Lawrence Davidson 1949-2016

Lawrence Davidson 1949-2016

left to right: Richard Wolinsky, Richard A. Lupoff and Lawrence Davidson, in April 1987 on the tenth anniversary of “Probabilities.”

Bookwaves began in February 1977 as a science fiction program hosted by Lawrence Davidson, the sf and mystery buyer at Cody’s Bookstore in Berkeley. The guests on that first program were Richard A. Lupoff and Michael Kurland. Richard Wolinsky was at the board. By the second show, an interview with sf writers Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Marta Randall, Richard had joined Lawrence on the mic, and Probabilities was born.

Within a few months, Richard A. Lupoff had joined the team, and the three co-interviewers, singly, in pairs and as a threesome, interviewed most of the major science fiction writers of the day, including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, A.E. Van Vogt, Joan Vinge, Marion Zimmer Bradley and many others. An interest in old pulp magazines prompted Lupoff and Davidson to get competitive: who could find the most obscure (or formerly famous) sf pulp writer still alive. Amongst their discoveries were writers Stanton A. Coblentz, Ed Earl Repp and Frank K. Kelly, and editors Charles D. Hornig and Harry Bates. The interview that Lawrence conducted solo with Bates, an early editor of Astounding Stories and the author of the original story which became The Day The Earth Stood Still, was the only extant recording of Bates’ voice, talking about writing and editing in the ’20s and ’30s. Portions can be heard on the blu-ray of the 1951 film in a brief documentary in the Extras section of the DVD.

As time went on, interests changed. The program enlarged to include all genre fiction, with Lawrence specializing in western fiction, including interviews with Louis L’Amour and a handful of writers only western fans would recognize. Soon it became clear that Lawrence’s interests no longer jibed with those of Richard and Richard, and he amicably left the program in 1989.

Lawrence continued working at Cody’s Bookstore until the store folded in 2008, at which point he retired. His later years were devoted to teaching the work of Jane Roberts, a former science fiction writer who was the first “channeler” in the New Age boom of the final quarter of the twentieth century.

Three or four years ago, he began noticing changes in his body, loss of muscle and control. It wasn’t until early in 2016 that he was diagnosed with a disease akin to ALS. He passed away on May 17th at the age of sixty-six.