A small slice of the forthcoming book, on Lafferty’s days just before getting published:
In between the assignments Lafferty dutifully sent to the correspondence class— the stories “Hands of the Man,” “Aloys,” “Adam Had Three Brothers,” “Rain Mountain,” and “Marsilia V.” all began as submissions to Fierst’s NY School—he also wrote stories for markets in adventure and survival (“Other Kind of Animal”; “Chombo”; “Snake Cabin”); mystery and murder (“I Don’t Like You”; “Milly”; “Get Off the World”); science fiction (“Panic Flight”; “The All-Star Series”); men’s and women’s-interest (“Girl of the Month” and “Pamponia,” respectively); and Catholic fiction (“The Saving Grace”; “The Vanquished”; “Handful of Fire”). The fact that all the foregoing stories remain unpublished points in one guise to the necessity of this approach: Lafferty had to try out as many approaches as possible, to see what stuck and what didn’t.
But it also allows a parallel to this period to be drawn within Lafferty’s work itself. Toward the end of Deep Scars of the Thunder, Crucifixion classmate Rita Palacios, an accomplished artist in many media, is commissioned to paint a hundred portraits, “the characteristic persons, living and dead, of a particular world.” She starts in 1957 and finishes in 1959—the same span of time covered in Lafferty’s apprenticeship period, prior to the first publication and payment that marked him as a professional writer, and which he would cite thereafter as the date he began writing.
Over the years, the Palacios portraits seem to change subtly, revealing new and unsuspected depths within; so too with even the most obscure of the early stories. And like Rita’s paintings, Lafferty uses his stories to populate the particular world that his writing brings into being. All of Lafferty’s recurring characters, save those from the In a Green Tree novels (and, consequently, the Austro and Barnaby Sheen stories), originate in Lafferty’s Fifties gallery. As noted before, the Argo crew has by this point been delineated and shopped around to various hardcover houses in the earliest drafts of Archipelago; perhaps Lafferty’s most famous group of characters, the scientists at the Institute of Impure Studies, make their first appearance in the 1958 tale “Through Other Eyes,” discussed in the next chapter. “The Ugly Sea,” also a 1957 tale, is the first story to feature Sour John and, through him, the Galveston contingent at the Rusty Bucket; the same city provides a setting for the early adventures of Carnadine Thompson and cop Mossback McCarty in “Blood Off a Knife” (published as “Enfants Terribles”). Willy McGilly and the Wreckville crew appear as early as Lafferty’s third documented story, “Adam Had Three Brothers,” along with their base of operations, the Plugged Nickel bar, where the Willoughby family will begin making appearances shortly after.