What the Irving Wallace Papers Teach About the Importance of Archives

While working with the Irving Wallace papers, I have come
across more than a handful of books on the writing process. At first, I thought
it would be great to see what kind of writing advice prolific authors like
Wallace turned to when they needed help. And, while that would be interesting
and perhaps one or two of the titles have turned out to be for that purpose,
Irving Wallace collected these books for a completely different reason.

On several occasions, Wallace discovered that excerpts from
his own writing appeared in books on writing advice and even in textbooks. This
clearly pleased him well. One example is Karl K. Taylor and Thomas A. Zimanzl’s
Writing from Example: Rhetoric
Illustrated
. The Honnold Mudd Special Collections acquired this book as
part of Irving Wallace’s series for his book The Sunday Gentleman. I opened the book to see what sort of advice
it might offer, but discovered Wallace’s inscription, “An excerpt from The Sunday Gentleman on pages 6 to 10.”
Rather than offering advice TO Wallace, this book offers advice BY Wallace.

On another occasion, I wondered what reason Wallace could
possibly have for possessing a junior high school-level textbook on reading.
Here again his inscription reveals the purpose. In the front cover of this
book, Wallace wrote, “My Dr. Joseph Bell story, condensed from The Fabulous Originals, appears here in
a junior high school text book – pages 226-232.”  Again, his work is offered as advice to other
would-be writers.

What does this all have to do with going to the archives,
you ask? The information I have just related is only available to those who
physically go to the archives and hold these books in their hands to read the
inscriptions that Wallace wrote. Otherwise, one might easily assume, as I did
at first, that these texts served Wallace as writing advice for the work he
produced. Knowing that these texts instead feature Wallace’s work for others
provides for an entirely different kind of interpretation of Wallace’s work.  Irving Wallace wrote some kind of note or
explanation in the front of every single book (other than copies of his own
works) that he donated to the Claremont Colleges Library. In fact, he wrote a
short note of explanation for nearly every single item in the multitude of
items donated. Manuscript drafts have notes explaining which draft number, who
edited and read it, and whether the written comments are from Wallace or
someone else. Notes on letters or other correspondence briefly provide context
for the exchange. Galley copies often have notes explaining which is the first
or the final galley and whether it was sent to the publisher or straight to the
printer.

In thinking through his donations while he was still alive,
and how he hoped people might use his work, Irving Wallace provided a vast
amount of interpretive material. It is clear that he hoped seeing examples of
his work at various stages would be useful to people. He also hoped that his
research notes, memorabilia, and correspondence would be enlightening to his
life and works and all of the people who helped him along the way.

It is only by going to the archives to look at the
information that the finding aid and/or digitized excerpts cannot possibly
include that one truly learns about their research subject. In his simple
reflections, contexts, and notes Wallace revealed his love and devotion to his
family and friends, his joy in learning and sharing what he knows, and his
drive to tell a great story–the thing he wanted more than anything in life.

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The Prize Controversy

In a plot twist that sounds more like one of Irving Wallace’s
novels than his own life, the author got a taste of excitement following the
release of The Prize. Briefly, the
novel is about the ceremony for the annual Nobel Prize. From the book cover, “Six
people all around the world are catapulted to international fame as they
receive the most important telegraph of their lives, which invites them to
Stockholm to receive the prize. This will be a turning point in their lives, in
which personal affairs and political intrigue will engulf every one of the
characters.”

