The funny—and wholly unexpected—thing is that after the Hammer stories were published, they gained a following. Though the magazine editors were civilians, SF readers included a number of veterans and serving members of the military. My stories were the first ones they’d seen which showed war the way they knew it. The comments Jim got on The Butcher’s Bill and later stories in the series were positive; so much so that when he was hired to take over the SF program at Ace Books, he asked me to do a Hammer collection.

The collection, my first book, was the eighth book down on a list of eleven books from Ace in April, 1979. Short story collections are notoriously difficult to sell, as are authors’ first books; Hammer’s Slammers had both strikes against it. It sold over ninety percent of the first printing and went through eight more printings at Ace before I transferred the rights to Baen Books, Jim’s new publishing line. The stories have never been out of print since their first book publication.

Not coincidentally, I became a full-time freelance writer in 1981 and have remained one since. The Butcher’s Bill very directly gave me a career that I hadn’t been looking for.


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