Thursday, June 23, 2016


Do most readers skip right past the dedications at the front of a book? Surely, some percentage read them and ponder the names mentioned. Often they come with an explanation, such as “my parents…” or “my husband…” or “my wife…” or “my children…"—or at least an implied explanation.

Despite having read countless dedications in books over the years, when it comes to my own books I find it somewhat tricky to settle on exactly whom to so honor and how to word it. The easy way out is simply to dedicate all of one’s books to one’s significant other—and perhaps also to one’s offspring. I have observed that many authors consistently do just that. There is something satisfying, however, about acknowledging people who directly or indirectly influenced the particular book in question.

For my first book, Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, the content of the dedication was never in much doubt. In addition to my wife and daughter, I had to acknowledge two of my closest friends. One was a major (albeit partial) inspiration for the character of Lonnie McKay. The other was a significant (but again partial) basis for the Mexican street kid Antonio. The latter friend has lived in France for years and was delighted to find his name in the front of the book. “I was moved to tears,” he wrote me in Spanish. Sadly, my other friend did not live to read the book—which I know would have amused him no end—let alone to see his name in the dedication. He passed away after a interesting and challenging and all-too-short life, nine months before the first (Kindle) version of the book appeared. It has fallen to people who knew him during his teenage years to read the book and be amused in his stead.

When it came to The Three Towers of Afranor, since it was a product of purely fanciful imagination, it seemed appropriate to honor the influences that had caused my creative juices to flow at the time I came up with the original story. There were many, but I settled on three. J.R.R. Tolkien is obvious. What reader with any interest at all in fantasy has not been influenced or inspired by that titan of the genre? The day I discovered The Fellowship of the Ring in my school library was a major turning point. I recall greedily holding on to each volume of The Lord of the Rings until the last possible day before penalties were incurred.

Stan Lee is another well-known name—much better known now than it was when I was reading Marvel comic books back in the 1960s. I identified with him because he was the writer of the comic books. For a long time he was seemingly the only writer Marvel had. In fact much of the creative work in The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Mighty Thor (the comic that most influenced my tale of Afranor) and all the other titles was done by the illustrators. By rights I should have included Jack Kirby’s name along with Lee’s. For simplicity’s sake, though, I let Lee’s name stand in for Kirby and all the other talent at Marvel that turned out such an amazing and consistent torrent of adventures.

The name that may not be familiar to you is that of Dan Curtis. Like Stan Lee, he is a stand-in for many talented, imaginative people. He was the impressario who created and produced the 1966-71 daytime serial Dark Shadows. But he did not write any of the screenplays and directed only a handful of its 1,225 episodes. Helming chores were led by television pioneer Lela Swift along with contributions from directors like Henry Kaplan and John Sedwick. The cumulatively massive job of day-to-day writing of the saga fell to scribes like Art Wallace in the early days and later Gordon Russell and Sam Hall. You can credit my years of watching Dark Shadows for any of the gothic touches you find in The Three Towers of Afranor.

I also included my high school Spanish teacher in the dedication. She gave the assignment that provided me a pretext for dreaming up the original story and writing it down—in Spanish. I have not been in contact with her for decades, and I am sure she would be very amused to find her name in the book. Like the other dedicatees she is really a placeholder for all of the great teachers I have had in the language arts.

And once again I had to include my kid in the dedication. She not only provided the pretext for keeping the old tale alive as a bedtime story but she is the one who firmly encouraged me to finally put it down on paper—in English.

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