Saturday, April 20, 2013

A warrior has fallen.



Hi folks,

A warrior has fallen. Cort McMeel has left us.

Cort was my spiritual brother. We talked often and each time left telling the other we were brothers always before we hung up and we were.

I can’t stop crying. If Cort could only see the instant and immense outpouring of love and respect for him that has already begun and is turning into an avalanche of sorrow for our loss of this truly great man… Already, I’ve received dozens and dozens of emails and phone calls and everyone feels the same sense of immense loss of this most amazing man.

If Cort saw me now, with tears running down my cheeks, he’d grimace and tell me to “man up, dude.” He’d reach over and slap me and then he’d grin and we’d be fine. Above all else, Cort was a man’s man. The kind you don’t often run into these days. He took life by the horns and never gave any quarter. He was a fighter and literally. He was a boxer in the ring and a pugilist against the injustices of life. A true and fierce warrior.

He lies now on his shield, gone to, I hope, a better place. The light of the word has been visibly dimmed. We have lost one of the greats. Cort’s vision--his burning ambition--was to be this age’s John Martin. He had a great start on that ambition and if he’d stayed with us, he would have not only become the Martin of this age, but I know for a surety that he would have passed even this legendary editor in his accomplishments.

He was a brilliant writer. His first novel, Short, was a true original, a literary work of the first magnitude. He was close to finishing his second, Cagefighter, and I hope he had it close enough to being finished that it can be published. He founded one of the premier magazines in literary history, Murdaland, and he often told me he felt it to be his favorite body of work and probably his best legacy. He founded Noir Nation and Bare Knuckles Press and everything he did in literature was just of the very finest order. A brilliant writer and perhaps even a more brilliant editor. He had the best eye for literary quality of anyone I’ve ever been privileged to know, and Cort would rather help another writer achieve success than he himself. He was totally selfless and all he ever wanted was to help deliver to the world great writing.

Perhaps no one will ever know the demons that pursued Cort. I know a few of them, but I’m sure I don’t know them all. I do think I know one thing Cort would have wanted. For those who speak of him to speak with the unvarnished truth. He was as honest a man as I’ve ever known. He was as good of a man as I’ve ever known.

One of Cort's demons was that he cared so much. About truth. About literature. About the world around him. More and more, he felt that he couldn’t win. How do I know this? Because we talked and often. We told each other things we told no one else except our wives.

I talked to a cousin of his today, George Clark, who was his first cousin but told me he was more like Cort’s brother. They were closer than brothers. We feel the same about Cort. The more I talk to people, the more I find the same thing with their relationships with him. He touched so many lives in such a glorious way. I’m just so thankful I got to know and love him.

I think what defeated him was that he increasingly found himself in a a world in which it had become clear to him that he felt he wasn’t going to win under his terms. He loved literature more than anything and he detested with every fiber of his being what political correctness was doing to our freedom of speech and our literary canon. He just wasn’t the kind of guy who could live with compromise when it came to something this important.

A week and a half ago, Cort called me and he was clearly not himself. Les, he said, I’ve got a huge, huge favor to ask of you and if you refuse, I totally understand. What was going on was he felt pretty sure he was going to lose his job as a trader. He was handling that and had made up his mind that he was going after a job teaching writing, which he loved. His wife Sharon was fine with that, even though it meant less income than what they’d had.

The problem was, as Cort explained, was that he’d already lost three teaching jobs he’d applied to because the schools had seen the Amazon link for my book, The Rapist, which listed him as writing the foreword. It was the title that caused these assholes to refuse to hire him. None of them had read the book, but the title was offensive to them. Their reasoning, he said, was that if any of the students saw it, they’d think he was promoting rape. This is the level our “educators” have fallen to. He detested it, but felt powerless against these kinds of attitudes.

He asked if I’d be willing to take his name off the Amazon entry. There was no way he’d even consider removing the beautiful foreword he’d written, but he said if he could just take his name off he felt that would remove any future objections and he could secure a teaching job. I won’t go into everything he said, but the gist of it was that he felt awful in even asking me such a thing. We both believe fervently in freedom of speech and both of us detested the political correctness imbecilic mania that’s impacting everything about free speech negatively, but he said he desperately needed a job. He hated asking me to do this, but said he’d never even consider removing the foreword itself—just his name on the Amazon blurb.

