Good Ole Chuck – Tribute to Charles E. Fritch by William F. Nolan

William F. Nolan and Charles E. Fritch at Expo 67

He was a wonderful friend.

He was a talented writer.

He was a dedicated editor.

He was Charles Edward Fritch, born January 20, 1927 in Utica, New York, where he grew up watching movie serials and reading science fiction.

At the age of ten he filled a notebook with ideas for stories, and studied the stars through a telescope from his bedroom window.

He was a born writer: “I think if you’re going to be a writer, you’ll write – and nothing will stop you. I kept writing. I loved science fiction so I wrote that and finally started selling it.”

Indeed he did. Over 52 stories and two collections in the genre. He wrote many fine stories (among his best: “Big, Wide, Wonderful World”, “The Cog”, “The Castaway”, “Night Talk”, and his last one printed in 1999, “Different”). My favorite Fritch title, reflecting his wild sense of humor: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, to Hell with It!”

We had some great years together, especially in the 1960s, when we gleefully attended Expo ’67 in Canada.

Chuck came out to California, to Los Angeles, in 1952. We had exchanged letters (over my Ray Bradbury Review), when he was still living in Utica. I introduced him to Charles Beaumont and Chuck became a staunch member of “The Group” (Beaumont, Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, etc.)

I have been crying from time to time over the last couple of days – since I learned of Chuck’s passing. So many fine memories!

He died on October 11, 2012, and the world is a darker place without him. He was a good man in every way, with a wonderful sense of humor (he’d send Christmas cards in July!) I’d kid him about his middle name, “E”, and he’d say: “I need it – to separate me from all the other Fritches!” His signature was very small and we’d have “contests” to see who could write his name the smallest. He loved puns, naming his second collection: Horse’s Asteroid. I begged him to change it (“Chuck, it has no dignity!”) but he smiled and ignored my plea.

We collaborated together on a story, “The Ship”, which wound up in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. A gentle parody of Ray Bradbury. We worked together in the same office in the 1950s in Inglewood as job counselors for the California Department of Employment.

With the Group, Chuck was “the quiet one”, saying little but soaking up the conversation about stories and editors and publishers. We’d be up all night, reading our latest stories to each other.

I used his stories in five of my anthologies in the 1960s, and printed his last story, “Different” (a superb tale) in California Sorcery, my “Group” collection in 1999.

He knew I was into doing biblios on my writer friends and in late 1951 he mailed me “The Complete Fictional Works of Charles E. Fritch”. It had just one entry, “The Wallpaper”, his first story sale.

We worked on the SF magazine Gamma together in the 1960s, with Chuck as publisher and me as Managing Editor. He also published a mystery magazine, Chase during that period. (I appeared in the first issue under three names!)

Of course, as an editor, he took over Mike Shane’s Mystery Magazine in 1979 (extending into 1985), doing a great job of bringing new writers into print.

He also wrote several novels about tough private eyes, from Negative of a Nude (1959) to 7 Deadly Sinners, Strip for Murder, and Fury in Black Lace.

He enjoyed using several pen names beyond his own: Chester H. Carlfi, Eric Thomas, Christopher Sly, Troy Conway, and Charles Brockden.

In World War II, Chuck served as a paratrooper, returning to earn a major in Psychology from Syracuse University.

As a writer, he was proud of having his work showcased in such anthologies as The Year’s Best Horror Stories and 100 Great SF Stories. One of his best tales, “The Misfortune Cookie,” was adapted for The [New] Twilight Zone in 1986.

Chuck loved to show off his wife, Shirley, who looked like Elizabeth Taylor, having her make a grand entrance at parties while he chuckled at the crowd reactions. They were married for nearly 50 years, and brought up four children together.

Sad to say, due to his illness, Chuck and I lost contact over his last thirteen years.

He was very happy for me when a story I’d sold to him, “A Real Nice Guy” (for Mike Shane) ended up in the Best Detective Stories of the Year. And that was exactly what he was – a real nice guy. Good ole Chuck.

His friendship meant a great deal to me.

I loved him.

I’ll never forget him.

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