Guttering Candles

Some years ago I ended up with a book written by Harold Lamb containing a personal dedication to his mother. If you’re new to this site, or to me, you may not know that I spent some ten years or so tracking down Harold Lamb’s work and helping to bring it back to print. I happen to think he’s one of the greatest adventure writers these United States have ever seen, although he happens to remain pretty obscure.

Anyway, so there I was, looking at this dedication, which read something along the lines of “to my mother, who was so supportive of my first book, I present my tenth.” By the time that book came into my hands, Lamb, his mother, his wife, and his children were all dead, leaving none to come after. There were only the books, and me, holding this one, wondering how it had found its way here and thinking about the day he must have penned that note and presented it to her.

Lamb is gone, and so is almost all that mattered to him, and when I remember that moment I feel like I am sitting alone in a very large, dark room, near a single, guttering candle. But maybe that’s how all of us humans should feel a little more often, so we remember how precious is the light.

10 Comments on “Guttering Candles

  1. Thanks Paul. I appreciate that. Wish you lived close. It’d be a good night to go sit with a friend and hoist a drink to those who are lost to us.

  2. You can light all sorts of things from a single guttering candle — another candle, a firework, an 18th Century lighthouse. . .

  3. Howard,

    I think what you did for the man and his work is one of the greatest things anyone can do for a writer: You brought his work back in print.

    Do you realize thanks to your efforts, Harold Lamb’s adventure fiction will probably never go entirely out of print again? Every reader who loves his work from here on out owes you a debt –and that’ll be even more true in a hundred years time.

    I can understand the melancholy. It speaks to any writer, or anyone who dreams of being one. It’s indeed sad that he has no descendants. On the other hand; if he’d had them, he might not have needed you.

  4. Coincidentally I had just reviewed one of Lamb’s stories at my blog and as you know, it was you who brought him to my attention way back when. In turn others have discovered him through me. The candle may gutter but the light remains.

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