Although Wallace was meticulous in his research, a reviewer
in Norway took issue with how Wallace portrayed the Nobel Prize institution and
its judges, calling the book a scandal and accusing Wallace of “declar[ing] war
on Scandinavians.”[1] A
rather heated exchange took place through letters and newspaper columns and
responses in which Wallace defended his research process and called on
witnesses to vouch for him. In one set of Wallace’s notes he stated, “I
interviewed [Dr. Anders Osterling] September 23, 1946. He was extremely frank.
Among other things he told me that he fought against Pearl Buck receiving the
Nobel Prize, that Bunin got it to “pay off” for the omission of Tolstoy and Chekhov, that Thomas Wolfe, Somerset Maugham, James Joyce were never nominated,
that Frost, Upton Sinclair, Dreiser were long ago considered and voted down. He
felt Mann deserved the prize twice.”[2]

Despite a good many people, including Dr.
Osterling, coming to Wallace’s defense, the eventual fall-out of the
controversy over his novel resulted in his book translation being rejected in
Copenhagen, and by multiple publishers in Norway. The controversy seemed to
finally blow over, but as recently as 1985, debate continued to ensue with the
release of the major motion picture starring Paul Newman and Elke Summers in
the Scandinavian countries


[1] Anonymous,
“U.S. Author Declares War on Scandinavians,” in the Eagle, Wichita, Kansas, 20 September 1962.

[2]
Irving Wallace, “untitled note,” 1962, Box 28, Folder 13, Irving Wallace Papers, H.Mss.1076. Special Collections, Honnold Mudd Library, Claremont University Consortium.


 

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The Author Press Kit

Have you ever seen an author press kit? Me neither. At least
I hadn’t until I noticed a copy of Irving Wallace’s press kit for his novel, The
Miracle
. Produced by Wallace’s publisher E.P. Dutton, Inc. in New York, the kit
was meant to be sent to book sellers both to entice them to order the book for
their retail locations, but also to provide stock material those potential book
sellers could use to sell the book in their stores.

presskit-outside.jpg

The press kit arrives in a glossy 8.5″x11″ folder using the
same fonts and imagery as the novel’s cover. Inside the kit are two pockets,
one on each facing cover. In the left side, the kit includes the text of an
interview with Wallace about his new novel. The interview, often titled “Questions
and Answers” is a common feature of book publisher publicity and promotional
materials. The Q&A interview is created for every single book whether or
not a full press kit is developed. Additionally, the left-hand pocket includes
a 5″x7″ glossy black and white image of Irving Wallace looking particularly
authorly (Yes. I just made that up. Go with it.) in his suit and tie and
holding his signature pipe. His smile is friendly and affable if not somewhat
goofy (in a good way). The photographer managed to capture an image of Wallace
in which he looks a respectable professional, but also relatable.

mugshot.jpg

On the right-hand side of the folder, the pocket contains
three more items. The first is a glossy 5″x7″ black and white photo of the book’s
cover. Next is a press release from Dutton providing the sales pitch for the
book with a synopsis description that hooks the reader (the back cover text as
well). The “Dutton News” also lists the main cast members of the book and the
requisite price, ISBN, Publication date, and so forth. Finally, behind the
press release is a 3-page biography of Irving Wallace highlighting his long and
varied writing career and impressive bibliography of magazine articles, short
stories, fiction and non-fiction works to date.

presskit-inside.jpg

Since the press kit for The Miracle was produced
in 1984 with the release of the novel, I imagine that press kits have changed
significantly in the digital era. Although today’s press kits likely include
much the same information, it is, no doubt, sent electronically rather than
physically through the good ol’ snail mail. That’s too bad, really. Having gone
through this press kit I think there is something particularly endearing about the
physical artifact–its tactility: the smooth, glossy surface of the folder; its
smell: the faint chemical smell of the photo emulsion and the smell of good
quality paper with actual typed ink; and its visual appeal: the document design
of each item included, the photographic evidence of a real person and a real
book and even the sense that you’re holding the essence of the book in your
hands with the kit cover echoing the novel cover. All of these are part of what
makes us still buy physical books even when we own electronic readers, cell
phones and tablets that double as readers, and a host of other digital
equipment that lets us “read” a book today
.

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“My first published book”

Although Irving Wallace published his first article at the
age of 15 and had many articles and short stories published early in his
career, his first book was not
published until 1955 when he was a tender 39 years old. Interestingly, for an
author who became known for his fiction novels, screen plays, and movie
scripts, his first publication The
Fabulous Originals
was a nonfiction book.

