It’s time to mention his name in Atlantis.
Brian Leno popped the news to me that John Jakes died Saturday March 18, age 90.
Jakes was one of the most commercially successful writers to emerge from the paperback originals and digest mags of the 1950s and 60s. I imagine Mario Puzo may have made more money after he broke through, but it’s hard to imagine many others even close — Spillane maybe, but I’d think Jakes did much, much better than “king of the paperbacks” John D. MacDonald.
And that level of success explains why he gets a big obit in the New York Times.
More granular fans of Jakes don’t just know the North and South historical sagas and the rest, but understand he did a little bit of everything before getting to those. Science fiction, crime, detective. With his character Brak the Barbarian, Jakes became one of the first wave of modern writers following the trail into Sword-and-Sorcery pioneered by Robert E. Howard.
When I got my critical anthology on Howard, The Dark Barbarian, ready to go to press in 1984 I understood it would be nice to have a few advance blurbs. Within the circle of writers working in S&S, I considered Fritz Leiber the best — but Fritz had an essay in the book. Other genre stylists didn’t seem to carry enough gravitas with them to count for much, not if the book was going to go larger than just another fan effort.
Jakes, however — by then a huge bestseller and an actual fan of Howard and S&S. I asked Greenwood Press to send him an advance proof, in case he’d do a blurb for it.
“Tops my list of all Howard studies so far. Serious, scholarly, yet entertaining throughout.” — John Jakes
I can see getting other blurbs about as good as that one, but I can’t see getting one that is better.