Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2001 Newsletter

Robert Mills Archive Arrives

Cover of Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To
Me, dust-jacket, Random House, 1966.

The recently acquired archive of the American literary agent Robert P. Mills (1920-1986) brings to the Ransom Center important material for research in the literary industry of the 1960s and 1970s. The Mills agency handled a number of the most highly regarded mystery, fantasy, and science fiction writers active in those two decades, and his files for writers with other interests are extensive and notable.

Among the writers represented in the firm’s files are Noel Langley, the South African novelist who wrote the screenplay for The Wizard of Oz, the film critic Pauline Kael, Leonard Feather, Isaac Asimov, Richard Brautigan, the prolific writer of pulp fiction Norman Daniels, Naomi Mitchison, Thomas Disch, the China expert Edgar Snow, Fritz Leiber, Langston Hughes, the dancer Katherine Dunham, Helen McCloy, Walter Tevis, Ronald Fair, and Harlan Ellison.

The files for three writers offer revealing hints of the richness of the archive: a heavily revised script for James Baldwin’s play Blues for Mr. Charlie, and a 1963 Baldwin letter concerning his literary idol Henry James; seventy substantial letters from Jim Thompson, the author of disturbing character studies in such novels as The Getaway (1959), The Grifters (1963), and The Killer Inside Me (1953), all of which have been adapted for film; and works by Richard Fariña. The very large files for Richard Fariña (1937-1966), killed in a motorcycle accident two days after his only novel was published, include manuscripts for unpublished stories and poems.  The novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me, which sold two million copies in hard and soft cover editions, was compared to the work of J.D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac, and Fariña’s friend Thomas Pynchon was at one point going to write or collaborate on a screenplay.

John Kirkpatrick Cline
Senior Curator of Modern British Literature

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