Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Three Letter Man

When True Grit screenwriter Marguerite Roberts died in 1989, her husband, author and screenwriter John Sanford, wrote a series of books about their 50 year marriage. They'd both been members of the Communist Party and were both blacklisted from Hollywood for nearly a decade.

   In Maggie : A Love Story, Sanford writes about an especially poor review dad gave his 1967 novel The $300 Man in The New York Times. If anyone can understand how a bad review can haunt a writer  twenty years later, it's dad. His 1983 novel, Beautiful Women, Ugly Scenes, was savaged by Alice Adams in the New York Times Book Review.

"Those reviewers!" Maggie said. "They're a sorry lot. It's a shame what they've done to a  damn good book"
"What would you say of them if they liked it?"
"They'd still be a sorry lot. If they know so much, why don't they write books themselves?"
"Reviewing's the system, and so far, there's better that we know of."
"Reviewers!" she said. "I wouldn't pull one out if he was kicking in a ditch."
"That's where they belong. Reviewers, anyway."
"Without them, I'd have to sell my books from door to door."
"The system, you call it. All right, but why does it use guys like this self-righteous what's-his-name?" She took up a clipping from a pile on the table. "C.D.B. Bryan. Who the hell is C.D.B. Bryan?"
"A three letter man. As a matter of fact, someone told me he was a stepson of John O'Hara."
"What's that supposed to be--a recommendation?"
"Maybe the book isn't as good as we think."
"Don't ever dream it! You couldn't write a bad book if you try!"
"But, baby. sometimes they turn out bad even though you try to make them good."
"Not yours, my friend. They've never been popular, but they'll never be bad."
"I wish the three-letter man agreed with you."
" I don't care a damn about that, but don't you ever agree with him."

You can find this book online.

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