03 November 2021

Welcome to Avram Davidson's Universe


Avram Davidson was an unusual writer.  He won two Edgar Awards (mystery), a Hugo Award (science fiction), and three World Fantasy Awards.  Some of us haven't won any of those.

Born in Yonkers, NY, he was a Marine medic during WWII. He first published as a Talmudic scholar .He ghost-authored two of Ellery Queen's novels. He edited the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. 

He was a shepherd in Palestine just before the birth of the state of Israel.  He spent part of his life in Mexico and Belize, and lived in Bellingham, WA, a few years before I got here, alas.

Eccentric or protean don't begin to cover the guy.

My favorite of his works is a novella called "The Lord of Central Park."  I once described it like this:

... the simple story of a young lady from New Jersey and her encounters with a pickpocket, the Mafia, the NAFIA, an Albanian Trotskyite who wants to blow up the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hudson River Pirates, and, of course, the Lord High Keeper of the Queen's Bears, who lives in a cave in Central Park.  Okay, maybe I lied about it being a simple story.

Davidson tended toward the baroque in language and he had a ton of historical and geographic knowledge to add detail to his fiction.


I was recently contacted by Seth Davis who has started a podcast called the Avram Davidson Universe and he invited me to  be his guest on an episode to discuss my other favorite Davidson extravaganza, "The Necessity of His Condition."  You can hear a very professional reading of the story in the podcast, by the way.  That episode went live this week and it is available ffree.

Seth was kind enough to answer a few questions for me:

What is your connection to Avram?

Avram was married to my mom.  They divorced but remained very close. They continued to collaborate on many books.   Avram became my Godfather and for a variety of reasons his literary estate passed to me.

Favorite memories of Avram?

When I was 13 Avram was very involved in helping me through my Bar Mitzvah.  He made the best soups!  Later when he became wheelchair bound we had a grand time as I pushed him down Clement street in San Francisco.

Did you meet any mystery writers through him?

It wasn’t until Covid hit that I really had time to start reading his stories and understanding what an incredible writer Avram was. I knew him more as a doting Godfather than as a writer. Since my mom was a writer as well we had all sorts of authors who came by our house.  Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Greg Benford certainly came by. I never met any writers who were solely focused on mystery. Dick Lupoff was very sweet and he helped my mom publish The Investigations of Avram Davidson which is an anthology of Avram’s mystery stories.    Avram did live with us when I was younger and I know Harlan Ellison came by and I have vague memories of meeting Harlan. Michael Kurland was probably the writer I remember the most. He was and still is such a kind man.

Tell us about your podcast.

The Avram Davidson Universe Podcast is dedicated to keeping Avram’s legacy alive. In each episode we perform a reading and discussion of his works with a special guest

Plans for future publications?

Most exciting right now is Beer! Beer! Beer! will be going live on December 14.  It is a historical fiction/crime/mystery novel based on the true story of the crime boss Dutch Schultz who was piping beer under the streets of Yonkers during prohibition.  I am actually looking for a handful of avid readers especially Davidson fans for my ARC team who would get an early copy of the book to review. If folks are interested they can contact me at www.avramdavidson.com

One of my beta readers described the story as an amazing glimpse of Americana, beautifully told and that the way the characters converged with all their short stories reminded her of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

Unfortunately when my mom passed Avram’s literary estate was disorganized. My goal over the next 10 years it to make sure everything is organized. I want to make sure every story Avram wrote is available.  This includes some incredible unpublished stories like Beer! Beer! Beer!.  We recently published Skinny which was a semi-autobiographical short story about Avram’s time as a medic in China post World War II.  In 2022 we will be publishing Dragons in the Trees which is Avram’s exciting Belize travel journal. In 2023 we will be publishing AD 100 - 100 of Avram’s unpublished or uncollected short stories in honor of his 100th birthday. 

7 comments:

  1. Rob and Seth, Wonderful! I'm a big Avram Davidson fan! I haven't heard the podcast yet, but I've been on the Avram Davidson Facebook page gushing about his stories. "AD 100" is a perfect title for a 100th Birthday anniversary! It will go well with my copy of The Avram Davidson Treasury, and my copy of "Tree of Life." Thanks!

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  2. Most interesting! Avram Davidson goes on my must read list.

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  3. Wow. Such a nice, personal look.

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  4. That's a name I associate with sci-fi rather than mystery, my shortcoming. Congratulations, Rob!

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  5. Thanks Jeff! It’s fans of Avram like you that motivate me to get his work out there!Thank you! - Seth

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  6. What a great and multi-faceted author he was! I'm so pleased to know that his work is being republished, thanks to the efforts of his godson/stepson Seth.

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