This is the 93rd in my series of Forgotten Books.
Recently Ardath Mayhar passed away. I was shocked. Ardath had always been around the Texas writing scene. I had known her for at least 30 years. I met her at about the same time I met Joe Lansdale. They were frequently together in those days, sharing a ride to a convention and talking about books and short stories.
A few years ago I worked with her while SFWA was preparing to make her their Author Emeritus. The most fun day I can recall in quite a while was calling her up to tall her of the honor and making sure she was going to be present to get the award. She was thrilled in the way that only Ardath could be thrilled.
She wrote in a distinctive way. It was part story teller, part myth, part poetry and all passion. She wrote fantasies beautifully and may perhaps be the most poetic in that genre since Lord Dunsany. Her novels of Texas, such as THE WORLD ENDS IN HICKORY HOLLOW, THE ABSOLUTELY PERFECT HORSE and CARROTS AND MIGGLE are unique regional tales. HICKORY HOLLOW is also one of the best post apocalyptic tales you can read. Sadly, it was published by Doubleday in a throwaway hardcover edition and never had a real mass market paperback to allow it to reach a real audience. Cascade Mountains Press did a paperback in 1998, 13 years after it was initially published and Wildside Press did one in 2007 but these did not have the far reaching appeal of her Ace paperbacks or other large publishers.
Her style was so universal that she was selected to do the first LITTLE FUZZY novel published after the death of H. Beam Piper. GOLDEN DREAMS was successful as a Fuzzy novel and as an Ardath novel.
MEAN LITTLE OLD LADY AT WORK (MLOLAW) was the first short story collection of Ardath’s work. In 2009 Wildside did a collection called STRANGE DOIN’S IN THE PINEY WOODS which I have never seen. She wrote quite a few short pieces and was good at the short tale. This volume features 11 stories published from 1981 through 1992 and one previously unpublished story, along with an introduction from Joe R. Lansdale and illustrations by Don Schank. You can see the development of her style from the early pieces and the assurance she brought to a story in the later works.
I really enjoyed the first story, from 1992, “A Harping of Waters” quite a bit as well as a psychic detective piece “Echo of Thunder” from 1981. Several stories are not set in fantasy worlds, such as 1990’s “The Anthologist “ about a serial killer. Most of the stories have a fantasy setting to them and that is fine.
This is a short book, less than 100 pages. It is not the memorial volume we should have, but I guess it will do until one comes along. As I looked over the Internets today I saw one copy at ABE ($15) and none on eBay though many of her books were available there. Read one of her works this week if you can or whenever if you cannot. You will become enthralled all over again and isn’t that what Sense of Wonder is all about.
Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.