Fifty years ago this year, Jerome Charyn published his first novel, Once Upon a Droshky.
Since the publication of Johnny One-Eye in 2008, I've become a late-arrival fan and have been working my way, slowly, through his catalog. I made a little more progress earlier this year in conjunction with his latest release, I Am Abraham, and recently I realized, wait a minute! this year is pretty significant! So I ramped up my Charyn a little, dug around and got a few more of his books, and hopefully will get around to reading a few if not all of them by the end of the year.
The first, naturally, will be Droshky. When I compiled a list of all his novels for this blog, I tried to find out what each of them was about. Charyn isn't generally appreciated for the quality and breadth of the material he's given readers over the years, which may be due to the fact that Droshky wasn't well-received fifty years ago. He developed a reputation for being at the fringe of the literary scene, and hasn't managed to leave it. If his lead characters are any indication, though, I doubt Charyn much minds. The quality speaks for itself. As someone who has read a few of his books and gotten a handle on his themes, I wonder what kind of impression I'll have of Charyn's first effort.
After that I'll read my first Isaac Sidel mysteries. Sidel is the one character Charyn has returned to, repeatedly, over the years. In some ways he might be the author's best bet at establishing a full-blown reputation. The Isaac Quartet collects the first four Sidel books.
Darlin' Bill was released in 1980, the year I was born. It felt right on that level to make this particular book a priority, plus my own fascination with the Wild West and the fact that Charyn has demonstrated a great ability to revisit known figures from a fresh perspective.
Charyn has also dabbled in graphic novels. I happen to love comic books. It's like Charyn has secretly been writing for me all these years. Ha ha! Just kidding. But I've also got my first Charyn graphic novel on the docket: Billy Budd, KGB, which also manages to evoke Melville, which for me is another good thing.
The last selection is 1999's Captain Kidd. It's got a dog wearing an army helmet on the cover.