -- at least in its present form -- if not for George Alec Effinger. Andy, a long-time resident of New Orleans, was a student of George's, and Andy told me that George had read and critiqued the first half of the novel before his untimely death in 2002. I plan to blog more about my work with, and on behalf of, George Alec Effinger, but for now, just a bit of history . . .

I placed a "letter" in Locus online back in March 2003 requesting recommendations from readers for their favorite George Alec Effinger stories for a collection I was putting together at the time. Andy responded, and that's how he and I first made contact. His favorite Effinger story, "White Hats" (from Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, April 1984), didn't make it into the collection, but Andy and I stayed in touch. And when I put together the third (and last) Effinger collection, A Thousand Deaths (Golden Gryphon Press, 2007), I asked Andy to contribute to the book, given his long-time relationship, both professional and as a friend, with George Alec Effinger. Andy wrote a very moving, sincere 10,000-word afterword.

But enough from me, and about George Alec Effinger. Andrew Fox's The Good Humor Man is available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Powell's Books, and probably from wherever else you purchase your books. So, what are you waiting for? Go!

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