Prolific Ed Gorman continues writing while battling cancer

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Ed Gorman will talk your ear off, and you won’t mind a bit.

Gorman will expound on any number of topics — including politics, movies and television — while keeping you spellbound and quite often in stitches.

He also spins a pretty good tale on the printed page. The Cedar Rapids author has reeled off a great many novels, short stories, screen plays and more since abandoning the advertising/public relations business to become a writer full time about 30 years ago. He edited “Mystery Scene” magazine for a while and still maintains a popular daily blog.

“At the time I sold my third novel, I talked it over with my wife, Carol, and decided to risk going full time,” Gorman says. “My old regimen was to get up every morning at 5, set up coffee and my bagel and head to my home office where I generally wrote until 7:30 or so. Then I got ready for my day at work.”

The daily writing grind continues. He just doesn’t have to leave the house.

But the routine has been impacted by Gorman’s health. He was diagnosed with stage one thyroid cancer in 2001 and within three months of that came a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. The thyroid cancer was licked with radiation. The multiple myeloma is incurable.

“Sooner or later it will kill me,” Gorman says with his trademark candor. “Two years ago I had a stem cell treatment at Mayo that gave me two years of a kind of remission. But the cancer’s back and I’m now on chemo twice a month, but Dr. Kutteh at Hall Perrine and Dr. Dingli are working hard to keep me going.”

But the writing continues. Coming on the heels of polished additions to his Sam McCain and Dev Conrad series is a packaged volume from Stark House of two historical novels first published in the 1980s — both set in Cedar Rapids.

“Graves’ Retreat” (Double D, 1989) is a “western” that takes place in 1884 and features a young Cedar Rapids bank teller and baseball pitcher who’s trying to protect his present by keeping his past hidden. But his brother has rolled into town and wants help robbing the bank.

“Night of Shadows” (Double D, 1990) is about an aging former lawman/gunfighter and a young Cedar Rapids policewoman in 1894. Largely a police procedural, this book has the clever plot addition of a psychopath with a mother complex.

Both books stay true to their era and are an excellent glimpse into an earlier version of Cedar Rapids as researched by Gorman. The art of research, however, was a bit different in the 1980s.

“Research for every kind of writing has become much easier with Google,” Gorman says. “I’m sure I made mistakes back then. But I took historical liberties when I needed to.”

Gorman’s 1894 policewoman is based on the real-life Anna Placek, a matron who worked at the jail. “But I promoted her to someone who also investigated crimes,” Gorman says.

Gorman has repackaged books before — including the recent “The Autumn Dead” and “The Night Remembers” — and said publishers approach him about reprinting his books. And like many of his generation, Gorman still prefers “books.”

“Things have changed with Amazon and other e-book companies,” he says. “I still prefer printed material, but I spend more and more time on my Kindle.”

Gorman, 73, has provided plenty of printed material — and now electronic material — for readers through the years. And those years have generally been good.

“Working writers are a lot like working actors,” Gorman says. “You do the work you choose to, but you also have to take assignment work that comes your way. When I started out there was a great deal of what is called work for hire — usually done under pen names — to pay the bills.

“We’ve had some very good years and some very not very good years. Luckily, Carol is a writer, too, so she knows how the business works.”

The new packaged volume is available at Amazon ($20.95) and other booksellers.

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