Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Paperback Warrior Unmasking: Interview with Ralph Hayes

At 91 years of age, Michigan author Ralph Hayes is still writing men's action-adventure novels. With a resume boasting nearly 100 books, he's experienced five fruitful decades of published work in the US, UK, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Italy. At the time of this writing, Hayes has just released his newest novel, a gritty western titled “Wanted: Dead or Alive” for Black Horse, his publisher of the last 10 years.

In a series of letters, Paperback Warrior had the opportunity to interview the living legend about his career, his paperbacks and what the term “genre fiction” means to him.

While employed as a successful Michigan attorney, Hayes married a highly-regarded artist. Her passion and interest in the arts inspired Hayes to relinquish his law practice in 1969. The couple moved to Key West, and Hayes began a torrid affair with his typewriter, one that stuffed the paperback shelves with multiple series titles such as 'The Hunter,’ 'Agent of Cominsec,’ 'Stoner' and 'Soldier of Fortune.’ In fact, Hayes created and/or contributed to seven individual series' including the wildly popular 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' paperbacks.

“I didn't start writing seriously until 1969. A story of mine originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 1967 called ‘The Gumdrop Affair.’ It was later included in two separate college textbook anthologies. I've sold almost 40 short stories to literary quarterlies, men's magazines and mystery magazines,” Hayes said.

When asked if any of his shorts were later re-worked into novels, the enthusiastic author was quick to point out that his short stories don't turn into novels. “I would never try to broaden a short story tale into novel length,” he explained. “Short stories are an art form apart, and in no way inferior in importance to the novel. On the other hand, when an editor asked me to cut a couple of scenes from a novel, I later developed those scenes into short stories. Writer's Digest asked me once to do an article telling other writers how I went about it.”

Hayes' robust bibliography includes riveting, exotic locales that are par for the course in the men's action adventure genre. Ranging from vigilante globe-trotting adventurers to mercenaries, Hayes has a unique sense of realism within his writing. “I have been to East Africa twice. I've also been to South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia and Morocco,” he said. “I have also been around Europe by both moped and car. I've went to Hong Kong and Peru to visit Machu Picchu. All of this with my artist wife, now deceased, whose art is in private collections all across this country and Europe.”

His earliest series, 'The Buffalo Hunter', starring western protagonist O'Brien, can be sourced back to its 1970's debut paperback “Gunslammer,” also known as “Secret of Sulpher Creek.” That series, which Hayes still contributes to, parallels the author's career from 1970 until now and encompasses 11 total novels. “Rugged, intimidating. Rawhides. Can't read or write but speaks several Indian tongues. A perfect wild-country survivalist,” described Hayes when asked to characterize his cowboy hero to unfamiliar readers.

The author lists his 'Buffalo Hunter' novels as some of his best work, but he is particularly fond of a 1979 book entitled “Hostages of Hell.” “This is based on a real-life terror attack on a US embassy. My research for the book included actual correspondence with the US ambassador in Khartoum,” he said.

From 1967 through the early 80s, Hayes wrote over 60 novels. The 1970s were a particularly  productive era for the author, growing series titles like Buffalo Hunter, The Hunter, Check Force, Stoner and Agent of Cominsec for familiar publishing houses like Manor, Leisure/Belmont Tower and Zebra. By the early 80s, one can see his writing reduced to just a few stand-alone novels, most as historical romance pieces.

“When publishing took a nose dive in the mid-eighties, we returned to Michigan where I resumed my law career, but still doing some writing,” Hayes explained. By 1992, Hayes began producing westerns again with two stand-alone paperbacks for Pinnacle. Just seven years later, Hayes would experience another productive era, penning westerns for UK publisher Black Horse, an imprint of Robert Hale Publishing.

“The recently published westerns at Robert Hale and Crowood have been newly-written novels, starting with ‘The Tombstone Vendetta’ about Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. ‘The Last Buffalo,’ ‘Fort Revenge’ and ‘Coyote Moon’ form a trilogy of O'Brien the Buffalo Hunter stories that make up one long saga, and I suspect ‘Fort Revenge’ is about the best of that genre,” he said.

The author, who cites his favorite writers as Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, John Le Carre and B. Traven, has a lot to say about what people perceive as genre fiction. “The idea that genre fiction is somehow inferior in quality to so-called mainstream fiction, and is not as literary, is artificial bull-puckey,” Hayes said. “Mainstream also is genre, psychological studies, social issues, etc. are all genres, and most of that is not as entertaining as other genres. Entertainment is the primary objective of all fiction, the other, lesser goal being enlightenment, which should never dominate the story. If you have a cause to espouse, the proper literary form is an essay or a non-fictional book.”

Hayes continued, “In drama, all of Shakespeare's plays were genre. Jane Austen's novels are genre. Poe's stories are genre. All in this developed use of the word. ‘The Sun Also Rises’ is genre, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is also, in my revised classification system. People who like to maintain the 'mainstream is superior' notion would rank ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ above Jane Austen's ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ a love story or light romance. But it isn't. The love story is better, both in entertainment and enlightenment.”

