To begin my life at the beginning of my life, I was born.
But let’s begin before my birth….
One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the steps into my parents’ living room and listening to the authors in my dad’s writers group read aloud from their latest works.
My father, Dolph Sharp, was born in Long Island N.Y. Daddy made his living writing fiction for magazines like Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post and Women’s Day.
Shortly after he moved to L.A., one of his works, “The Tragedy in Jancie Brierman’s Life,” was published in The Best American Short Stories of 1948. Looking for literary companionship in this new city, he set out to start a writers’ group. Searching through the Table of Contents, he called all the writers living in Los Angeles.
Not long after, Ray Bradbury, Sanora Babb, Wilma Shore, Joseph Petracca, Elliott Grennard and Ben Maddow met, along with my father, each week at our home in the Hollywood Hills.
For over 30 years, they came to our house on Blair Drive. The house is built onto the hill. One enters on the top floor, and descends a few steps into the living room. Gathering around the coffee table, they would read their works aloud and comment on one another’s projects. There were drinks and smokes and laughter…always laughter.
How handsome Ray was! We always see him as the old man he became… though never, ever on the inside!
Ray and my daddy were always each other’s biggest fans.
Here is a memory Ray wrote of Daddy… So lucky was I to have them both…. And the hole is deep and empty where they stood.
“Just about forty years ago, Dolph Sharp (I never knew him by any other name) looked through the biographies at the back of Martha Foley’s BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES and discovered a fairly remarkable thing:
Within a few miles of one another, seven or eight
short stories writers existed or, as Faulkner put it, prevailed
in the L.A. Area. Inspired by what appeared to be a small mob
of creativity, Dolph Sharp sat down and wrote letters or heopped
on the telephone. In a few days he had gathered together such
diverse talents as Sanora Babb, Joseph Petracca, Elliott Grennard,
Wilma Shore, Esther McCoy, Joel Murcott, and myself. Most of
them showed up at the first meeting. Esther McCoy came only a bit
later, joined in the late 50’s by Peg Nixon, Dan Greenberg,
Richard Bach and Sid Stebel, not to mention ___ ________ .
From the first meeting on, the group worked splendidly. We were all in such diverse fields that none of us trod on the creative ground or the toes of the others.
Sanora Babb was writing fine stories about her childhood on the Kansas sod-hut plains. Joe Petracca was remembering her Italian family background in the East. Elliott Grennard, a jazz piano player, wrote about just that. Wilma Shore wrote sophisticated quality New Yorker stories about intelligent women and their problems. Joel Murcott was a radio and film writer. Esther McCoy began with stories and rose to become one of the finest architectural writers
One night I brought a tall gangling aviator to the meeting, who aspired to be another St.Exupery. He turned out to be Richard Bach, with his Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Bonnie Wolfe published her LOVE IN ATLANTIC, an old fashioned love story made bright, new and fresh as this afternoon’s paint.
Sid Stebel’s post world war II novel ___ turned out to be one of the best of its kind in __ or any year after that.
I, of course, was busy landing my people on Mars or delivering them in and out of a Second House of Usher somewhere just west of Transylvania.
So, you see, we were all on separate tracks heading toward some kind of wild and, we hoped, beautiful future.
Our group, which never had a name, met twice a month, sometimes three times a month if we were going pellmell. We met on Fridays, alternating between our various homes. We would read from eight until midnight and then break out the beer and pastrami and talk until two or three.
One of our sessions is described in the second piece you will find published here.
But now, the piece de resistance. Our founder and leader:
God, how we loved him. God, how we still love him.
He was the brightest spot of every evening.
If memory serves, the first story Dolph read to us was one of his wonderful Jancie Briarman yarns; the Jewish girl of all young Jewish girls in the midst of a superbly fine Jewish family.
