Today, a little bit about Harlan Ellison, as I just read his first novel WEB OF THE CITY.
So why did I buy this novel? Well, I was curious for one thing, for another, I collect Hard Case Crime books (currently at around 80 of the 130ish that have been published) so I needed this one.
And WEB OF THE CITY is okay. I liked it better than DOOMSMAN, anyway.
This was Ellison's first novel, based on a novelette he'd written about the same main character. In fact, the first quarter of the novel is almost word for word the original novelette, except where the novelette ends, Rusty Santoro makes a different choice, leading us to the path that becomes the novel. And it's okay, but it's kind of messy. The novelette's story about juvie gang revenge and posturing doesn't segue especially well into the main story of the novel--which is basically a detective story featuring a J.D. out for revenge--but it works, in a sort of ham-handed kind of way. But it's a first novel, so it's all good. Ellison certainly grew from there.
It did bring to mind a few questions, though, such as why Ellison strayed from the crime fiction path himself. I know he's written a number of short stories, but I believe this is his only crime novel and it makes me wonder what kind of writer he'd have become if he stuck with it, instead of branching out to science fiction and fantasy.
I have a feeling that he'd be a writer whose work I'd enjoy more, but I also have a feeling that he wouldn't have made the impact he did on the literary world. Maybe he knew that his future wasn't in crime fiction, but I do wonder what other crime stories a more-polished Ellison the storyteller might have told.