Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald

Skyhorse
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An intimate correspondence between the Pulitzer Prize–winning Southern writer and the famed crime novelist reveals “a remarkable relationship” (Sue Grafton).
 
In 1970, Ross Macdonald, the creator of hardboiled detective Lew Archer and an innovator in the crime genre, wrote a letter to Eudora Welty, the beloved first lady of Southern literature—initiating a thirteen-year correspondence and an unlikely friendship that grew into something much deeper. Though separated by background, geography, genre, and his marriage, the two authors shared their lives in witty, wry, tender, and at times profoundly romantic letters, each drawing on the other for inspiration, comfort, and strength.
 
They brought their literary talents to bear on a wide range of topics, discussing each others’ publications, the process of translating life into fiction, the nature of the writer’s block each encountered, books they were reading, and friends and colleagues they cherished. They also discussed the world around them: the Vietnam War; the Nixon, Carter, and Reagan presidencies; and the environmental threats facing the nation. The letters reveal the impact each had on the other’s work, and they show the personal support Welty provided when Alzheimer’s destroyed Macdonald’s ability to communicate and write.
 
The editors of this collection, who are the definitive biographers of these two literary figures, have provided extensive commentary and an insightful introduction. They also include Welty’s story fragment “Henry,” which addresses Macdonald’s disease. With its mixture of correspondence and narrative, Meanwhile There Are Letters—a finalist for the 2016 Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity Awards—offers “a glimpse into the inner lives of these tender, brilliant bookish souls” providing “a thrill beyond measure” (Ann Patchett).
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About the author

Suzanne Marrs is a professor of English and Welty Foundation Scholar-in-Residence at Millsaps College. Her award-winning books about Eudora Welty include One Writer’sImagination: The Fiction of Eudora Welty (2002), Eudora Welty: A Biography (2005), and What There Is to Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell (2011), which she edited. Marrs lives in Jackson, Mississippi.
 
Tom Nolan has been a freelance writer since age eighteen and has contributed to dozens of magazines and newspapers, including Rolling Stone, Ploughshares, and Oxford American. For twenty-five years he has reviewed crime fiction for the Wall Street Journal. Nolan’s book Ross MacDonald: A Biography (1999)—for which he interviewed Eudora Welty—was nominated for the Edgar Award, the Anthony Award, and the Macavity Award (which it won). His most recent work is Artie Shaw, King of the Clarinet: His Life and Times (2011). He lives in Glendale, California.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Skyhorse
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Published on
Jul 14, 2015
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Pages
568
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ISBN
9781628725483
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Collections / American / General
Literary Collections / Letters
Literary Collections / Women Authors
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Now, in the first full-length biography of this extraordinary and influential writer, a much fuller picture emerges of a man to whom hiding things came as second nature. While it was no secret that Ross Macdonald was the pseudonym of Kenneth Millar -- a Santa Barbara man married to another good mystery writer, Margaret Millar -- his official biography was spare. Drawing on unrestricted access to the Kenneth and Margaret Millar Archives, on more than forty years of correspondence, and on hundreds of interviews with those who knew Millar well, author Tom Nolan has done a masterful job of filling in the blanks between the psychologically complex novels and the author's life -- both secret and overt.
Ross Macdonald came to crime-writing honestly. Born in northern California to Canadian parents, Kenneth Millar grew up in Ontario virtually fatherless, poor, and with a mother whose mental stability was very much in question. From the age of twelve, young Millar was fighting, stealing, and breaking social and moral laws; by his own admission, he barely escaped being a criminal. Years later, Millar would come to see himself in his tales' wrongdoers. "I don't have to be violent," he said, "My books are."
How this troubled young man came to be one of the most brilliant graduate students in the history of the University of Michigan and how this writer, who excelled in a genre all too often looked down upon by literary critics, came to have a lifelong friendship with Eudora Welty are all examined in the pages of Tom Nolan's meticulous biography. We come to a sympathetic understanding of the Millars' long, and sometimes rancorous, marriage and of their life in Santa Barbara, California, with their only daughter, Linda, whose legal and emotional traumas lie at the very heart of the story. But we also follow the trajectory of a literary career that began in the pages of Manhunt and ended with the great respect of such fellow writers as Marshall McLuhan, Hugh Kenner, Nelson Algren, and Reynolds Price, and the longtime distinguished publisher Alfred A. Knopf.
As Ross Macdonald: A Biography makes abundantly clear, Ross Macdonald's greatest character -- above and beyond his famous Lew Archer -- was none other than his creator, Kenneth Millar.
When he died in 1983, Ross Macdonald was the best-known and most highly regarded crime-fiction writer in America. Long considered the rightful successor to the mantles of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and his Lew Archer-novels were hailed by The New York Times as "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an American."
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Ross Macdonald came to crime-writing honestly. Born in northern California to Canadian parents, Kenneth Millar grew up in Ontario virtually fatherless, poor, and with a mother whose mental stability was very much in question. From the age of twelve, young Millar was fighting, stealing, and breaking social and moral laws; by his own admission, he barely escaped being a criminal. Years later, Millar would come to see himself in his tales' wrongdoers. "I don't have to be violent," he said, "My books are."
How this troubled young man came to be one of the most brilliant graduate students in the history of the University of Michigan and how this writer, who excelled in a genre all too often looked down upon by literary critics, came to have a lifelong friendship with Eudora Welty are all examined in the pages of Tom Nolan's meticulous biography. We come to a sympathetic understanding of the Millars' long, and sometimes rancorous, marriage and of their life in Santa Barbara, California, with their only daughter, Linda, whose legal and emotional traumas lie at the very heart of the story. But we also follow the trajectory of a literary career that began in the pages of Manhunt and ended with the great respect of such fellow writers as Marshall McLuhan, Hugh Kenner, Nelson Algren, and Reynolds Price, and the longtime distinguished publisher Alfred A. Knopf.
As Ross Macdonald: A Biography makes abundantly clear, Ross Macdonald's greatest character -- above and beyond his famous Lew Archer -- was none other than his creator, Kenneth Millar.
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