Typewriter Killer

And with this my look at H. Beam Piper and his works conclude.

Review: Typewriter Killer: H. Beam Piper, John F. Carr, 2015.

While you can a decent sense of Piper the man in this book, you get a clearer and more detailed look at Piper’s complete life in Carr’s earlier H. Beam Piper: A Biography. However, this book succeeds at giving you a better sense of Piper the published writer. In fact, I read this book first.

To be sure, Carr repeats some paragraphs from his early book, but he also condensed the account of Piper’s life before he became published. He also expanded the plot descriptions of Piper’s works, talks about the historical trilogy of 18th century Pennsylvania Piper worked on for decades, and expands the account of Piper’s friendships with other writers, especially with his most significant publishing outlet, John W. Campbell’s Astounding. The chapters are often titled after Piper’s stories and often give a timeline and account of Piper’s problems with a particular work. There is less on Piper’s wife Betty Hirst.

Carr, with the help of Piper’s abortive biographer Mike Knerr (who met Piper in 1959), talks about the business side of Piper’s literary career. He also makes clear that Campbell’s promising Piper’s agents “bonuses” for his work is clear evidence that Campbell used the alleged readers’ votes in Astounding’s AnLab to pay his favorite authors more.

Piper was not a man who trusted agents except, fatefully, Ken White who became a friend and whose death was to precipitate Piper’s suicide.

We also get the responses Piper made, about a year before his death, to a fan’s questionnaire on his opinions of science fiction, its readers, and its future.

The appendixes of Carr’s earlier biography are here except an inventory of Piper’s weapons. To them is added a detailed examination of the chronology and themes of Piper’s Paratime and Terro-Human Future History series as well as a look at the sources of Piper’s historical thought.

We also get an account of the intrigue behind Knerr’s discovery of Piper’s lost manuscript for Fuzzies and Other People, how it was authenticated, and where it was for the near two decades between Piper’s death and its publication. Carr also adds a look at the “continuing worlds of H. Beam Piper” including the work of his own Pequod Press, publisher of this work, which is largely dedicated to reprinting Piper and sequels to his work by other authors.

Unlike the earlier biography, this one has no pictures. Its Piper bibliography has been updated from the earlier biography.

Incidentally, “Typewriter Killer” was the title of an article about Piper published in 1953 in the company newsletter of Piper’s employer, the Pennsylvania Railroad.

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