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From the Publisher 6/12/07
Dark Horse publishes work by Andrew Vachss, a well-known author and children's advocate. I've long respected Andrew and the work he does. We've had a long and fruitful professional, as well as personal, relationship. I must admit, however, that I've done him a great disservice by not disputing the contents of an online blog column written by columnist Steve Duin last year. In it, Steve wrote the following:

"I'm a creature of habit. I tend to hang on far too long. I read at least four too many books by Andrew Vachss before abandoning ship. I signed off with a critical review that precipitated a showdown with Vachss five years ago in the offices of Dark Horse, which has published both of us. In a glorious outburst of paranoia and spite, Vachss accused me of threatening his livelihood by criticizing the latest in a series of increasingly tedious and predictable books. As a favor to both of us, I haven't read him since."

I suppose Steve's account makes for good copy. The problem is that the event, as he described it, never happened. Steve had written off Andrew's work in a previous article (actually, within the review of another author) and, with that in mind, it seemed odd that he would then ask to review a new novel by Andrew. Steve is not his paper's book critic. I wondered why he would go out of his way to review a book he knew he wouldn't like by someone he professed to respect. I asked that very question of him, but Steve insisted that he had read the novel with an open mind.

A short time later, Andrew was scheduled to visit me at the Dark Horse offices. I mentioned this to Steve, who asked if I could arrange a sit-down with Andrew so that he could explain himself. While Andrew had no interest in the meeting, he agreed to meet Steve in my office as a favor to me. A meeting took place in my office behind closed doors. In it, Steve denied any predetermined intent in the tone or content of his review. He also claimed that he wanted to restore the "friendship" that he and Andrew had shared. Andrew listened quietly and then calmly responded by reading Steve's earlier criticism (the one preceding the review) to him. Steve had a difficult time explaining why it had no bearing on his book review. Andrew ended the conversation by stating that the review meant nothing to him, that he had come and listened to Steve only as a favor to me, and that they (he and Steve) had never been friends. Steve offered his hand. Andrew refused to take it. Steve walked out of the room and left the building.

This entire episode lasted but a few minutes. While I'm sure the meeting was uncomfortable for Steve, there was no "showdown" or "outburst." I saw none of the "paranoia and spite" Steve mentions. The only accusation made was that Steve had already written Andrew off as a writer when he asked to review Andrew's book, a point Andrew proved with Steve's own writing.

Why Steve would decide to write about this supposedly private "event" years after it happened is a mystery and smacks of the very spite he accuses Andrew of. The danger is that, unchallenged, his story will become the truth. It was not, and I apologize to Andrew for taking so long to correct it.


Mike Richardson
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