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A Cheery Little Number
October 23, 2017
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Is it possible to be mad at a book? Definitely. Especially when you have taken charge of multiple heavy cartons of this book, cartons that were stored in gross conditions and are dusty and splotched with insect shmutz, and, to add insult to injury, the book is titled Vermin. Boy, have I ever been mad at this book, and at my predecessor Harry Willson for saddling me with it. To top it off, Harry assigned a royalty of a whopping five percent to each of two anti-nuclear organizations. More accounting of minuscule sums. I started giving the books away and recycling them. Vermin? Really? Get 'em out of here.

Yeah, the book bugged me, but there's still a lot to be valued and enjoyed in Harry Willson's satirical stories and the charming illustrations by Claiborne O'Connor. It was never my intention to let the book go out of print, but on my last review of the Amador Publishers inventory I found that I was down to about half a dozen paperback copies. Every time I had wanted to lighten the load here, those are the cartons that were tossed. Ewww, vermin!

I was supposed to turn the material into an e-book and/or digital reprint before letting the original supply get away from me. So, I have rolled up my sleeves and tackled the project, and I can now present to the world a new e-book edition of this cheery little number, re-titled Johnny Plutonium. I changed the name from the last story in the collection to the first, and retained the subtitles: Johnny Plutonium and Other Survival Stories: Humanity as an Endangered Species. Read it and weep, or read it and laugh. I have done a fair amount of both as I worked through the text.

Harry Willson Book Cover

Another change I made was to move Harry's note about Satire from the end of the book to the beginning. Written more than twenty years ago, his lament to the Muse that satire had become difficult to write in an age of absurdity has only become more apropos with the passing decades. What would you think of this world, Harry? I wondered as I reread his stories. One can only be fueled by outrage for so long before burning up.

It's important to remember, and this does come through in the stories, that the energy of Harry's ire was matched by his joy in living. He was passionate about humanity, but not terribly optimistic. Harry was one of those latter day prophets who railed in vain against hypocrisy and the self-destructive, self-deluding follies of his fellow humans. He wasn't free of folly himself, by any means, but he tried. He cared.

So that Harry can keep trying to save us, even after his own departure from the scene, I am pleased to re-issue his collection of "survival stories" in e-book edition. I will continue to honor his wish that a portion of proceeds go to our local anti-nuclear organizations. I'm counting on your support to make that add up to something more than fractions of pennies. You can purchase this title from your preferred e-book vendor, or find all formats at Smashwords.

Visit Harry Willson's Author Page for supplemental material from Harry's protest of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Learn about the ongoing problems at WIPP at

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Copyright © 2017 Zelda Gatuskin

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