Ken Grimwood

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Ken Grimwood
KenGrim.jpg
Born Kenneth Milton Grimwood
(1944-02-27)February 27, 1944
Dothan, Alabama, United States
Died June 6, 2003(2003-06-06) (aged 59)
Santa Barbara, California, United States
Occupation Writer
Notable work(s) Replay

Kenneth Milton Grimwood (February 27, 1944 – June 6, 2003) was an American author, sometimes known as Alan Cochran. In his fantasy fiction Grimwood combined themes of life-affirmation and hope with metaphysical concepts, themes found in his best-known novel, the highly popular Replay.

Background[edit]

Grimwood was born in Dothan, Alabama. His sister, Teresa Panther-Yates, once described him as "a brilliant, beautiful human being who knew that the best of fiction has a message."

Grimwood took an interest in EC Comics and radio journalism while growing up in Pensacola, Florida. He graduated from Indian Springs School in 1961 and then spent the summer in Paris while studying at the Sorbonne. He attended Emory College from 1961 to 1963. In the mid-1960s, he worked in news at WLAK in Lakeland, Florida. Heading north, he studied psychology at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where he contributed short fiction to Bard's student publication, Observer in 1969, graduating in 1970.

Some of his early novels were written while he was nightside editor at KFWB News 980 radio in Los Angeles, but the success of Replay enabled him to leave KFWB News 980 for full-time writing. Married once with no children, Grimwood had friends on both coasts, including Tom Atwill, who is related to the actor Lionel Atwill. Atwill described his friend's "free spirit lifestyle" and recalled, "He was a loner, almost a recluse. He liked small gatherings of friends. We had many dinner parties with him and some friends, and he would always be the one to keep the evening hilarious; he was a great storyteller. He did not like publicity and was actually quite shy... He was a media junkie. He owned the first Betamax sold; he had the largest video library I've ever seen. One of his favorite things to do was for he and I to watch some old movie in the afternoon; we did it often."[1]

Towards the end of his life, Grimwood maintained a brief email correspondence with Hellboy screenwriter Peter Briggs, whom he contacted after seeing Briggs' review of Replay on the book's Amazon feedback page, revealed in an interview with Briggs in 2004.[2]

Breakthrough[edit]

Grimwood's impressive debut novel, Breakthrough (Ballantine, 1976), was heavily influenced by EC Comics, concluding its blend of science fiction, reincarnation and horror elements with a surprising and unpredictable twist ending. Cured of epilepsy by a breakthrough in medical technology, 26-year-old Elizabeth Austin has miniature electrodes implanted in her brain. She can control her seizures by pressing an external remote to activate the electrodes. Adjusting to a normal life, she is ready to patch up a troubled marriage and resume her abandoned career. However, as part of the implant operation, Elizabeth gave her consent for the insertion of extra electrodes, featuring experimental functions unknown to science. When one of those electrodes is stimulated, Elizabeth experiences memories which are not her own. She discovers the remote has given her the ability to eavesdrop on her previous life 200 years in the past, and she keeps this a secret from her doctor. Intrigued, she finds the earlier existence appealing and begins to spend more and more time there. Eventually, she discovers that the woman in the past is a murderess who is plotting to kill Elizabeth's husband in the present.

Although Breakthrough went out of print shortly after publication, author Gary Carden ranked it alongside books by Stephen King and Ray Bradbury:

Over the last 40 years, there are 40 or 50 "good trash" books that have remained in my memory because the writing was graphic, suspenseful and tense. Like the clichéd blurb on the cover of most suspense or crime fiction always promises, I found I "could not put it down." A lot of these managed to frighten me, and that is a pretty good trick. When I read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, I actually turned on all of the lights, locked the door and finished the book before sunrise. The same thing is true of Stephen King’s Salem's Lot. I read it in a motel in Maggie Valley and ended up finishing it in the lobby where I had the comforting presence of other people. I’ll not forget James Hall’s Bone of Coral or James Lee Burke’s Black Cherry Blues or Ray Bradbury’s October Country. Then there was a book by Ken Grimwood called Breakthrough and William Goldman’s Marathon Man. All of these authors have the ability to "set the hook" in the first page, and then you are there for the long haul, reading as you eat, neglecting the chores and refusing to answer the phone. You aren’t reading Kafka or Tolstoy, and you know it, yet you know the author is far better than most writers of popular "thriller" or "suspense" fiction. Sometimes, he gets pretty close to "literature," but essentially, he is just entertaining you.

