Friday, September 13, 2013

eBook Review: Grumbles from the Grave

(Image from the paperback listing at

Robert A Heinlein, Grumbles from the Grave

Product Details from Baen's Books

Published 11/18/1989
SKU: 9780345362469
Ebook Price: $6.00

1. Short review: (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The intimate look into Heinlein's world.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Walk-in-the-park.
Worth the money. Seems to me that the prices at Baen's Books have gone up. Navigating their website remains an exercise in tedious chaos. If you want the book, I recommend you chase this review's links at the top (click the cover image) or the bottom (click the book title).

2.2. What I did not like: The organization confused me a bit; the book is organized chronologically within topic. That means a topic may end in 1978 and the next chapter begin with a missive written in 1947. I am confident that Virginia Heinlein put much effort into the organization and found this one the best.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: RAH fans. Writers.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read? Yes. Rare use of profanity, but the kiddies have heard it.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? I buy a Heinlein book about once a month. After reading Grumbles from the Grave, my RAH buying habit will continue. So, yes.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell.

     This is an epistolary memoir, so there should be no plot. In fact, there are many. The organization Virginia Heinlein chose permitted plots to arise in each chapter as she followed developments within a topic.
     This means there are so many plots that I would need more time and space to detail each than I shall devote to this review. However, I shall give one example.
     CHAPTER III: THE SLICKS AND THE SCRIBNER'S JUVENILES chronicles RAH's continuing fight with his editor at Scribner, Alice Dalgliesh. RAH complained about the changes Ms Dalgliesh insisted he make, but directed his complaints to his agent. For instance, Ms Dalgliesh refused to publish works in which children wielded firearms and demanded that RAH excise or rewrite such scenes. (FWIW I got my first gun when I was eight years old and was expected to use to kill rabid critters. By nine, I had shot rabid skunks at a distance of 300 yards. And buried the bodies deep so that the dogs would not dig them up.)
     RAH made the changes.
     His complaints grew more strident as the years passed. Finally, his agent submitted a work he knew Ms Dalgliesh would reject and that rejection released RAH from his contract with Scribner.

 2.7. Other:

     Writers will get the most from reading this book. It is comforting to find that the first Grandmaster of Science Fiction struggled with editors and garnered rejections.
     What impressed me was that RAH's editors recommended changes but RAH made the changes himself. Most editors I have sampled want to write their changes into my text. That changes the voice from mine to theirs. I have found one editor who does not write in changes, and I stick with her.
     RAH began Stranger in a Strange Land in 1948 and struggled with it for a dozen years. His publisher had him trim off a quarter of his submitted manuscript. I read that version years ago. Another version with excised material stuck in was published in 1991. There is a spirited debate -- that is, a fight with blood running in the streets -- going on in the 1-star reviews for Stranger.

     RAH's agent was named Lurton Blassingame, a name that I find amusing. Apparently, he was quite the congenial gentleman and dedicated agent. Many of his principals adored him and dedicated books to him, including RAH. I wonder if he had a nickname. 'Spanky' maybe?

2.8. Links: Robert A Heinlein

2.9. Buy the book: Grumbles from the Grave

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