I didn’t hesitate a second. Absolutely, I told him. The minute we got off the phone, I emailed Jon Bassoff, my publisher and mutual friend and he took Cort’s name down from the Amazon entry immediately.

Cort is the reason this book even got published. In fact, he’d wanted to publish it when he was with Bare Knuckles Press and when he left BKP, he did everything he could to get it published elsewhere and was ecstatic when Jon Bassoff wanted it for NPP because of the tremendous respect he had for Jon and NPP. He told me he felt like he was doing the same thing as John Martin had when he got Charles Bukowski published in the U.S. with Black Sparrow Press. In fact, in dozens and dozens of our conversations, Cort always compared the two of us to Bukowski and Martin. He was extremely proud of his part in getting this book published. He just felt that he was doing a great thing in getting controversial work into the light of day. I agree and I owe Cort everything. I’m not telling this story for any promotional value in the least, but simply to illustrate how the man thought and his creed.

I don’t know nor do I have any way of knowing this, but I feel as if I’m at least partially responsible for Cort choosing suicide. I don’t know if his job search was thwarted because of his association with my book or not. If it was, then I have some guilt to deal with.

But, I think the educators who would deny a supremely talented teacher and writer a job for this most specious of reasons should carry much greater guilt. Not that they will. Those kinds of folks never do.

A few weeks ago, Cort and I had a conversation on the phone about this letter we were both familiar with. It’s from Charles Bukowski to his editor at Black Sparrow, John Martin. I’m reprinting it here in homage to Cort.

8-12-86
Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don't think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don't get it right. They call it "9 to 5." It's never 9 to 5, there's no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don't take lunch. Then there's OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there's another sucker to take your place.

You know my old saying, "Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors."

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don't want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can't believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: "Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don't you realize that?"

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn't want to enter their minds.
Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:
"I put in 35 years . . . "

"It ain't right . . . "

"I don't know what to do . . . "

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn't they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I'm here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I've found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system. . .

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: "I'll never be free!"

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I'm gone) how I've come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one's life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

yr boy,

Hank

I don’t know, but I have to wonder if what Bukowski had to say here was on Cort’s mind somewhat. If so, I just wish he’d stuck it out a bit more. I know he often felt the same way Bukowski did about how life beats one down. He’d had more than his share of body slams. But, Cort was always a man of action and I think he just took the wrong action at the wrong time and only wish he’d waited a bit. I wish I’d been there to perhaps talk him off that ledge. It was that wild Irish temper of his that made him impatient. If something wasn't right, he couldn't wait to fix it. He did the only thing he knew to do and that was to give battle. He was the most courageous man I've ever known and he was also at times the rashest. He'd just say it was the Irish in him. The Irish! God, ya gotta love 'em. You'll also end up weeping for 'em.

But, I wasn’t here for him, and it was a decision he faced and made. He must have felt like all hope was gone and that makes me weep more than anything. That a good man like Cort truly was would be bereft of all hope is the saddest thing I can imagine.

I can’t begin to list all the things Cort did for me. He championed my work to everyone he possibly could. He knew I was broke, so he paid for my wife and me to come to St. Louis to take part in Jed Ayres Noir @ The Bar. This fall, he was going to bring me to Denver to take part in the Noir @ The Bar there. He’s done so much for me and my career and more than that we’d become brothers. And, then, when he really needed a brother, I wasn’t there for him. That will haunt me the rest of my life. Cort wouldn’t see it that way at all and I know that and that makes it bearable.

There’s a lesson here, perhaps. To be aware of our brothers and sisters in life. To be sensitive to their needs and their pain and even if they don’t ask, don’t allow the signs to become invisible, but to reach out and let them know we love them and that we’re there for them.

I’ll miss you, my friend. More than anything. You have been my hero since you came into my life and will always be my hero. Thank you.

Finally, Cort fits Bukowski’s final thought above perfectly. To not to have entirely wasted one's life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself. Cort’s was not a wasted life—it just should have gone on longer. Even cut far, far too short, it was a worthy accomplishment. He just did so very much for others. The shame is, he should have done far more for himself.

Rest in peace, my brother. You made a difference in my life and in the lives of many others. You will not be forgotten. Everyone of of who are writers has lost a compadre and we all are less than what we were because of it.

