The Book of the Damned
The book for which I'm best known, Ishmael, came into being over a twelve-year period, beginning in 1979. It wasn't work on a single book. Rather, it was work on different versions of what eventually became a single book: Ishmael, the eighth version and the only one in which the teacher Ishmael appears. When I started writing The Book of the Damned in 1981, I was sure I'd found the book I was born to write. The versions that came before had been like rainy days with moments of sunshine. THIS was a thunderstorm, and the lines crossed my pages like flashes of lightning. When, after a few thousand words I came to a clear climax, I said, "This MUST be seen," so I put Part One into print. Parts Two and Three followed, and I began searching for the switch that would turn on Part Four . . . but it just wasn't there. I clung to it for a long time after issuing the first three parts, desperately hoping to find a way to produce additional parts that would bring it to the conclusion I knew was "out there." What I'd done was terrific-and complete in its own way-but at last I faced the fact that the whole thing just couldn't be done in lightning strikes . . . Another ten years passed before I found the way, a completely different way . . . in Ishmael, which was the embodiment of my message, providing the foundation for the clarifications, amplifications, and extensions still to come. But publishing The Book of the Damned had been no mistake. It deserved to be published, and it still does. Those lightning strikes illuminate an apocalyptic landscape never seen before-or after, in any of my later books (including Ishmael).