Elmore Leonard at the Lilly Library

A small, interesting collection of author Elmore Leonard’s papers (http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/findingaids/lilly/InU-Li-VAC2547) is available for research use at the Lilly Library. Leonard, who passed away at the age of 87 on Aug. 20, 2013, revolutionized the crime fiction genre (which had become grim and heavy-handed) with his distinctively snappy dialogue and fast-paced, often comedic storylines in novels like Get Shorty, Rum Punch, Freaky Deaky, Out of Sight, and LaBrava (winner of the 1984 Edgar Award). Many of these works were adapted into notable feature films, sometimes by Leonard himself. Late in his career, he turned to writing and producing TV drama with the successful “backwoods noir” series Justified.

The Leonard, Elmore mss. contain materials from the crucial period of 1970-1988, when Leonard transformed himself from a writer of Westerns into a crime novelist. Correspondence includes letters from Leonard recounting his struggles (“I’ve been getting by… on the strength of style and characterization in lieu of a good story… So what I’m going to do now is plot better stories. I’ll show ‘em.”) and eventual successes to his literary agent H.N. Swanson; letters from Leonard to Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, and Burt Reynolds concerning their respective screen adaptations (Joe Kidd, Posse, Stick) of Leonard’s work; as well as a letter from Paul Newman, who starred in the movie adaptation of Leonard’s novel Hombre, regarding the author’s script The Hunted. Publishing materials include ad copy, press releases, and a rejection notice from Random House. Legal documents include contracts, copyright assignments, and agreements.

-Craig Simpson, Lilly Library Manuscripts Archivist

Excerpt from a letter from Elmore Leonard to his literary agent H.N. Swanson, dated September 31, 1981.
Excerpt from a letter from Elmore Leonard to his literary agent H.N. Swanson, dated September 31, 1981.

Critical Collections at the Lilly Library

photograph of Pauline Kael, film critic A new exhibition highlighting
“Critical Collections” at the Lilly Library will be on display in the Lincoln Room through the month of August. The exhibition features the papers of some of the most significant, controversial writers of cultural criticism in the modern era. Noteworthy items include: American literary critic Anthony Boucher’s pioneering reviews of J. R. R. Tolkien and Ian Fleming; British literary critic Desmond MacCarthy’s correspondence with James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw; drama critic Kenneth Tynan’s original handwritten journals; and materials pertaining to the Orson Welles/Citizen Kane screenplay debate between film critics Peter Bogdanovich and Pauline Kael (pictured here).

—Craig Simpson, Lilly Library Manuscripts Archivist and exhibition curator

Do I call you Dash? Dashiell Hammett and his correspondence with Muriel Alexander

He: “I’m glad you finally got around to facing the problem of what you’re going to call me. Dash is all right with me, though things like darling and sweetheart have their good points too.”

She: “I feel mighty familiar using that salutation. ‘Hey, you!’ is usually my speed.”

If this sounds like snappy banter out of a hard-boiled detective novel, perhaps it should. These excerpts of correspondence, between Maltese Falcon author Dashiell Hammett and his secretary Muriel Alexander, come from the Hammett, Dashiell mss., now available to researchers.

The Hammett–Alexander correspondence consists of sixty letters exchanged over a three-year period, 1949–1952. Most were written while Hammett was in Hollywood writing a screenplay (called, appropriately, Detective Story) and Alexander remained on the East Coast tending to his finances and other affairs. Monetary and political issues are alluded to frequently in the communiqués: During this time, Hammett was accused of both tax evasion and communist proclivities; eventually, he was imprisoned (1951) and blacklisted (1953). Yet their bicoastal exchanges—he complains about the script, the rain and bad luck at the racetrack, she heralds airmail deliveries of books, clothes and cigarettes—suggest a platonic, affectionate relationship built around shared interests and mutual wit. In one letter, Alexander announces that a “very snooty voiced dame called and asked for you. I gave her the so-sorry-but-you-were-away routine. Could I help?” In another, Hammett writes, “(L)ast night I went to the studio to see a showing of SUNSET BOULEVARD…It was a stinkeroo, I thought,” adding that he overheard John Huston rave about the movie. “It’s easier for me to think John is crazy than to think I am.”

— Craig Simpson, Lilly Library Manuscripts Archivist

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Slocum Manuscripts Now Available for Researchers

Jerry Slocum

The Slocum mss. is a newly processed collection of more than 100 boxes of personal papers donated by American puzzle collector, author and historian Jerry Slocum. Notable materials include: individually-indexed correspondence, featuring letters from New York Times editor of crossword puzzles Will Shortz, longtime Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner, and magician/actor Ricky Jay; records pertaining to the Slocum Puzzle Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting the use of puzzles for educational purposes; transcripts from the “Rubik’s Cube Trial,” a highly publicized 1982 patent infringement suit in which Slocum was a key expert witness; and numerous drafts, page proofs, and accompanying research files for The Book of Ingenious & Diabolical Puzzles, The Tangram Book, Puzzles Old & New, and other Slocum-authored works. The 15 Puzzle Book, in which an exhaustive case is made for the actual inventor of the wildly popular 19th-century brainteaser, has a particularly impressive array of research materials.

Complementing The Lilly Library’s Jerry Slocum Collection of approximately 30,000 mechanical puzzles and 4,000 puzzle-related books, the Slocum mss reveal the breadth and depth of a lifelong pursuit.

—Craig S. Simpson, Lilly Library Manuscripts Archivist

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