It would seem that Mr. Wallace had the golden touch from the
get-go as he was offered an impressive $1000.00 advance (for 1954 anyway) from
Alfred A. Knopf. His book was well-received and sold some 12,000 copies in its
first printings.

Reviewing his work for the purpose of donating his papers to
the Claremont Colleges Library in 1978, Wallace noted, “I was on my way–and doing
what I wanted to more than any other thing in life.” How satisfying it must be
to look back on a prolific career of “best-selling” publications and still know
that there is no other thing in the world you would rather have done or be
doing–still.

As I continue to work through streamlining the Irving
Wallace Papers, I learn more and more about a man who lived an exciting life of
travel, research, and writing. A life I would love to have more than any other
thing in life.

Cheers, Mr. Wallace!

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What Does It Mean To Research a Novel?

While working with Irving Wallace’s files for his book
titled The Miracle, I was quite
impressed with the research that went into the novel. I wondered what exactly
it meant for a national best-selling author to conduct research. Consider this:

Wallace apparently became interested in the miracles
reported in Lourdes, France in the early to mid- 1930s. He published an article
in 1936 in The Modern Thinker on
“Miracles of the Mind.” The article takes the Holy Cross Cemetery of Walden
City, Massachusetts as its subject to consider the psychology of cures and he
also makes mention of the Grotto at Lourdes and the idea of miraculous cures.
In a sense, he was already keen to know the difference between “miracles” and “cures.”

Fast forward to the 1970s. Wallace once again takes up the
idea of the miracles at Lourdes and begins reading all of the published works
about it. He starts with Lourdes by
Emile Zola, written in French in 1894. Wallace photocopies the two-volume English
translation borrowed from a university library and begins to outline the work
in order to create a summary or abstract. He then diligently types up 17 pages
of single-spaced notes focused on the story of Bernadette and the miracles at
Lourdes. Next, he does the same for Alan Neame’s The Happening at Lourdes–38 pages of notes; Robert Hugh Benson Lourdes–16 pages; D.J. West Eleven Lourdes Miracles–20 pages; Franz
Werfel The Song of Bernadette–17
pages; J.H. Gregory (translator) Bernadette
of Lourdes
–14 pages; and finally Edith Saunders Lourdes–26 pages of typed, single-spaced notes.

IMG_20190405_110717.jpg

Wallace’s notes list a page number and a summary of the
important information in his own words. What he summarizes is very specific:

·        
Historical context–what was happening in the
1850s in and around Lourdes, France, when Bernadette first came to the Grotto?
What was happening in the Catholic Church at the time? What was the political
climate at the time?

·        
Key players–who was involved in the initial
sighting of the Virgin Mary at the Grotto other than Bernadette? Who was
Bernadette? What was her background, beliefs, upbringing, etc.? Who were the
psychologists and doctors who examined her and others who have since claimed
miraculous cures? What is the relationship between key players?

·        
Location–what other facilities throughout France
claimed to offer miraculous cures? What influence did those places, such as the
bathes at Eugenie, perhaps have on the belief in cures and the ensuing
pilgrimage to Lourdes that continues to this day?

·        
Religion–how many of the miracles at Lourdes has
the Catholic Church officially acknowledge? What distinction do they make
between those they acknowledge as “miracles” and the thousands more that they
call “cures”? What was the Pope’s response to the Lourdes miracles and how did
the Pope use the miracles at Lourdes to strengthen Catholic faith (or did he)?

Other notes pertain to small sections of photocopied works,
brochures, tourism pamphlets and information and so forth. Wallace takes note
of an interview with Bernadette later in her life. He also obtains an English translation
of an interview with Alessandro Maria Gottardi, Archbishop by Dr. Mangiapan of
the Lourdes Medical Office. Wallace begins to distill his notes into smaller
sections with notations reminding himself at what point in his novel he wants
to bring in the information. Wallace begins to create a list of characters for
his novel, some based on real people with extensive knowledge of their
backgrounds and the roles they played at the time.

