Staying Away from the Dust: Publishing Fitzgerald, Hammett, Cain and Steinbeck
Someone asked me to write about my publishing highlights over the past few years. I’d rank being able to publish a story by James M. Cain first, probably because I’m a sucker for his noir works such as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. And Hammett is a close second since The Maltese Falcon is one of my favorites.
Publishing an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story was a huge highlight, and a big thanks goes to the Library at Princeton, where their finding aids made it possible for me to arrange to have copies of the short story in question sent to my office without having to set off for New Jersey! Such is the state of technology and cataloging today where looking for manuscripts that have never been published is a less tenuous process but no less rewarding. I would have loved to see the real thing in person, but in the end the words count! Fitzgerald’s short story “Hot and Cold Blood” made a huge impression on me when I read it as a teenager, so Fitzgerald is up there!
Publishing works by Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams, and Joseph Heller has been fun, but the answer as to why a work stays unpublished is beguiling.
The big question has always been: Do you publish something by an author that does not represent their better works? A few times after reading an unpublished work by a legendary author, we’ve decided to pass. Why publish a work which would not enhance the reputation of an author who contributed to English or American literature?
Other times, when you see a work that you consider a masterpiece, you really begin to wonder why it had never been published. We published a short story titled “Almost Like Christmas” by Joseph Heller and seeing the quality of the short story in question, I was surprised that he never decided to sell it when he was alive and I was even more surprised when it was included in the Best American Mystery Stories of 2014.
This has been an exciting few years, thanks to wonderful finding aids at libraries, librarians who always have been forthcoming when you ask them for copies, and literary estates who have been helpful in providing permission to publish these unpublished gems.
And now onto the next adventure!