In conclusion, Hayes has a diverse bibliography that includes period pieces, mystery, adventure, vigilante, romance, science fiction and thriller - all thought-provoking and entertaining in their own right. “So, lets dispense with mainstream and literary as description of fiction and categorize all works as some kind of genre,” he said.

Ralph Hayes Bibliography

AGENT OF COMINSEC

1. The Bloody Monday Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
2. The Doomsday Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
3. The Turkish Mafia Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
4. The Hellfire Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
5. The Nightmare Conspiracy - 1974 Belmont Tower
6. The Deathmakers Conspiracy - 1975 Belmont Tower

THE BUFFALO HUNTER

1. Gunslammer (aka Secret of Sulpher Creek) - 1970 Belmont Tower
2. Four Ugly Guns - 1970 Belmont Tower
3. The Name is O'Brien - 1972 Lenox Hill
4. Hellohole - 1973 Leisure/Belmont Tower
5. Treasure of Rio Verde - 1974 Remploy
6. Vengeance is Mine - 1978 Manor
7. Five Deadly Guns - 1984 Ulverscroft
8. Revenge of the Buffalo Hunter - 1992 Pinnacle
9. The Last Buffalo - 2013 Black Horse
10. Fort Revenge - 2013 Black Horse
11. Coyote Moon - 2015 Black Horse

CHECK FORCE

1. 100 Megaton Kill - 1975 Manor
2. Clouds of War - 1975 Manor
3. Judgment Day - 1975 Manor
4. The Peking Plot - 1975 Manor
5. Seeds of Doom - 1976 Manor
6. Fires of Hell - 1976 Manor

* DANIEL BOONE: LOST WILDERNESS TALES

1. River Run Red (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
2. Algonquin Massacre (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
3. Death at Spanish Wells (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
4. Winter Kill (as Dodge Tyler) - 1996 Leisure
5. Apache Revenge (as Dodge Tyler) - 1997 Leisure
6. Death Trail (as Dodge Tyler) - 1997 Leisure

* Ralph Hayes states he wrote a number of these books as Dodge Tyler. Author John Edward Ames wrote the last six installments of the 12 book series. 


THE HUNTER

1. Scavenger Kill - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
2. Night of the Jackals - 1975 Leisure/Belmont
3. A Taste for Blood - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
4. The Track of the Beast - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower
5. The Deadly Prey - 1975 Leisure/Belmont Tower

NICK CARTER: KILLMASTER

65. The Cairo Mafia - 1972 Award
67. Assault on England - 1972 Award
68. The Omega Terror - 1972 Award
70. Strike Force Terror - 1972 Award
73. Butcher of Belgrade - 1973 Award
78. Agent Counter-Agents - 1973 Award
86. Assassin: Code Name Vulture - 1974 Award
88. Vatican Vendetta (with George Snyder) - 1974 Award

SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (as Peter McCurtin)

4. The Guns of Palembang - 1977 Belmont Tower
5. First Blood - 1977 Belmont Tower
6. Ambush at Derati Wells - 1977 Belmont Tower
7. Operation Hong Kong - 1977 Belmont Tower
8. Body Count - 1977 Belmont Tower
9. Battle Pay - 1978 Belmont Tower
Vol. 2 9. Blood Island - 1985 Leisure

STONER

1. The Golden God - 1976 Manor
2. Satan Stone - 1976 Manor
3. All That Glitters - 1977 Manor
4. King's Ransom - 1978 Manor

STAND-ALONE NOVELS

The Wayward August of Virgie Tats (?)
Black Day at Diablo (?)
The Visiting Moon (science-fiction) 1971 Lenox Hill
Treasure of Rio Verde (western) - 1974 Remploy
Love's Dark Conquest (romance) - 1978 Leisure
Forbidden Splendor (romance) - 1978 Leisure
Dark Water (thriller) - 1978 Leisure
By Passion Possessed - 1978 Leisure
The Killing Ground (as John Hardesty) - 1978 Leisure
Savage Dawn (romance) - 1979 Jove
The Big Fall (?) - 1979 Zebra
Hostages of Hell (action) - 1979
Adventuring (western) - 1979 Jove
Golden Passion (romance) - 1979 Leisure
Dragon's Fire (romance) - 1979 Leisure
The Promised Land (romance) - 1980 Leisure
The Sea Runners (action) - 1981 Leisure
A Sudden Madness (mystery) - 1981 Leisure
Last View of Eden (thriller) - 1981 Leisure
Charleston (romance) - 1982 Zebra
Drought! (romance) - 1982 Zebra
The God Game (thriller) - 1983 Leisure
The Scorpio Cipher (thriller) - 1983 Leisure
Sheryl (romance) - 1984 Leisure
Deadly Reunion (mystery) - 1984 Leisure
Illegal Entry (romance) - 1984 Leisure
Mountain Man's Fury (western) - 1992 Pinnacle
Mountain Man's Gold (western) - 1993 Pinnacle
Tombstone Vendetta (western) - 2010 Black Horse
Texas Vengeance (western) - 2016 Black Horse
Rawhide Justice (western) - 2016 Black Horse
Lawless Breed (western) - 2017 Black Horse
The Way of the Gun (western) - 2018 Black Horse
Wanted: Dead or Alive (western) - 2019 Black Horse

No comments:

Post a Comment