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Authors: Ed Gorman

Shadow Games

BOOK: Shadow Games
3.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

By Ed Gorman



First Digital Edition published by Crossroad Press & Macabre Ink Digital

Copyright 2011 by Ed Gorman

Cover Design by David Dodd


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Cast in Dark Waters
(with Tom Piccirilli)

Nightmare Child

Voodoo Moon


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For Martin H. Greenberg

A special thanks to Larry
for his editorial work.


"It is hard to laugh at the need for beauty and romance, no matter how tasteless, even horrible, the results of that need are. But it is easy to sigh. Few things are sadder than the truly monstrous."

—Nathanael West,
The Day of the Locust

My cousin Bobby Driscoll won a special Academy Award in 1949. He was a fine child actor. While this novel is in no way about him, it is about the sad ends met by some of Hollywood's most talented teenagers.

Introduction to
Shadow Games

ome books come real easy and some are pure plain hell.

According to the calendar I keep, I spent four months in 1991 writing
Shadow Games
. The first draft came out to 382 pages. I threw them all away.

The second draft came to 401 pages and took six-and-a-half weeks to write. I threw it away.

The third draft ran to 367 pages and it was this one I submitted to the editor. I'd spent 16 weeks on the third go-round.

While I haven't kept any correspondence about the book, I do recall that my editor wanted several changes.

This was an editor I liked. We'd worked on two previous books of mine and his suggestions had significantly improved both of them. But on this one his suggestions didn't seem appropriate. This was a very special book to me so, in the end, in a mutually amicable fashion, my agent withdrew the novel from consideration.

Why was
Shadow Games
so important to me?

In 1949, a twelve-year-old child star named Bobby Driscoll won a special Oscar for appearing in the Cornell
The Window

Bobby was my first cousin. I had a special relationship in that I spent much of my youth walking in his shoes—literally. We were the same size so quite frequently I received boxes of clothes and shoes from Hollywood. As befitting a star, Bobby had a big budget for clothes and I was one of the main beneficiaries. He had to stay fashionable so I got his cast-offs.

Bobby's most notable successes were with Disney. Among other films, he did
Song of The South
Treasure Island
and was the voice-over for Peter Pan. In a nine-year period, he earned more than a million dollars, which was unheard-of for a child star in those days. (All this said, my favorite Bobby-picture remains
The Window
. Somewhere in the Gorman family vault is a photo of Bobby, co-star Barbara Hale and author Cornell
on the set.)

Unfortunately, Bobby came to a grim end. Though he married and fathered three children, he got into drugs and crime, and ended up in prison. He finally headed east to do stage work that was very well reviewed but was not enough to support him financially. Two children found his corpse in an abandoned tenement. He died of a methadone reaction. He'd been trying to kick junk. He was buried in a pauper's grave without anybody knowing who he'd been. Only after an intensive search by his mother and a private investigator was the body located and returned to California for proper burial.

That's why
Shadow Games
was so important for me.

For, though it was not about Bobby in any specific way, its theme was child stardom and I had certain things I wanted to say and I wanted to say them my way.

The problem was, my editor had been correct. Not even the third draft of
Shadow Games
was quite right.

I set the book aside and started writing another. This one went quickly and well and sold for decent money and for a time I forgot about
Shadow Games
, knowing I'd probably go back to it someday but not sure when.

At this point I met a young local writer named Larry
. I'd read some of his stories and was impressed. He knew what he was doing. He was also a house husband with two beautiful little daughters and a few free hours a day on his hands. I asked if he wanted to be my assistant—go through manuscripts, handle correspondence, things like that—and luckily he said yes.

One day, he asked me if I had any more manuscripts for him to read and I told him about
Shadow Games

He took it home and called me a few days later and said he'd made a lot of notes on how he felt the book should be edited and could he bring them over.

Well, he brought them over and proceeded to turn
Shadow Games
into a novel that was a whole lot better than I'd been able to make it on my own.

I spent a month following his editorial advice, sent the new manuscript to London where my agent was waiting for it, and we sold it in (I believe) three days. A few months later
The London Sunday Times
gave it a rave review and thereby got me launched, for the first serious time, in Europe.

Thank you, Larry, very much.


Even the people who like
Shadow Games
—and not everybody is up for its dark and occasionally grisly humor—see why it's had such a hard time selling to the big commercial publishers in the states. The protagonist doesn't appear until near the end of the first act; you are asked to understand (though not sympathize with) a pretty repellent character, namely
Daniels; and the ending is a knife-twist of icy rage. Not exactly the kind of strong-heroine-fights-insurmountable-odds-and-brings-peace-and-immortality-to-the-civilized-world book that those big commercial places are looking for. And yet it has found a growing audience in Europe. Not only have the reviews been good, it has also generated a lot of mail from people who have found it not just darkly amusing but oddly tender in places, too. They also seem to like my take on the lower echelons of show business. I worked for a time in a syndicated television and got to include a lot of war stories here.

It's only natural for a writer to like some of his books better than others. Thanks to Larry
, I like
Shadow Games
quite a lot and hope you will, too.


—Ed Gorman

July 18, 1994


know a lot of people think I'm a goody-goody because of my role on the show. Well, what's wrong with being a clean-cut, all-American teenager?"

Daniels, interviewed in
Teen Scene
, August, 1984


The police are saying that you pulled a knife on the waitress because she wouldn't serve you liquor. Any comments?


Yeah, just one. Why don't you fuck off, you asshole?

Daniels responding to KABC-TV reporter, May, 1985


I'm an alcoholic. I can't touch the stuff. It's poison to me. Literally.



interviewed in
Rolling Stone

"Notes from the Asylum," November, 1988




ust before three that afternoon, on a cool spring day in Miami, Florida, it became quite apparent that the girl—a fourteen-year-old named Kimberly
—really was missing. Which was just what her mother had been insisting to the officials of
Mall for the past hour-and-a-half.

The usual proceedings then took place.

Kimberly's name was put on the loudspeaker every five minutes ("Would Kimberly
please come to the mall offices right away") and the mall security force, overweight people in starchy blue uniforms and thick-soled earth shoes for comfort, were given her description and told to look hard for her.

The trouble was, her description—"five-three, one hundred pounds, long, blonde hair, blue eyes, white blouse, designer jeans, argyle socks, penny loafers and a pretty face"—could easily fit at least two hundred girls who happened to be roaming around the mall just now.

Because today was the day when the nation's hottest teen star,
Daniels, the main attraction on NBC's number one sitcom,
Family Life
, was making three appearances at

He'd already done one earlier in the day, just before noon, and security had been awful: thirty-eight hundred teenage girls trampling anything in their way to get closer to the small, makeshift stage set up in the center of an open area. Mothers had gotten trampled, little brothers had gotten trampled, merely curious sales clerks had gotten trampled, and certainly security personnel—God, they only made minimum wage—had gotten trampled.

All so these crazed, hormonal, shrieking little girls could rush the stage and literally tear at the clothes of a handsome, blond, icily grinning, blue-eyed heartthrob who was lip-
synching to his new number one record, "Won't You Be My Special Baby?"

BOOK: Shadow Games
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