DIGGING A LITTLE DEEPER : AN INTERVIEW WITH JEFF VORZIMMER
Jeff Vorzimmer is an author who is as famous as a curator. Many authors, particularly of the paperback variety would have been lost if it wasn't for the work he does with Stark House Press. He has brought back the importance of Manhunt, the crime fiction magazine in the fifties and sixties in a series of collections. His last two in the series The Best Of Manhunt 3 and The Best Of Manhunt 4: Jack Ritchie stood out from the previous two with no loss in quality or entertainment. We caught up to with this very busy man who already has other Stark House books out.
SCOTT MONTGOMERY: Do you see any difference from Best of Manhunt 3 from the other two books?
JEFF VORZIMMER : I learned a lot in producing the first two volumes. What quickly became apparent with the first volume was that all best stories to appear in Manhunt couldn’t fit into just one volume, even though we did feature 39 stories. I fought hard with agents to get the stories I considered the very best for what I thought would be the only “Best of” anthology. I haggled with agents and spent months tracking down long-dead authors’ families.
When The Best of Manhunt became the best selling title of the year for Stark House Press, Greg Shepard, the publisher, asked for a follow up volume. Of course, I had nearly enough stories left over from the first volume to fill yet another. But the focus of all the follow up volumes was to dig a little deeper to uncover stories by lesser-known authors and to feature stories by bigger name authors, some of whom only had one story ever published in the magazine.
Between the publication of Manhunt 2 and Manhunt 3, Peter Enfantino and I partnered on The Manhunt Companion, an issue by issue guide to the entire 15 years of Manhunt magazine. We featured brief reviews of every single story. Needless to say we uncovered some real gems while reading every issue. There are great stories by virtually unknown authors. This was our major focus, along with featuring more stories by well-known authors such as those by Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler, William P. McGivern, Brett Halliday and Joe Gores.
S.M. :Who are some of these lesser known authors you showcase in the collection that would be great discoveries for readers?
J.V. : Great, but lesser-known authors who appear in Manhunt 3 include Don Lowry, Robert Page Jones, Michael Zuroy and Jack Q. Lynn. I think readers will delight in “discovering” these writers as much as we did.
S.M. : You mentioned Raymond Chandler, whose story “Pencil” you included in this volume. Was that the last time he featured Marlowe in a story?
J.V. : That was in fact Raymond Chandler’s last story, appearing posthumously, a year after his death, in Manhunt as “Wrong Pigeon”.
S.M. : For the next Manhunt collection, you focused on Jack Ritchie. How did he get chosen?
J.V. : Interesting story of great timing. After negotiating the rights to stories by Edward D. Hoch, Robert Edmond Alter and Jack Ritchie for the previous volumes, I developed a relationship with agent Jack Byrne who had represented those authors, and now their literary estates, along with his now-deceased partner Larry Sternig. One day in September of 2022, I was talking on the phone with Jack, telling him I was preparing a third Manhunt volume and wanted to include stories by Jack Ritchie and Robert Edmond Alter. He mentioned that Ritchie’s family intended to dedicate his work to the public domain within the next week. I had foreknowledge of something I could capitalize on. Jack Byrne was going to turn over his entire file on Jack Ritchie to the public domain and in the process I managed to get copies of every Jack Ritchie story and free rein to publish them. Since I was just finishing up production of Manhunt 3, I had the idea of publishing just a volume of Jack Ritchie’s Manhunt Stories as Manhunt 4. Greg Shepard was happy to have two more Manhunt collections instead of one.
S.M. : Ritchie has an ability to tell a full story, with action, plot twists, emotion, and developed characters in a very small amount of words. Do you have a theory on how he repeatedly pulled that off?
J.V. : Jack Ritchie was a master of the short story and had no interest in writing in any other form. His constant focus was in telling a story in as quick and concise a way as possible, leaving out what Elmore Leonard would later call the “parts that people tend to skip.” Ritchie’s work was definitely influenced by great American short story writers O’Henry and Poe. I call Ritchie the Hard-boiled O’Henry.
S.M. : What story in the collection would you consider the epitome of what he did?
J.V. : That’s an easy one—“Shatter Proof”. Only 1500 words with a fantastic twist ending. It’s about a man coming face to face with his assassin and the deft move he makes to foil the attempt.
S.M. : You also just released a collection of trailer tramp books. How would you describe the genre?
J.V. : Lesbian on wheels. The books in Trailer Tramps actually fall into the intersection of two sub-categories of mid-century erotica, the trailer camp novel and the lesbian novel. Besides being good stories these books are interesting studies in post WWII culture.