I regret that I must share some bad news about my dear friend and erstwhile collaborator Parke Godwin. It came from his West Coast friend and literary agent Connor Cochran (oldtimers remember him as Freff). A few weeks ago he telephoned and told me Parke’s mental health has drastically deteriorated in the past months. A few days ago, Connor e-mailed me the following message, which I have slightly abridged.
I write, unfortunately, to share bad tidings and make two requests.
Since you and I last spoke, Parke has slid radically downhill. Things have gotten so bad that he had to be briefly hospitalized and has now been moved to a medical facility where he can be supervised full-time, since on his own he is a danger to himself and others. Right now I’m handling most things for him based on the Power of Attorney for Health Care that he filled out years ago, and we’re taking the steps necessary to get me appointed as his guardian and conservator, so I can deal with other matters as they arise.
I’m afraid he can’t stay focused long enough to read or to write, or to hold an actual conversation, and both his short-term and long-term memory are shot.
The psychiatrist treating him thinks that with the right drug therapy he may yet recover some degree of clarity. But there is no sign that he will ever recover enough to live on his own again, unsupervised.
As mentioned, I have two requests:
1) Please share this update on Parke’s status with anyone you think should have it, and let them know that any cards or messages should be sent to him c/o me, so I can have them on hand when I visit. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and my mailing address is PO Box 371090, Montara, CA 94037.
2) I’m trying to identify Name Authors who are fans of Pete’s work, to get quotes and other material that would be useful in relaunching his books and stories. If you know anyone who fits the criteria, please let me know who they are.
Parke and I have been friends for over fifty years. We first met on a winter evening in the late 1960s at a West Side Manhattan YMCA where a showcase production of The Merchant of Venice was rehearsing. I was playing Old Gobbo, Tubal, and the Duke of Venice, and Parke was Shylock, so the first words he ever said to me were How now, Tubal, what news from Genoa? The first thing I remember him saying to me out of character was, “You’re dangerously intelligent for an actor!”
By dress rehearsal week in an ice-cold dressing room on the Lower East Side, he and I were pals, gabbing incessantly about theatre, music, film, booze, and science fantasy as we smeared on the cold cream and greasepaint.
Several months later, I directed the New York premiere of a pair of plays by Ray Bradbury, The Day It Rained Forever and A Clear View of an Irish Mist. The latter required a lot of men, so I called Parke and he agreed to do the show. From that time forward, we were in quite a few plays together and he was a charter member of my theatre company, The Open Book, now in its 37th year of continuous operation.
In the 1970s, I sold my first nonfiction book, my first novel, edited the first of many genre anthologies and began teaching writing at NYU. One afternoon, Parke stopped by with a partial manuscript of a book he said he was trying to write. I had no idea he’d begun as a promising writer, but switched to acting. That night I devoured the first sixty pages — all that was written so far — of Darker Places, Parke’s harrowing horror story. More pages came, and soon the book was finished.
I put Parke in touch with my first anthology editor, the colorful Pat O’Connor, then at Curtis. Pat swiftly snatched it up. Playboy Press reissued it a few years later. Then Parke wrote A Memory of Lions, the book that prompted me to suggest that he collaborate with me on an SF novel that became The Masters of Solitude.
Parke — most of his friends call him Pete because he dubbed himself that while acting in summer stock — went on to write a series of superb novels, including the historic trio, Firelord, Beloved Exile, and The Last Rainbow, and won the World Fantasy award for the title novella of his short story collection, The Fire When It Comes. One of the pieces in that volume is my personal favorite of his, “Influencing the Hell Out of Time and Teresa Golowitz,” which was dramatized on Twilight Zone.
Parke and I collaborated on two other novels, a haunted house story called A Cold Blue Light, and Wintermind, the sequel to The Masters of Solitude. Aficionados of our two SF books know we meant to write a final volume, Singer Among the Nightingales.
We knew if we ever got around to “Nightingales,” we would have to work on it differently. For one thing, our earlier books were written while we both lived in Manhattan, but Parke has been a resident of Auburn, California, for many years. Plus, Parke was only interested in writing one section of “Nightingales.”
I am now in the early stages of writing the final volume of our trilogy, and am pleased to report that Parke wrote his section before the onset of the health crisis. So Singer Among the Nightingales will be a true Kaye-Godwin collaboration.