Kung Fu by Howard Lee aka Barry N. Malzberg (1973)

Posted: March 25, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Well, this is a vintage paperback…I am adding it because it has an interesting back story.  I was re-reading it today because it was penned by none other than Barry N. Malzberg, probably the most unlikely fit for a TV tie-in writer.

I’d once asked Malzberg about it.  He of course did it for a quick paycheck, like his adaptation of Phase IV, a strange little low budget SF movie that was more in tune with Malzberg’s style and concerns.  Seems Warner Books needed someone to write this in a week, which he did, and as part of the deal, Warner agreed to publish his 1974 collection, Out from Ganymede, which explains how that book of esoteric and experimental short stories was published by a commercial paperback house.

Malzberg has not found the irony golden that this Kung Fu title sold half a million copies and made the bestseller lists, outdoing any original book he penned, and he saw no royalties, it was  a work for hire, probably feeling the same dismay that Mike Avvalone and Harry Whittington experienced when they were paid $1500 for their Man from UNCLE tie ins which were bestsellers and sold well.

Speaking of which, Mike Avallone seemed to have penned the next two Howard Lee Kung Fu books.  In the arly 70s, Kung Fu was one of the biggest TV shows going — much to Bruce Lee’s dismay, who conceived the show and had it stolen from him.

So how is the book?  It’s okay.  Malzberg was obviously just translating a TV script to prose, but here and there a few Malzbergian sentences make their way in — the fact that Malzberg adapted this is worth the price of purchase alone; many writers have done tie-ins for a buck, and we did get one of his best collections of stories out of the deal.

Here’s the galleys of that book:

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