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Local mystery, crime author Ed Gorman dies at 74

Cedar Rapids native was a beloved mentor

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Ed Gorman’s very first stories were about cowboys and sword fighting.

“He’d start it out, ‘There was this guy, see,’ and then he’d go from there,” said Gorman’s cousin Terry Butler, who grew up listening to the stories during sleepovers. “That was always the beginning, he’d start with a character and then build a plot.”

Growing up in Cedar Rapids in the 1940s and ’50s, Gorman read nearly everything he could, Butler said, from comic books to the back of the cereal box. By his early teens, he was writing fiction.

“He decided early on that’s what he wanted to do,” Butler said. “He just always wanted to write.”

Ed Gorman died Friday at 74, still someone who “lived and breathed books and writers,” his wife Carol Gorman said. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma more than 14 years ago and is survived by his son, Joe Gorman, and his stepson Ben Johnson.

As an adult, Gorman found literary success as a mystery and crime novelist and short story writer. In his lifetime, the Cedar Rapids native told scores of stories.

“He’s not as famous as he should be, but in the writing community he was about as respected as you could be,” Iowa City author and book reviewer Rob Cline said. “All of us in the area, we should be proud that a writer of this caliber was among us for so many years.”

More than his prose, many writers in the Corridor said they’ll remember Gorman for his encouragement as a mentor. Carol Gorman said she often found him on the phone with budding writers or convincing editors and agents to read those new writers’ material.

“That kind of encouragement from a real writer is really encouraging for somebody who’s trying to do the work himself,” said Cline, who also works as the director of marketing at the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium.

But Gorman rarely bragged about his own writing, his wife said, and was averse to public discussions of his work. She remembered he once declined an invitation to speak as the editor of Mystery Scene magazine at a convention in Paris, all expenses paid.

“He wasn’t a show-show kind of guy,” Carol Gorman said. “But the friends that he had helped were very close to his heart.”

Many of Gorman’s friends said they most admired the voice that came through in his writing — a voice that “sounded just like Ed,” said Robert Drexler, a retired Coe College professor who knew Gorman for more than 40 years.

“He writes genre fiction, and people tend to downplay that,” said Drexler, who taught fiction writing courses. “But the fact is, one of the things that Ed did from the very beginning was establish a distinctive voice. ... There are some people who have it, and some people who don’t have it — and Ed had it.”

Even years before meeting Gorman, John Kenyon said he could quickly recognize a piece of Gorman’s writing.

“He had such a singular voice to his writing that was so welcoming and engaging,” said Kenyon, executive director of Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. “In some ways, it felt like sitting down and hearing a good story from a good friend.”

To those who knew him personally, Gorman was an engaging and outspoken figure.

“We were married for 34 years, and he was still one of the most interesting people I know,” Carol Gorman said. “He was very funny, he had quirky tastes and made everyone laugh. Even the people at the oncology department, he loved them all and they loved him.”

Cline, who worked at a Cedar Rapids used bookstore years ago, first met Gorman as a frequent customer there — buying new authors, selling his old books and wanting to chat about what he was reading.

“As much as I loved his writing, what I’ll always remember is how much I liked him,” Cline said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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