Here’s an email that came in this afternoon:
Dear Mr. Block,
After a few pages of a pretty bad paperback novel I was reading on my train, I gave up and bought Gigolo Johnny Wells on my Kindle on a whim.
I have read a lot of your books, maybe most of them and I must tell you GJW was top tier. Your afterword mentioned a sequel and that you were producing a lot of material, but it certainly did not feel hurried at all. It is just a good story and even a touch moralistic, if you don’t mind me saying so.
I must say the scene in the clothing store was a lot of fun. I could so easily picture this transpiring in my mind. It’s these scenes of transformation of a character that I just love.
Thanks so much for a fun train ride (not an easy thing to make fun)…
P.S. I’ll bet in a million years you never thought when you wrote that people would be buying it electronically 50 years later! I’m really glad we can.
I’ll tell you, my correspondent is certainly right about that last part. When I wrote the book in 1961, I assumed it would disappear within the decade, and could imagine neither its survival in printed form or any such thing as electronic media. And that was fine with me; in fact, there was a long stretch of years when I was comforted by the notion that my early books were not printed on acid-free paper. God speed the acid, I’d say.
Well, that was then and this is now, and I take a different tack these days. In recent years I’ve found myself happy to welcome all of my early pseudonymous works back into the fold as if they were all prodigal sons and daughters. Ego and avarice, the matched steeds that pull my chariot, no doubt have much to do with this, but they’re not the whole story. I’ve come to realize that it’s not my job to decide for others which of my books are worth their time and attention. Readers are fully capable of deciding for themselves what entertains and enlightens them and what bores them and wastes their time. They don’t need critics to make up their minds for them, they don’t need the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of traditional publishing, and they certainly don’t need addlepated writer with an exalted opinion of some of his work and an urge to disown the rest.
I don’t remember much of some of those early books, but Gigolo Johnny Wells has lingered in memory, and I can recall parts of it quite vividly. (Interestingly enough, the two scenes cited in the email above, in which the eponymous protagonist first purchases and later upgrades his wardrobe, are sharpest in memory.) I don’t know what my original title may have been, but Nightstand Books published it as Lover, which was okay, and then crossed me up by requesting a sequel. (I think this bright idea was came from Harlan Ellison, who was editing there at the time.) By then I had hired a ghostwriter, and IIRC he had the thankless task of bringing Johnny Wells back to life. At least I think that’s what happened; all I know for sure is that my recent efforts to turn up any trace of a sequel have led nowhere.
Never mind. When I was pondering which Andrew Shaw titles to republish, Lover came at once to mind, along with Campus Tramp and a couple of others. I dashed off an afterword for the Open Road edition, and gave the book a new and improved title. Gigolo Johnny Wells. Yes, by God, I like the sound of that…
And you can read it for yourself, on your Nook or Kindle or Jim-Dandy Microwave Oven, whatever works for you. There’s even an audiobook, available from Audible, and if you think that was a possibility I had in mind back in 1961, yours is a rather more limber imagination than mine.