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
"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.
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.