What could we do for Autograph Hound Super-Sunday?
How about an exciting return to the Quest for the Worst Autograph Ever?
Remember the other week when John D. Haefele sent in an image from a Karl Edward Wagner book he’d forgotten he had in his collection? None of us could figure out what one of the words was in the inscription. Could have been anything, as far as I was concerned.
But then Ramsey Campbell dropped me a note saying the indecipherable squiggle was nothing less than the autograph of author Peter Straub. I’m taking Ramsey’s word for it. I don’t know.
Noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook saw the light: “The Peter Straub signature makes perfect sense now that it’s been pointed out. I thought that Karl was just having a bad handwriting day — ‘his writing’ there did not resemble the inscriptions in my books, where his writing was much neater.
“The fact that it was NOT Karl’s handwriting should have been obvious.
“I guess that at this point Straub is in second place as the sloppiest autograph. I think that Brian Leno and I have both given the crown for number one to James Ellroy.”
The revelation gave Haefele himself the biggest surprise: “I have a Straub signature?! I’m sure I would never have known — the seller of my book certainly didn’t.”
I got into cogitation mode, thinking, wait a second, I believe I have a Straub auto, too. Sure enough. In the signed slipcased state of the litcrit collection Fear Itself from 1982. At least, I’m guessing the indecipherable blob-like squiggle as seen above is Straub’s mark, if only by process of elimination. Come on, you can spot it in about two seconds.
The only other guy it could have been was George Romero, but I don’t think the zombiemeister signed the sheets on that one.
If I’m wrong, someone let me know.
I did some light editing on the collection, trying to tweak the Charles Grant piece so it made sense — and I distinctly remember Tim Underwood hiring me to police Fritz Leiber’s “essay,” which was just miscellaneous reviews of King he’d copied and put in a folder. Tim said, “Edit this stuff as if Fritz has moved to Afghanistan and you’ll never see him again.”
Almost all the other signatures are clear enough, except perhaps Alan Ryan’s — a second tier horror writer of the era — in blue just under King’s. By process of elimination, not hard to figure out, but if you just saw it on a blank sheet somewhere I’m sure the level of uncertainty would skyrocket.
The rest can be read easily — and the Stephen King has a nice John Hancockian paraph off the Stephen.
I haven’t looked into this book in decades and have absolutely no memory of thinking, at the time, one way or the other about the Straub auto. Whatever you’re thinking now, though, is probably what I was thinking then.