Unless you are really into mysteries, you probably know this author as Jack Vance. That is how I first met this writer, that is, through the worlds he created in the fields of Science Fiction and Fantasy. But I encourage you to discover his mysteries as well.
For example, Vance's two rural Northern California mysteries featuring Sheriff Joe Bain were well received by the critics. The New York Times said of The Fox Valley Murders: "Mr. Vance has created the county with the same detailed and loving care with which, in the science fiction he writes as Jack Vance, he can create a believable alien planet." And Dorothy B. Hughes, in The Los Angeles Times, wrote that it was "fat with character and scene".
As for the second Bain novel, The New York Times said: "I like regionalism in American detective stories, and I enjoy reading about the problems of a rural county sheriff ... and I bless John Holbrook Vance for the best job of satisfying these tastes with his wonderful tales of Sheriff Joe Bain ...".
John Holbrook "Jack" Vance (August 28, 1916 – May 26, 2013) was an American mystery, fantasy and science fiction writer. Though most of the author's work has been published under the name of Jack Vance, he also wrote 11 mystery novels using his full name John Holbrook Vance, as well as three under the pseudonym Ellery Queen, and once each using the pseudonyms Alan Wade, Peter Held, John van See, and Jay Kavanse.
Vance won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and he was a Guest of Honor at the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention in Orlando, Florida. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America made him its 14th Grand Master in 1997 and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2001, its sixth class of two deceased and two living writers.
Random bits on Jack Vance
For most of his career, Vance's work suffered the vicissitudes common to most writers in his chosen field: ephemeral publication of stories in magazine form, short-lived softcover editions, insensitive editing beyond his control. As he became more widely recognized, conditions improved, and his works became internationally renowned among aficionados.
Much of his work has been translated into several languages, including Dutch, French, Spanish, Russian, and Italian. Beginning in the 1960s, Jack Vance's work has also been extensively translated into German. In the large German-language market, his books continue to be widely read.
Son of the Tree is a science fiction novella by Jack Vance. It was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine, June 1951, and in book form as half of an Ace Double in 1964 together with The Houses of Iszm. The version that appears in the Ace Double is still less than novel length at about 31,000 words, but is essentially the same as the original magazine version. Son of the Tree was re-published as a stand-alone volume in 1974 by Mayflower.
When asked about literary influences, Vance most often cited Jeffery Farnol, a writer of adventure books, whose style of "high" language he mentions (the Farnol title Guyfford of Weare being a typical instance); P. G. Wodehouse, an influence apparent in Vance's taste for overbearing aunts; and L. Frank Baum, whose fantasy elements were directly borrowed by Vance (see 'The Emerald City of Oz').
In the introduction to Dowling and Strahan's The Jack Vance Treasury, Vance mentions that his childhood reading including Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, Robert W. Chambers, science fiction published by Edward Stratemeyer, the magazines Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, and Lord Dunsany. According to pulp editor Sam Merwin, Vance's earliest magazine submissions in the 1940s were heavily influenced by the style of James Branch Cabell.
Fantasy historian Lin Carter notes several probable lasting influences of Cabell on Vance's work, and suggests that the early "pseudo-Cabell" experiments bore fruit in The Dying Earth (1950). SF critic Don Herron cites Clark Ashton Smith as an influence on Vance's style and characters' names.
The Man in the Cage (American Bloodhound Mystery. no. 330.)
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Among his awards for particular works were: Hugo Awards, in 1963 for The Dragon Masters, in 1967 for The Last Castle, and in 2010 for his memoir This is Me, Jack Vance!; a Nebula Award in 1966, also for The Last Castle; the Jupiter Award in 1975; the World Fantasy Award in 1990 for Lyonesse: Madouc.
He also won an Edgar (the mystery equivalent of the Nebula) for the best first mystery novel in 1961 for The Man in the Cage.
Vance's early childhood was spent in San Francisco. With the early separation of his parents, Vance's mother moved young Vance and his siblings to Vance's maternal grandfather's California ranch near Oakley in the delta of the Sacramento River. This early setting formed Vance's love of the outdoors, and allowed him time to indulge his passion as an avid reader.
With the death of his grandfather, the Vance's family fortune nosedived, and Vance was forced to leave junior college and work to support himself, assisting his mother when able. Vance plied many trades for short stretches: as a bell-hop (a "miserable year"), in a cannery, and on a gold dredge, before entering the University of California, Berkeley where, over a six-year period, he studied mining engineering, physics, journalism and English.
Vance wrote one of his first science fiction stories for an English class assignment; his professor's reaction was "We also have a piece of science fiction" in a scornful tone, Vance's first negative review.
He worked for a while as an electrician in the naval shipyards at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii—for "56 cents an hour". After working on a degaussing crew for a period, he left about a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Vance graduated in 1942. Weak eyesight prevented military service. He found a job as a rigger at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, California, and enrolled in an Army Intelligence program to learn Japanese, but washed out. In 1943, he memorized an eye chart and became an able seaman in the Merchant Marine.
In later years, boating remained his favorite recreation; boats and voyages are a frequent motif in his work. He worked as a seaman, a rigger, a surveyor, a ceramicist, and a carpenter before he established himself fully as a writer, which did not occur until the 1970s.
Vance wrote many science fiction short stories in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, which were published in magazines. Of his novels written during this period, a few were science fiction, but most were mysteries. Few were published at the time, but Vance continued to write mysteries into the early 1970s.
In total, he wrote 15 novels outside of science fiction and fantasy genre, including the extended outline, The Telephone was Ringing in the Dark, published only by the VIE (Vance Integral Edition), and three books published under the Ellery Queen pseudonym. Some of these are not mysteries, for example Bird Island, and many fit uneasily in the category. These stories are set in and around his native San Francisco, except for one set in Italy and another in Africa. Two begin in San Francisco but take to the sea.
Many themes important to his more famous science fiction novels appeared first in the mysteries. The most obvious is the "book of dreams", which appears in Bad Ronald and The View from Chickweed's Window, prior to being featured in The Book of Dreams. The revenge theme is also more prominent in certain mysteries than in the science fiction (The View from Chickweed’s Window in particular).
Bad Ronald was adapted to a not particularly faithful TV movie aired on ABC in 1974, as well as a French production (Méchant garçon) in 1992; this and Man in the Cage are the only works by Vance ever to be made into film.
John Holbrook Vance Books For Sale
Sjambak - Jack Vance
Sjambak (short story) by Jack Vance Wilbur Murphy sought romance, excitement, and an impossible Horseman of Space. With polite smiles, the planet frustrated ...
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