Blue skies,
Les

What should help Cort’s family is if people buy his novel Short. They’ll be able to receive the royalties so give it some consideration, please.




 For those of you who may not have known Cort, look above at the photo I have on my blog here. Cort is the guy just behind me with the tough guy hat. He was truly a tough guy. One of the fiercest men I've ever  known. He fought for justice and what's right and what is good. I miss him and always will. He was a majestic, heroic man, bigger than life.




39 comments:

Dawn Allen said...

I'm sorry to hear about Cort, Les. No words can ever ease the pain of loss. You and Cort's family and friends are in our thoughts.

K. A. Laity said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I suspect you did a lot to keep him in the game longer than he would have been otherwise. It's awful to lose someone far too soon.

Lee Thompson/Thomas Morgan/James Logan/Julian Vaughn said...

Man, that sucks, Les. Sending good energy your way and to his family.

Tiffany said...

Sorry to hear this.

Unknown said...

You are real when you speak about Cort. I'm sorry you lost your friend. He was my friend too. And he wanted to help me, and I knew of his distress with the job, and we talked about his publishing dreams...but he was impetuous in the wrong moment. You were a great friend to Cort. Thank you for your tribute here.

Vicki Gundrum said...

Unknown is Vicki Gundrum, am crying so forgot to post with my name.

Chris Leek said...

Sorry for your loss.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Sad news. I only knew Cort online- through you and when he contacted me about a story for the 1st NN. He really did seem like one of the good guys.

A sad loss.A splendid tribute.

David Cranmer said...

Sorry for your loss, Les. And please extend my condolences to his family.

Unknown said...

There is something powerful and ominous about April. It's the month with the most suicides. I discovered this fact after a dear friend's son ended his life last April.

I am sorry for your loss, Les. I believe you became Cort's brother because you also are a man who would rather help another writer achieve success than you yourself. I have first hand experience of this testimony to your character. I wish there was something I could do or say to ease the grief you are feeling. I heed the lesson you pointed out. I love you and I am here for you.

Unknown said...

There is something powerful and ominous about April. It's the month with the most suicides. I discovered this fact after a dear friend's son ended his life last April.

I am sorry for your loss, Les. I believe you became Cort's brother because you also are a man who would rather help another writer achieve success than you yourself. I have first hand experience of this testimony to your character. I wish there was something I could do or say to ease the grief you are feeling. I heed the lesson you pointed out. I love you and I am here for you.

Austin Carr said...

So sorry, Les, both that he's gone and that I never got to meet this brother of yours. I hope when the grief eases a bit you realize you are in no way responsible.

Ron Earl Phillips said...

Les, I'd caught the notes in the social media round about regarding Cort's death, but no wheres or whys. Thank you for giving your insight and a bit of your friendship.

From what you tell us of Cort, he wouldn't want you blaming yourself, feeling culpable, for the battles he fought alone with his own demons. "Man up" indeed, he'd probably say.

The mantle of his visions, his life, now lay within his words and the heart of those he called friend. Thank you for sharing and always being open.

His fight is over and my thoughts are with his family, friends and "brothers."

Ron Earl Phillips said...

Les, I'd caught the notes in the social media round about regarding Cort's death, but no wheres or whys. Thank you for giving your insight and a bit of your friendship.

From what you tell us of Cort, he wouldn't want you blaming yourself, feeling culpable, for the battles he fought alone with his own demons. "Man up" indeed, he'd probably say.

The mantle of his visions, his life, now lay within his words and the heart of those he called friend. Thank you for sharing and always being open.

His fight is over and my thoughts are with his family, friends and "brothers."

Cecile Somers said...

Les, you write "But, I wasn’t here for him, and it was a decision he faced and made. He must have felt like all hope was gone and that makes me weep more than anything. That a good man like Cort truly was would be bereft of all hope is the saddest thing I can imagine."

Yes, you would hope your best friend would ring you and say "I'm down & desperate and I need to see you." But that's not how it works.

My father's youngest brother committed suicide three years ago, leaving a wife and two daughters.

Apparently when you get to a certain place, the only way to slay the fanged monster that eats your hope and haunts your waking hours and squeezes your chest to suffocation is to slay yourself.

I'm so sorry for your loss, but grateful for your words. I can't believe The Rapist connection. How utterly utterly sad.

