Calling All Celebrities

Let there be no doubt that Irving Wallace was a first-class self-promoter! Today, I came across a box entitled, “THE MAN: Unsigned carbons of celebrity mailing,” which contains copies of hundreds of letters that Wallace sent to noteworthy individuals along with advance copies of his new novel, The Man, in 1964. Wallace’s recipients were a varied bunch of political, literary, and artistic heavyweights, from Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson to Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Luther King, Jr. to comedian Jack Paar of The Tonight Show. Wallace even wrote to an aging Pablo Picasso in Cannes, declaring himself “an admirer” of the legendary painter’s work and insisting that Picasso need not reply to his letter. (Picasso was surely relieved).

Here’s the letter in full:

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This box of letters underscores Wallace’s fearlessness–some would even say brazenness–in selling his work. As somebody who dedicated himself to a writing career at a young age, Wallace never hesitated to sing his own praises or expound on the importance of his work to any journalist who might listen; these activities were integral to his professional success and economic well-being. By 1964, following the huge success of The Chapman Report, Wallace appears to have decided that an ambitious writer needed an aggressive media strategy, and that an aggressive media strategy could only benefit from outreach to prominent cultural figures in the U.S. and Europe. (It’s also fair to say that Wallace was becoming impressed with his growing celebrity). Whether any of these individuals returned Wallace’s letter is another question, and one which I’ll be eager to find out.