Gerrold Watkins aka Barry Malzberg’s A Bed of Money

Barry Malzberg wrote a handful of green-cover Olympia Press paperbacks as Gerrold Watkins, one at Francine di Natale, as well as those under his own name, al duirng 1968-1969.  This was when Maurice Girodas had beenbooted frm France and was in New York and trying to build a U.S. version of Olympia, finding it hard to compete with bigger publshers, many whom had pirated Olympia titles since they were not legally protected under U.S. copyright because they had been technically illegal to have in the States in the 1950s.

Watkins - Bed of Money

I have been a Malzberg fan since I was 14 and discovere Beyond Apollo — I had never read SF like that, abiout crazy people and insane aliens and ugly sex.  Malzberg influenced my own writing, and still does — I titled one of my Blue Moons A Bed of Money as an homage, sort of.

In Malzberg/Watkins’ book, we get a look at the day of a grifter/jhorse track player at the Queens Aqueduct, the setting for other Malzbger novels: Overlay (SF/aliens, Lancer, 1971), Underlay (mob/crime, Avon, 1973) and Screen (postmodern porno, Olympia, 1969).

Malzberg - Overlay malzberg - Underlay

In A Bed of Money, Foster has two personalities: Foster the Winner and Foster the Loser; which personality comes out depends on how he does at the track that day. (Malzberg characters having identity issues is common.)  In the first chapter, Foster is a Winner, having won $2300 in a good bet.  He gets a drink to celebrate and picks up a woman; they go to a motel to have sex.  He feels like a winner, until the woman has two thugs she works with come in to steal the money, and then he becomes the Loser.

He gets away with the girl.  He lives with his mother, also a horse player, remidning me a lot of Jim Thompson’s The Grifters (which, by the way, was originally published by William Hamling’s Regency Books, edited by Harlan Ellison.)

Thompson - Grifters

In one scene, the text is split in two columns, as Foster feels like both Winner and Loser, and we see each viewpoint as he has sex with the woman who tried to shill him.

There’s a lot of sex, dirty talk, and sex talk, since this is a sex book, but it is also a good crime thriller, and I could see it as an indie crime movie on the Tarantino scale.  I may just make a screenplay out of this and try to sell it or make it myself.  (Beyond Apollo is being made into a film right now.”

Malzberg - Beyond Apollo

On the last page of A Bed of Money is a great line, one for the books: “Fuck the metaphysics of it all.”

Indeed.

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