When Victor sent me this article yesterday, (which is really a letter to his fans and peers), I was in tears because I’m very fond of him and I can appreciate how difficult it must have been for him to write it. Sadly, there is no one to whom he can pass the torch because he’s unique and so are his books. Victor is held in high esteem by everyone who has read his books or knows him, and for him to lose that wonderful gift, his writing, that he has shared with us for decades, must be a bitter blow, but for his fans his work will live on. Many of Victor’s stories are among my prized collections and I wish selfishly that this day had never arrived. Tough as this article will be for you to read, it was heartbreaking, I’m sure, for Victor to write.
But Tom’s no more – and so no more of Tom …. Lord Byron
It has been more than 2 years now since I had a new novel released, and in that ensuing time, there have been only a handful of short stories, some of them written in the past and recently discovered by me in boxes of old manuscripts, and only a couple of them new material.
Still, I get queries from friends and fans, asking about what will come next – I get this one often: “Will there be another Tom and Stanley book?” How I wish I could answer in the affirmative – but, sadly, no, there is not likely to be another Deadly mystery novel – nor, I think, any novel at all.
The answer is not age – well, it is surely age related, but that’s only a part of it – and not, I assure you, simply laziness on my part. I am not retired and lolly-gagging on some tropical beach somewhere. If only.
The truth is far more prosaic. My brain is damaged. The diabetes which I thought I had well under control, got to it. White matter damage, they tell me, and small vessel damage. One result has been a crippling loss in my mobility. At that, I am lucky, it seems – this kind of brain damage can lead often to Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t have Alzheimer’s, I don’t think – the patients don’t always know, but in most ways, my brain still seems to be functioning. I have asked friends who are close to me to let me or my family know if they think things have gone beyond the normal Heck- I’m- getting-older-stage. So far, so good. I’m not drooling on myself when I eat and I am not mooning the hired help – well, yes, the guy who cuts the grass next door has given me an idea or two, but I think it best if I keep those to myself.
What has gone from me, alas, is the writing, the magic words that used to pour out of me and produced all those novels and short stories. I simply can no longer summon them up. Oh, every once in a while, I can feel the old electricity crackling, as it were, at the tips of my fingers. Then I sit down and write a Cooper’s Hawk, or a Song of India – often, I am not ashamed to tell you, through a veil of tears, but they are tears of gratitude, to have that precious gift back again, if only briefly.
And I am sorry to say, it is briefly. The gift departs as suddenly and as mysteriously as it came, and I return to the not-writing-darkness, knowing full well that at one time or another – perhaps this instance? Or the next? Or…well, one of these times, I will not emerge from that darkness. The writing will be – truly and irrevocably – finished
My last novel was A Deadly Kind of Love for Dreamspinner Press – I doubt that I could convey to you how hard that was for me to write, knowing as I did so that it would not measure up to my best work. I could only pray that it would at least surpass my worst. What might have taken me 2 or 3 weeks in the past took me month after month, and not all of the days nor all of the fist-pounding on my desk top could ever make it the book I wanted it to be. I knew that. But I wanted to write it anyway, and I am glad I did.
My last short piece was my obituary tribute to Jose Sarria – I knew I simply had to write that, out of respect for a man who was throughout my life one of my heroes, but I doubt that I have ever struggled so hard to get words to paper. I went to bed night after night in tears, this time tears of frustration because I could not get the words to say what I so wanted to say. I think, because so many have said they liked the piece, that I came close, but no one is more aware than I of the gulf between what I wanted and what I produced.
In between those two, there have been a couple of short stories. There may, over the next year or so, be a few more, so long as Jay Hartman is willing to publish them for me – for little more, let it be said, than my undying gratitude.
I’m writing this because so many of my friends and fans have asked about my ongoing silence and I wanted them to understand. I do not want, however, to make this a “poor pitiful me” piece. No one knows better than I that I am far better off than many. What a long and felicitous career I have had! How many readers have written to tell me of the pleasure I have given them. I have, I believe, the respect of my peers, which is, in my opinion, no small thing. I believe I have made a difference. I doubt that many have been more committed to the genre of glbt literature than I have been, and I am satisfied with that. My immediate problem is a home, since I have been in this one now more than double what the shop owner and I anticipated when I moved in – but I am working on that also, and remain optimistic. I don’t especially need assistance but I would not be averse to your prayers.
I am sure that most of you will know without my saying, that this too has been difficult for me to write, on so many levels – I am a private person, it is not easy for me to talk about private things – I would prefer that you think of it less as an apologia but rather more as a love letter to the many people who have helped me make a long and successful career out of what was, I know well, a very modest gift.
And, really, in the long run, how much can it matter if there is never another Victor J. Banis novel published? I strongly suspect the world will continue to spin in its orbit. More importantly, I hope that my genre goes on and on, and that gay writers in the future will far surpass anything that I have done, and leave me so totally in the dust that my name will hardly be remembered at all. That, I feel, will be a real payoff for my efforts.
Tom’s no more, then, thank you George Gordon – and so no more of Tom.