“There is nothing more important in art—any of the arts—than the story the artist is trying to convey. This is what people look for in any form of entertainment. Modern art failed the masses by involving itself solely with the artist’s viewpoint, allowing it to become such a personal statement that the audience became excluded, which is why modern art has so often turned out to have a limited appeal. I write because there are a number of messages churning within me which I feel I have to get across to people. Luckily for the audience, I never know exactly which moral point I’m trying to make until I’ve completed that particular work. Not concentrating on the moral helps me keep the excitement level up and the lecturing down which, I think, makes for better entertainment all around.” — C.J. Henderson, circa 2012
Author C.J. Henderson died five years ago on July 4, 2014 after a losing fight with cancer. He wasn’t one of the top-tier authors, but he made a living from his craft, which is more than most writers can claim. I know several people who knew Mr. Henderson. They all agree that he was a good, solid guy who loved the pulps and who loved carrying on the tradition of writing concise, punchy tales of adventure and horror.
I first encountered Henderson’s fiction by way of Robert M. Price’s landmark “Cthulhu Cycle” anthologies from Chaosium. As I found out later, Robert M. Price had helped C.J.’s career get rolling back in the ‘80s by way of his now-legendary Cryptic Publications chapbooks. I looked forward to reading a Henderson tale back in the day. While they weren’t always top-shelf, his stories were consistently readable, well-crafted and fun. It was easy to see why Price enjoyed Henderson’s stories. considering both men were big fans of Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft.
C.J. was also a fan of writers like Rex Stout and Frank Miller. Henderson liked to write about hard-boiled detectives, both of the “occult” and “mundane” varieties. His long-running “Jack Hagee” series features a tough P.I. who wanders mean streets that occasionally lead to Lovecraftian destinations. However, in Henderson’s “Teddy London” tales, he goes full-on occult detective. Eventually, C.J. went one step further and wrote a series of stories starring Inspector LeGrasse, who made his first appearance in Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu.”
Bob Price wasn’t the only editor to find C.J.’s tales worth anthologizing. Stalwart anthologists like Robert Weinberg, Martin H. Greenberg and Stefan Dziemianowicz published Henderson’s works on more than one occasion. As I mentioned above, C.J. did all right for himself. At the end, he lost to the Grim Reaper, but so shall we all.
In the course of researching this blog entry, I discovered that Mr. Henderson wrote a sword and sorcery novel a few years before he died entitled The Reign of the Dragon Lord. In memory of him, I ordered a copy. I imagine it’ll be a fun read.