“How It All Began”
— and by chance, captured on film! Much like the first meeting of me and Bill “The Voice of Noir” Arney, the noted book and pulp — and autograph — collector Kevin Cook has found evidence of his primordial origins.
On the left in the photo above, an 18-year-old Kevin gets a paperback inked by fantasy and horror writer Karl Edward Wagner. Sunday January 25, 1976. Forty-four years ago today. The Durham mini-con in Durham, North Carolina.
Kevin (“I have hair!” Kevin says) approaches Wagner and asks him to sign a copy of Death Angel’s Shadow.
“While Karl was signing,” Kevin reports, “the photograph was taken which explains his inscription in the book,
Preserved in Cinematic brilliance on this occasion.
“The inscription without the photograph makes no sense,” Kevin says, “but it actually took decades before Dave Kurzman found the photograph, recognized what it was, and passed it along to me.
“It now rests inside the book opposite the inscription. This simple event, obtaining an inscribed paperback, was the first episode in what has led to a lifelong obsession.”
The first book Kevin ever had signed. Wagner — his first John Hancock. The veteran autograph collector now has hundreds of signed books stockpiled in his library.
Thinking about that moment, Kevin notes, “For some reason, memories of that date come clearer recently. Not only did I meet Wagner for the first time, but I also met David Drake and Stuart Schiff.
“The afternoon ended with Wagner, his wife Barbara, myself, one of the Murray boys —either Edwin or Terry — and another guy whose name I do not recall, in the Murray house watching a college basketball game on television between Maryland and North Carolina.
“Manly Wade Wellman, then a professor at UNC, did not attend the con because he was at the basketball game.
“Weird that this stuff comes back to me now 44 years after the fact.”
Wellman, of course, was the literary lion of that circle, a grizzled contributor to Weird Tales. Wagner, like Kevin, was just starting on his path.
That first inscription follows — and for comparison yet another of several early releases Kevin got personalized by the creator of Kane.