Ron Goulart, writer who crossed genres, dies at 89

Ron Goulart a remarkably prolific science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance novelist who cast Groucho Marx as a detective and collab...

Ron Goularta remarkably prolific science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance novelist who cast Groucho Marx as a detective and collaborated with William Shatner on a series of books set in the 22nd century, died Jan. 14 in Ridgefield, Conn. He was 89 years old.

His wife, Frances Sheridan Goulart, said the death, in a nursing home, was caused by respiratory arrest.

Mr. Goulart wrote at least 180 books – and this number may underestimate his output. His goal was to write as many books as isaac asimovwho at his death was credited with writing about 500.

“He may have had writer’s block at one point, but it didn’t last long,” his wife, who has written 16 books herself, said in a phone interview. “He would just go from one genre to another if he got stuck.”

Well known to aficionados but without a bestseller to his name, Mr. Goulart was also a comic book historian; the author of a syndicated comic strip in the 1970s (“Star Hawks,” drawn by Gil Kane); and a cultural critic. His book “The Assault on Childhood” (1969) scorned parents for not protecting their children from exploitation by toymakers, television and the Walt Disney Company, which he wrote “perhaps cuter than a slot machine” but “thinks the same way.”

“The guy was a chameleon” Marc Evanier, a fellow comics historian, said. “He was really good at nailing the style of any work that was available to him.”

But his son Sean said Mr Goulart’s heart was mainly in science fiction.

“Deep down, he wanted to be the Ray Bradbury of comedy science fiction,” Sean Goulart said over the phone.

One of Mr. Goulart’s best-known science fiction novels was “After Things Fell Apart” (1970), which is set in 1995 after the collapse of the United States and tells the story of a detective sent to investigate murders by a radical lesbian separatist organization called Mankill. Book locations include Vienna West, a recreation of Freud’s Vienna; an FBI-run motel; and the Monterey Mechanical Jazz Festival, which features music from pinball machines and washing machines.

“After Things Fell Apart,” which was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America, was the first of five books by The series “Fragmented America” by Mr. Goulart, which he wrote in the 1970s and 1980s. It was just one of many series he designed.

By the time he started working with Mr. Shatner in the late 1980s, Mr. Goulart had written dozens of science fiction novels. “TekWar” the first of their nine novels in a series published until 1997, is the story of a former police officer who is released from prison in suspended animation after being accused of selling a brain stimulant called Tek.

In 1993, Mr. Goulart told Entertainment Weekly that he was a consultant on the “Tek” series, although his family later said he wrote them all and were unhappy that Mr. Shatner took as much credit as he did.

Mr Shatner told Entertainment Weekly that Mr Goulart was “very helpful, and I tried to give him as much credit as possible – short of putting his name on the covers”.

Ronald Joseph Goulart was born on January 13, 1933 in Berkeley, California. His father, Joseph, was a factory worker and his mother, Jos├ęphine (Macri) Goulart, was a housewife.

He studied English and art at the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated in 1955. He edited The California Pelican, the campus comedy magazine, for two semesters. “Letters to the Editor”, a parody of pulp magazine fan letters he had written for The Pelican, earned him his first professional credit when it was reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. in 1952.

Mr. Goulart wrote more short fiction in the 1950s and 1960s while working for a San Francisco advertising agency as a copywriter. At the Guild, Bascom & Bonfigli agency, he developed for his client Ralston Purina what looked like the front page of a newspaper on the back of Chex cereal boxes, complete with puzzles, serialized stories, letters to the editor and weather reports.

One of his first books was “The Hardboiled Dicks” (1965), an anthology of eight detective novels taken from old pulp magazines; one was from Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason. He edited the stories and wrote an introduction, in which he claimed that the tales “demonstrate that the pulp detective was buried prematurely”.

For the next 50 years, Mr. Goulart oscillated between science fiction, crime fiction, fantasy and romance. He also launched novelizations of films like “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “Cleopatra Jones” and “Capricorn One”, as well as three related “Laverne & Shirley” books.

“Let’s understand,” he told the Knight Ridder News Service in 1981, when his body of work had grown to over 100 books, “you don’t compare that to, say, ‘David Copperfield’. But I never wrote a book I was ashamed of. I’ve written a good twenty books that I’d put against anything. Thirty maybe.

Mr. Goulart has written under his own name and also under numerous pseudonyms, including Kenneth Robeson, for novels inspired by the Avenger, a globe-trotting, face-changing pulp magazine hero; and Con Steffanson, for several “Flash Gordon” novels based on Alex Raymond’s comics and for the “Laverne & Shirley” books.

He turned to the romance genre when his publisher, Warner Books, had too many science fiction books on its schedule and needed a 19th-century comedy of manners.

“That was Beau Brummell’s age, when Mad King George was on the British throne,” he told Us magazine in 1980. “So I said, ‘What the heck! – and made one. Under the name Jillian Kearny he wrote “Agent of Love” (1979) and “Love’s Claimant” (1981).

Mr. Goulart’s love for mysteries and for Groucho Marx led him in the late 1990s to transform this sarcastic comedian into a sarcastic private detective in six novels, including “Groucho Marx, secret agent” (2002).

Kirkus Reviews said another book in this series, “Groucho Marx and the Broadway Murders” (1999), was “a silly, light-hearted, good-humored slapstick that suggests the thriller hasn’t forgotten or learned anything since 1939” .

Besides his wife and son Sean, Mr. Goulart is survived by another son, Steffan.

Mr. Goulart turned his passion for comic books and comic strips into stories like “The Great Comic Book Artists” (1986), “The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips” (1995) and “Comic Book Culture: An Illustrated History” (2000).

Gary Groth, editor of The Comics Journal, said Mr Goulart was one of the first non-academic historians of comics and pulp books to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Ron had enormous expertise in the history of what had previously been considered the most sinister side of pop culture: comic books, newspaper comics, pulp books, dime novels,” Ms. Groth in an email, “and invested his stories with the same attention to factual detail and reverence that scholarly culture historians have invested in their subjects.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Ron Goulart, writer who crossed genres, dies at 89
Ron Goulart, writer who crossed genres, dies at 89
Newsrust - US Top News
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