To write this novel, Grimwood did extensive research into brain surgery and epilepsy. Film producer William Castle took an interest in adapting Breakthrough for a movie, but the project was never realized. Breakthrough has certain parallels with David Williams' Second Sight (Simon and Schuster, 1977), coincidentally written the same year and later adapted for the TV movie, The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan (1979). Williams has commented, "As the author of Second Sight, I have to tell you that until I read this Wikipedia page in 2004, I had never heard of Ken Grimwood or his novel Breakthrough."

Two Plus Two[edit]

Grimwood used the pseudonym Alan Cochran on his novel Two Plus Two (Doubleday, 1980), but in Replay he offered a clue to Two Plus Two's true author with a sequence in which the main character of Replay hides his identity by using the name Alan Cochran. Behind Doubleday's cover blurb, "A Terrifying Novel of Murder in a Swinging Social Club," the storyline follows two Los Angeles detectives investigating a trio of murders. Doubleday described the book with this summary:

For anyone who has never been to a swinging couples-only club, Two Plus Two will offer some surprises; and surprises were certainly in store for detectives Jason Price and his attractive partner, Brooke Merritt. Three seemingly unrelated murders have occurred in the Los Angeles area and the police have only a single lead — each of the victims, one male and two females, were members of the exclusive Two Plus Two club. To investigate, Lieutenant Dan Ryan calls in the team of Price and Merritt. Their assignment — to go undercover and infiltrate the club, posing as a new swinging couple. As their research begins, they find a world unlike any other; a world where every carefully chosen amenity is geared to easing each casual sexual encounter; and a world which, unbeknownst to its members, harbors a clever, homicidal madman. Two Plus Two opens the doors of a closed-door milieu, that of the on-the-premise-swinging club—intriguing, mysterious, and, sometimes, deadly. It also introduces us to two new detectives—one male, one female—of whom more will be heard.

Replay[edit]

The 1988 World Fantasy Award[3] went to Grimwood for his novel Replay (Arbor House, 1987), the compelling account of 43-year-old radio journalist Jeff Winston, who dies and awakens back in 1963 in his 18-year-old body. He then begins to relive his life with intact memories of the previous 25 years. This happens repeatedly with different events in each cycle. The premise was explored earlier by Richard A. Lupoff in his 1973 short story "12:01". The novel was a bestseller in Japan, and its time-loop concept has been referenced as a precursor of Harold Ramis' comedy-drama Groundhog Day (1993).[4]

Critic Daniel D. Shade outlined the book's buried messages when he reviewed the novel in 2001:[5]

Yet in spite of all the pain and anguish we go through as we follow Jeff through his search for an understanding of why he is replaying his life, the book has some important things to say to the reader. First, life is full of endless happenings that we have little control over. We should live our lives with our eyes set upon the horizon and never look back, controlling those things we can and giving no second thought to those events out of our hands. Second, given that we only have one life to live (Jeff is never sure he will replay again with each heart attack) we should live it to the fullest extent possible and with the least regret for our actions. Everybody makes mistakes; the point is not to dwell on them but to pick ourselves up and keep on going. Keep moving ahead. Third, choices must be made—we cannot avoid them. The only failure is to live a life without risks. In fact, I believe Jeff Winston would advise risking everything for those you love and for the life you want for them and with them. To not experience risk is to fail. And what does Replay have to say to a poor, old man like me who is still going though his mid-life crisis? Just this—that every year will be new. Every day a new chance to begin again. There can be no mid-life crisis when we are living each day to the fullest extent possible. From what Jeff Winston has taught me, I would define mid-life crisis as a period of selfishness when we turn inward and think only of ourselves. Jeff inspires us to look outward toward others and think less of ourselves.

