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Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Merritt Letters

LW Currey

Merritt, A[braham]. ELEVEN TYPED LETTERS SIGNED (TLsS) to T. Everett Harre, mostly short and to the point, dealing with editorial matters involving one or the other or both men, written over a period from 1916 to 1941, mostly after 1935. Plus one TYPED LETTER SIGNED (TLS) to Harre from Jim Niles, a colleague of Merritt's. A revealing look at Merritt as he went about his day job as newspaper editor for a major national weekly. Merritt's newspaper career began when he was 18 as a cub reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He wound up as assistant editor, then editor, of THE AMERICAN WEEKLY, a sensationalistic Sunday supplement for the Hearst newspapers. It had a circulation of about 7,500,000 copies while Merritt worked there, a hugely successful figure for that time (or this), which was touted on the paper's letterhead as the "Greatest Circulation in the World." His writing style in these brief business letters is breezy, slangy and hard as nails, the voice of the typical American newspaperman of this period, when the city newspaper was a glamorous thing, mythologized in countless Hollywood movies. (Among other heroes who worked for a newspaper in this period was Clark Kent.) In his spare time, Merritt managed to write and publish half a dozen novels that won him a reputation as "the greatest fantasy writer of modern times" (Bleiler, Supernatural Fiction Writers, p. 836). Since then, "in the fields of science fiction and fantasy there is probably no other great reputation of the past that has suffered as much as that of A. Merritt" (ibid.). Harre also worked as a journalist off and on, in between writing a handful of novels (including two that were listed in the first edition of the Bleiler Checklist, but omitted from the second; one of them is listed in Reginald). He is perhaps best known in genre studies as the editor of an anthology, BEWARE AFTER DARK! (1929), that included Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu," only the second of his stories to be published in a hardcover book. Harre appears in these letters to be a bit obtuse about the kind of publication Merritt was editing, failing on at least two occasions to observe basic guidelines about length, style and deadline. For Merritt to be as patient with him as he appears in these letters (at the same time that he enforced strict rules about the content of the paper) says something complimentary about his basic humanity as well as his editorial finesse. The letters have usual fold creases and some light rumpling, but, except 24 May 1916 letter which has marginal loss at upper left corner, all are in very good to fine condition. A detailed calendar is available upon request. (#111986)

TWO TYPED LETTERS SIGNED (TLsS). Two letters, 2 pages and 1 page respectively, dated 11 May 1941 and 29 August 1941, both to Roy V. Hunt. Two letters (approximately 650 words) on THE AMERICAN WEEKLY stationery, to Roy V. Hunt, a Colorado science fiction fan and small press publisher, concerning a project to reprint Merritt's novel THE METAL MONSTER in book form, and other topics. The first letter includes a lengthy account of the effect of the death of Morrill Goddard, "my illustrious predecessor and trainer," upon Merritt's earlier decision to not renew his contract with The American Weekly and "devote most of my time to writing." Next Merritt comments favorably on the contents of the two issues of Earl Singleton's fanzine NEPENTHE (December 1940; Spring 1941). Robert A. W. Lowndes, "a real poet," John B. Michel "has a fine dissecting room flavor." If Singleton "can only keep it up, he's got something." Regarding THE METAL MONSTER project, Merritt states "it can be done and judging from the number of letters Argosy and myself and others receive it would have a market... I'd like to see [Virgil] Finlay do some of the illustrations... Merritt's second letter is devoted to THE METAL MONSTER project, amateur magazines, and reader's opinions of his work: "I think what you say about my books is absolutely true. I know there are a lot of people who don't like them but - so what? Those who do, like yourself, are sufficient reward." Nice content. Both letters are signed "Abe Merritt," the second, boldly signed in pencil, has several penciled corrections and amendments in Merritt's hand. Faint mailing creases, fine. (#96255)

TYPED LETTER SIGNED (TLS). 1 page, dated 16 March 1943, to Mrs. Roy V. Hunt. Letter (approximately 100 words) on American Weekly letterhead, to the wife of Roy V. Hunt, a Colorado science fiction fan and small press publisher, concerning the publication of his book STORY BEHIND THE STORY, privately printed by THE AMERICAN WEEKLY, apparently to promote the magazine to potential advertisers. Merritt has sent Hunt one of his "few" remaining copies. According to Merritt, 10,000 copies of the book were printed and they "were going to print 5,00 more, but the paper situation will probably stop this. Otherwise, I would have sent him another one, but I just haven't got it." Faint creases where once folded for mailing, else fine. (#96254)

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