Absolutely*Kate ~ Author / Promoter said...

Aw Les,
As usual ... your gut speaks more: "I’m just so thankful I got to know and love him."

You gotta know, you gotta know in every fibre of you guys' tough-guyness ... he so loved you so. How, with his innate integrity, could it be damn otherwise? (Hold that man, with my hug.)

As to the Buk-share, so in context. Yet the line preceding your impacted quote:"I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I'm gone) how I've come through the murder and the mess and the moil . . . "

That kinda sparks the spark that IS Cort. He's readin' over your shoulder and responsible for a coupla word-choices you made that you didn't see coming. He's with you, and his family and all of us out here strivin' the writing gig. He's just that good a guy in the bad guys pool. I just got to know him when Eddie Vega brought me in with you and Paul Brazill and Terrence McCauley and Jonathan Sturak and doggone - it was like no 'new acquaintance'. More like findin' "that guy" again.

Here's to you findin' what was Good and Right and True and said the hell-with inane stupidity. What he did with you was his gut walkin' the walk.

Let me know, any and every way I can jump on the bandwagon to hype SHORT and help YOU put together other books, including a tribute collection to help his family.

As for you, he knows as a writer -- when you made me cry, you're doin' your stuff.

Bles'zings Cort,
you too Les that's more


Love you guys,
~ Absolutely*Kate

Les Edgerton said...

Thank you, each and every one of you, for your thoughts on our fallen comrade, Cort McMeel. I'm overwhelmed by the love you show for him.

I also did not want this tribute to be about me in any way, shape or form and please don't take it that way. This totally about Cort only and I only related our experiences to illustrate the man that he was.

I am collecting tributes to him which I'll post here when I've got them all. Please send them to me at my email address at butchedgerton@comcast.net

Thank you. I just wish Cort could have seen this outpouring of love for him. I'm not a big "God" person, but I have to think that his spirit is alive somewhere and that he knows. If so, he has a big-ass grin on his Irish mug.

tom pitts said...

So sorry to hear this news, Les. Thanks you for shining a light.

Col Bury said...

Les,

This is so damn sad, mate. Please accept our condolences from this side of the 'pond', and pass them on to Cort's family.

Now then. I only knew Cort online for about a year and, from your heartfelt post, he's clearly a top bloke. It's only natural to feel guilty, as you were a great friend of Cort's, but demons are deep-rooted, mate. Forget that tenuous link to 'blame' - you WERE there for Cort.

Remember all those good times.

Respect.
Col

Hardcastle said...

Les. I'm gutted to hear about Cort. He was introduced to me by my friend Leah, one of his students, and he got my work published in Noir Nation. From the moment we got in touch you could feel his honesty, ferocity, and passion for writing and for the truth. I didn't know him a shade of what you did, but every time we spoke by email I went away a better man. We had swapped novels as both were about cage fighters, but I hadn't heard from him in a while. I should have emailed him earlier and reached out. But I didn't, as I figured he was a busy man and we'd talk later. Often the strongest men carry the most weight, and without a complaint. Even if you see the strain they will play it off, so those they care about aren't burdened with it.

He was a great man and a invaluable mentor to me over the last couple of years, and I'll miss his emails and rants. Many of which were about publishing the Bukowskis of the world, fitting to your tribute. I hope he rests well and my thoughts are with his wife and kids.

Take care Les. Thank you for writing this.

Kevin Hardcastle

Eddie Vega said...

Cort was experiencing deep spiritual turmoil compounded by profound mental isolation and despair. He was at a point where no one could reach him.

Scott Phillips said...

Not your fault, Les, not one atom of it.

Teri Green said...

Les, it sounds like Cort was a man of uncompromising principles who contributed so much to this world and those who happened to share it with him. Most people never wake up from the coma that is their life long enough to stand on a mountain and scream across the world their truth. The echoes of his voice will continue to reverberate in the lives he touched. I'm so sorry for your loss. Teri from Toledo.

Thaddeus Howze said...

I do not know your friend except through your words. But through them, I feel your love and your loss. I grieve with you.

You have Spoken for your friend. Speaking for the Dead is the greatest act a man can give another. Whatever awaits us beyond life, he has been given a glowing recommendation.

Be at peace, soldier.

MWDaveT said...