The novel was a selection of the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club, and it was included in several lists of recommended reading: Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels (1988), Aurel Guillemette's The Best in Science Fiction (1993), David Pringle's Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction (1995) and the Locus Reader's Poll: Best Science Fiction Novel (1988). In the Locus 1998 poll of the best fantasy novels published prior to 1990, Replay placed #32. On the Internet Top 100 SF/Fantasy List, Replay was voted to the #43 position in 2000 but climbed to #19 by 2003.[6]

In 1986 the agent Irene Webb (then at the William Morris Agency which still represents Ken's work) sold the film rights to Replay to United Artists for a $100,000 option against a $400,000 purchase.[7]

As of 2013, "Replay" has been continuously in print in English, French and Japanese since 1987, is in print in German and Chinese, and available as an audio book in English (publ. Tantor). "Replay" is contracted to be published in 2013 in Russian, Turkish, Portuguese and Bahasa Indonesia."Elise" is contracted to be published in Turkish in 2013.

Into the Deep[edit]

Grimwood's fascination with cetacean intelligence, encounters with dolphins and research into intraspecies dolphin communication gave him the inspiration for Into the Deep (William Morrow, 1995), about a marine biologist struggling to crack the code of dolphin intelligence. It features lengthy imaginative passages written from the point of view of several dolphin characters. To research "the willful denial and gratuitous cruelty" involved in tuna fishing, Grimwood secretly infiltrated the crew of a San Diego-based tuna boat. The publisher described the book:

Set on land and beneath the oceans, Into the Deep reveals, once again, Ken Grimwood's exceptional talent for blending fantasy and reality. One part thriller, one part spiritual adventure, the exhilarating story at the heart of Into the Deep involves a hard-hitting journalist, a beautiful scientist, a globe-traveling engineer, and a venerable Portuguese fisherman. Vastly different, their lives are about to intersect and to become irrevocably changed by a school of dolphins--as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. With the drama that unfolds from a silent war waged at the sea's greatest depths and from a single, fateful discovery, Into the Deep takes a tantalizing glimpse at the optimistic future this planet might achieve if humans and the creatures of the deep could learn to share and defend its remarkable bounty.

Grimwood's environmental concerns were also evident in a letter he wrote to Los Angeles Times in 2002:

August 31, 2002, Saturday
Getting Those Nasty Butts Off the Streets
As an ex-smoker, I am also disgusted by the idea of thousands of cigarette butts littering the streets and ultimately being swept into the ocean ("Litterbugs and Butts," letter, Aug. 26). I am confused, however, about what smokers in largely pedestrian areas such as Westwood, Venice, the promenades in Santa Monica and Pasadena, and State Street in Santa Barbara are supposed to do with their smoldering butts.
Your letter writer suggests putting them in trash cans. Just how many trash fires per block would he like to see on an average day?
On a recent trip to Sydney, Australia, I noticed that the city has placed hotel-style ashtrays filled with sand on sidewalks throughout the central business district and the historic area called "the Rocks." Smokers obviously use them; I almost never saw cigarette butts crushed out on the streets or sidewalks in this delightfully clean and friendly city.
I know it may smack of "enabling" to rabidly anti-smoking Californians, but if we really want to keep the streets clean of this noxious litter, it might be a good idea to give smokers (including many foreign tourists) a safe and handy place to dispose of their used cigarettes.
Ken Grimwood
Santa Barbara

Other works[edit]

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Other novels include The Voice Outside (1982), exploring mind control and telepathy-inducing drugs, and Elise (1979). Born in Versailles in 1683, Elise is immortal because of her DNA, and the story traces her experiences with various lovers and husbands through the centuries. Elise is now regarded as a rare book and sells at collector prices.

Death[edit]

At age 59, Grimwood died of a heart attack in his home in Santa Barbara, California. At the time of his death, he was writing a sequel to Replay. He is included in the Guide to Santa Barbara Authors and Publishers at the University of California, Santa Barbara. There is at least one unpublished Grimwood novel, a collaboration with Tom Atwill.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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