The writing was great, but the reading was hilarious. It was not only what Dolph wrote that had us half way to the floor, but the way he delivered it, sitting very straight in his chair, looking down, almost askance at his scribbled and rescribbled manuscript, speaking in his dry, quiet voice in such a way as would make world comedians slit their wrists. It was the wry understatement of his voice, combined with the sometimes abrupt overstatement of a paragraph or line, that caught us all by the ears and jerked us foward. We were all certain, caught up in Dolph1s delivery, his spell, that this story, and then the next and the next, would conquer the world of humor. His discovery of ideas and writing about the odd quirks in those ideas, reminded me of that old couple in HULOT’S HOLIDAY, the wife moving along the beach picking up strange shells or seaweed, handing them back to her husband who, without flinching, unbeknownst to her, tossed them back over his shoulder. So, it seemed to me, Dolph moved through the world, one part of him handing on fancies, the other half tossing them not away, but onto paper, so none of us would lose. Meanwhile, his restless curiosity moved him on down the beach, and we followed.
Dolph Sharp did not write INVICTUS. But, by God, he could hum-along, and live it, and his family with him.
I have long since forgotten the words and the tune. I have lived a life of health and can only vaguely imagine my own cowardice in the face of privation and the oppression of beds and rehabilitation equipments. Thinking on it, I flinch with guilt.
At this moment, Dolph’s dear spirit is leaning over my shoulder with a dry comment: THIS NEEDS A BIT OF CUTTING.
So, let me cut to the end.
Beyond this preface, you will find one of Dolph’s stories. It is the best remembrance of him. When you read it, listen to it. Remember Dolph1s voice when he sat so firmly upright, his glasses on his brow, looking flat down at his written and rewritten words, and those wonderfully funny words coming out of his mouth with the kind of dry, unencumbered delivery that made them twice as memorable and funny.
Beyond, on the far side of Dolph’s tale, is another remembrance of him and our writing group, in another year, more than thirty years ago. I wish I had thought to bring it to his house the: night his friends gathered to celebrate his life. Sadly, I thought of it only some days later.
A final recollection.
In his last hours, one of Dolph’s daughters leaned over his bed and whispered: “Daddy, it’s allright for you to go.”
“I don’t want to go!”
Well, Dolph, we didn’t want you to go, either.
So that’s why we’ve put you here, between covers.
So we can honor your life and read your story and hear your voice over and over again, sounding on some night far back in time when we were all together and it was excellent-fine.
Let us settle ourselves.
This and many other letter and memories will be collected in a book about My Father and my long-long friendship with Ray.
My father died when I was fairly young, and I’m a late baby, but I remember those nights well.. When I started writing, Ray was very supportive. Until his death last year, I’d read him my stories and he always gave me his candid comments and encouragement. He said, “Throw it up in the morning and clean it up in the afternoon!” And to this day I do.
I started writing and publishing in 2005. I’ve been painting a lot longer; I started painting early, early on. I was a dancer when I was young and did some theater and comedy.
My first book, Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife, (All you Need to Know to Choose the Right Heaven) came out in 2010. My second book, Real Conversations with Imaginary Friends, an anthology of short fiction came out in 2012, fiction.
That same year, my first book, “Dirk”, was picked up by a publisher in Spain, so it’s in Castilliano and they lisp when they read it.
I have another anthology coming out this year, Another Happy Ending, (so called, because, like life, my tales while funny, end unhappily) and a novella, The Card Game, about a card game between Chance, Fate, Destiny and Luck.
yep… Ray and me made it to times square this year thanks to Inkubate! They are having an amazing contest and I hope my new Novel will be ready to enter it!
Blood Prism is like life… like love…. it’s complicated. If I had to boil it down to an elevator pitch and we were only going one floor, I would say Botany of Desire meets Interview with a Vampire meets Crash.
If I had the time to make it more thematic I would say it’s a tale of mythology and the dispossessed. Characters from Greek, Native American, Chinese and European mythology are woven into the tale
There’s biology in this book too… a lot of biology. I cover the sex life of orchids.
I talk about the biology of well…. I could call them the dispossessed (In this book vampires symbolize that.) I talk about how species that manage to coexist with us, crows (although crows are becoming hip now) pigeons, opossums, rats, cockroaches we think are dirty and low. Whereas those we exterminate, we admire….wolves, Indians and all the wild places in the heart.
Pigeons are incredible; they have a wider spectrum of vision than any other animal. They see different shades and hues within our range. Colors we can’t conceive of, for after all, who can conceive of a color they can’t see? They can see ultraviolet. They have tremendous flight and memory. They can learn the alphabet. Put them in front of an assembly line and they’ll pick out defects much quicker than people and they get paid peanuts.
and please don’t get me started on Opposoms:)