When I first met Harry Rubin, I didn't like him. The feeling was mutual. I know this because about three years ago, Harry introduced me to someone, saying, "This is Lee. I couldn't stand him when I first met him. Goes to show you how wrong first impressions can be sometimes."
That feeling is mutual too. Harry and I became good friends.
Harry is one of those guys who is hard to like at first sight. If you look up the word "curmudgeon" in the dictionary, there's a good chance you'll see Harry's picture there. Rumor has it that Hollywood followed him around for ideas before making the movie "Grumpy Old Men." His style is gruff, and he will tell you what's on his mind. Political correctness has never tainted one of his opinions, either.
I'm not sure exactly when the like-and-dislike fulcrum turned with Harry and me, but I'm glad it did. My company, ThomasMax Publishing, put several of Harry's novels into print. Those novels never sold much until the e-book market erupted. Marketed as a series, those stories have had a relatively good degree of success. Harry would find his elation more in the fact that people were reading and enjoying something he wrote than collecting royalty checks. In fact, for some time he told me to hang on to the money, he didn't need it, someday he'd donate it to SWA or some other cause. He never did it for the money. Heck, I watched him sell his books for less than he paid for them many times.
Doing business with Harry was fun, and it made me a few bucks . . . literally, a few. It also opened the door to a lot more communication between the two of us, communication that transcended a couple of guys doing business. My world was enriched as a result.
We shared a political philosophy and had emails flying during campaigns and elections. We would talk, in person annually at the workshop and via tons of emails, on all the world's ills and the solutions we had to fix them. I consider myself a somewhat radical Conservative, but beside Harry I would look like a liberal.
I am privileged to own one of Harry's self-published limerick books. Harry was funny. He could be dry with his wit, which is something I like, and he especially embraced limericks. For many years he sponsored a limerick contest at the SWA Workshop just because he loved to read the entries.
Harry served in the military through World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He lied about his age to enlist to join the war effort. When was the last time someone did that? I'm guessing it was someone of similar vintage to Harry. Yet his patriotism has not dimmed one iota since then.
Harry also single-handedly saved the Southeastern Writers Association. When a treasurer absconded with all of SWA's money, Harry took it upon himself to replace that money out of his own pocket. And he never took a penny in return. Instead, he served, unpaid, as treasurer until just a few years ago when age forced him to reduce his workload.
Harry loved to tell how he met his wife, the woman who would become the one and only love of his life, a woman to whom he was unequivocally dedicated. Her death a couple of years ago turned his world upside down. He had always figured she would bury him; he wasn't ready for the alternative. I would also bet you that Harry never once cheated on her. Even curmudgeons do get hit on occasionally, and I'm sure he had many opportunities.
Harry may be a hard man to like. But he's an easy man to admire.
~~ Lee Clevenger
Lee is the current President of SWA, an author and co-founder of ThomasMax Publishing in Atlanta, GA.