I don't know you, but I knew Cort and worked with him for a short time in Minneapolis - My thoughts and prays go out to his family and friends.

David

Sarah Faurote said...

Damn. I've heard so many cool things about Cort, thanks to you, Les. I missed out. At least his legacy will rock on, thanks to you and all the other kick ass writers blessed to have know him.

Sarah Faurote said...

Damn. I've heard so many cool things about Cort, thanks to you, Les. I missed out. At least his legacy will rock on, thanks to you and all the other kick ass writers blessed to have know him.

Park Hill said...

Like I said, this is all well and good, and I guess it's nice you all admire him so much....except he ended his own pain at the expense of starting a lifetime of pain for his two little innocent kids. My children go to school with his. Different kind of legacy.

ryan. said...

les.

been working on a tv project with cort for a bit. grew ip with him in boston.

fucking fuck.

your words ring.

x

r

Thomas Pluck said...

I only spoke with Cort briefly but he left an impression as surely as he left one on the world with his work and deeds.
My condolences for the loss of your friend, Les. You have given him a great tribute here.

Sabrina E. Ogden said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Les. Sending much love to you, my friend.

Chisem said...

Memories heal, give comfort and keep your friend alive, as will your vivid words. Sorry you lost your friend, Les.

Paul D. Brazill said...

'beware the average man the average woman
beware their love, their love is average
seeks average

but there is genius in their hatred
there is enough genius in their hatred to kill you
to kill anybody'

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks to all of you who commented. I just wish Cort could have seen the outpouring of love and respect for him that's taking place.

Paul, what a perfect poem! Is it one you wrote?

I'm still collecting tributes if you'd like to contribute a few words. Please send them to me via my email at butchedgerton@comcast.net and thank you.

Drew said...

I spoke to Cort on Friday. He was excited to move to Los Angeles. He had his demons and they got the best of him

Donna Hole said...

Sounds like a true loss to the literary world. The strands of life can be so fragile. I hope his family, and friends such as yourself, take heart in the accomplishments in this man's life, the strength and passion that drove him to touch a number of lives in a positive way.

Think of all the good he brought to this world and he will remain immortal as long as people remember him.

.......dhole

Julia Madeleine said...

Les, I didn't know Cort, but the way you describe him reminds me of my brother John, who also had a wild Irish temper, was extremely passionate, and committed suicide.

Focus on the joy of having known and loved him as you were so blessed to have done :-) Love you, Les!

Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there.
I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain. 

When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night. 

Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there.
I did not die.

-Mary Elizabeth Frye

susan gadwah said...

Les,
So sorry for your loss and our loss of a dear family friend, Cortwright. My family has been close to the McMeel family, starting with a best friendship between his parents, Betsy and Wally and my grandparents Margo and Mike McConihe in Nonquitt, MA, so many years ago and very much so continuing to this moment. My thoughts and prayers to all his friends and family, especially his parents, whom he had called to be with him at the time. Even his parents, Betsy and Wally, who were with him in Colorado at the time, and at his request, had no idea that this was intension. No one knows what someone is contemplating, unless they actually tell someone, and he had not given such warning signs. He would not want anyone to carry such guilt. So many what ifs and maybes are left behind, and in knowing how you and many feel, remember only he truly knew.
Sincerely,
Suki Pisarra Gadwah

Medb Sichko said...

Hi Les,
I'm one of Corty's friends from the 'hood but our hood is pretty elegant as you can see if you read Corty's zombie novel published under a pseudonym. When I read your tribute I thought it was so beautiful and sad and I was speechless. But I felt bad that you were blaming yourself. Just last night I saw Sophie's tribute where she posts a number of Corty's emails. I got a chill because those emails made me wonder if Corty was bipolar like his adored Herman Melville and like so many other talented writers. He tells Sophie things like ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK and PUSH, PUSH, PUSH and seems on fire with manic energy. That manic energy takes its toll and you crash. The crash is bio-chemical; it's no one's fault, not yours, not Sophie's nor any of ours. Please do not feel guilt around Corty's death. He wouldn't want you to. Use your sad emotions to write or, as Corty might say, PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. Corty liked to quote Goethe: "Never hurry, never rest." I wish for you this gift from him that you never rest from your writing but that you never hurry. He himself never meant to rest. The best we can do for him is to carry on.
Thank for such a very beautiful tribute.