Friday, November 14, 2003

The official Shel Silverstein site 

It almost seems like another life, but although I don't put nearly as much effort into it as I once did, I maintain the Shel Silverstein Archive, a hodgepodge of essays, obscure information, and other things related to the life and work of the one Renaissance Man I worship above all else. I won't expound on why I find him so brilliant here. Check the Archive and Carol Arnett's Banned Width site for that sort of thing. Although I will say that had Silverstein's life not been cut short so soon, I think that he would have eventually made his mark in the crime fiction genre. Some of the last things he did were poems and stories for Otto Penzler's trio of "MURDER AND..." anthologies published by Delacorte in the mid 1990s. In fact, Shel's short story "The Guilty Party," which first appeared in MURDER AND OBSESSION, was included in the Best American Mystery Short Stories of 1999 Anthology.

One of my favorite Shel stories was related to me some years back by Hank Luttrell, once the proprietor of an independent used and rare shop in Madison, WI, where Shel's son Matthew grew up. Shel was a regular visitor to the shop (whose name sadly escapes me) and would avidly peruse the mystery section, especially the old AHMM and EQMM magazines. One day he walked in and wanted a recommendation. Luttrell pointed him towards some of the works of Edward D. Hoch, otherwise known as the only person in crime fiction who can actually make a living solely on short stories, as Hoch's had a story in every issue of ELLERY QUEEN for as long as anyone can remember. Shel obliged. The next time he was back in the shop, he told Luttrell, "I really like this Hoch guy. Get me everything he's ever written," and have it shipped back to his Key West house. Not surprisingly, the shipment was rather large.....

It's been four and a half years since Shel's death, and only now does he have an official site that's geared towards his main market: the children who adore his poetry books like WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC. A joint project between HarperCollins and Shel's family, it's handsomely designed by longtime graphic designer and friend Kim Llewellyn, keeping the distinctive "look" that nearly all his books have had, and offers a list of the books, interactive bits, a kid-friendly biography and best of all, a way to contact the right people for permission to use excerpts from the works (which is the second most frequent question I get concerning Shel.) Thanks to Mitch Myers for letting me know that the site has launched. You guys did a marvellous job.

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