Finally–after much of the manuscript outline has been
written, the characters developed, and a time-line set up–Wallace travels to
Lourdes. There he walks the same path as Bernadette and takes notes on the
look, feel, smell, and sounds of the city. He takes notes on the city’s layout
(with maps), where and how buildings are situated in relation to the Grotto.
Wallace collects post cards, slide souvenirs, pamphlets, and maps. Wallace
hires a tour guide and writes about the young, pretty girl with low heels and
bare legs who leads the tour, imagining in her another of his characters in the
novel.

The research portion of this novel has taken nearly 10 years,
from the mid-1970s to early 1983 when Wallace finally begins to write the
novel. His inscription on the original manuscript states that he began writing
it “on January 20, 1983, when I wrote the first five pages and finished Friday,
May 20, 1983, when I wrote eighteen pages.”

And there it is: All the research that went into writing The Miracle, by Irving Wallace.

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The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

In the early 1960s, Irving Wallace began writing his novel The Man, which placed a black man as the
President of the United States long before former President Obama even imagined
himself in politics. The novel sold exceedingly well staying at the number one
spot on the New York Times bestseller
list for months on end.

Many interested parties, including Sammy Davis Jr.,
considered purchasing film rights to the novel. Ultimately Paramount Pictures
made the motion picture starring James Earl Jones as “The Man” and several
other stellar actors as his supporting cast.

theman.jpg

How did Irving Wallace manage a convincing presidential
character as his main protagonist? Well, nine weeks before John F. Kennedy was
assassinated, Wallace was able to spend time in the White House working with
Kennedy in order to research his novel. JFK was a major influence on Wallace
while writing the novel, but so were other figures in history. The cover page
Wallace wrote to one of his early manuscript drafts includes the following
epithet:

 One of the author’s prized possessions is an
original autographed manuscript, written firmly with pen on cheap ruled paper,
signed by a former Negro slave who became a great reformer, lecturer, writer,
adviser to Abraham Lincoln, United States Minister to Haiti, and candidate for
Vice-President of the United States on the Equal Rights Party in 1872. The
manuscript reads as follows:

“In a composite Nation like ours,
made up of almost every variety of the human family, there should be, as before
the Law, no rich, no poor, no high, no low, no black, no white, but one country,
one citizenship, equal rights and a common destiny for all.

“A Government that cannot or does
not protect the humblest citizen in his right to life, Liberty and the pursuit
of happiness, should be reformed or overthrown, without delay.

Frederick
Douglass

“Washington D.C. Oct. 20. 1883”

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Desperately Seeking…Rights?

During his editing exchanges with his editors and publisher,
Irving Wallace was sent the following clipping from the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

 personals.jpg

The clipping is from an unknown date, though it would have
been sometime in 1970-1973 while he was working on The Fan Club.  Apparently
Wallace had reason to create a mock personal ad for his book. One of Wallace’s
editors on the project sent him the clipping as a model and suggesting that
Wallace needed to change the size of the font he was using for the heading. So,
in this particular exchange, the content of the clipping was completely
irrelevant and yet what happens to be in this particular clipping is truly
fascinating and could easily serve as inspiration for the latest mystery
thriller.

The first personal ad reads:

My 1st, 4th,
5th, 9th, & 14th amendment rights have
been violated. For an unexplained reason I have been subjected to overt &
covert physical surveillance, undercover intelligence gathering, maintainance [sic] of files & dossiers,
intimidation & harassment. I urgently need public intervention to
investigate as I cannot afford legal costs to protect my rights. Eleanor
Hemstreet, 213/361-5361.

The first sentence would make a great opening for a mystery
thriller. I can just imagine all kinds of interesting possibilities of what was
happening here. Of course, there is always the possibility that whoever took
out this personal ad was imagining these things for any number of reasons. But
what if she wasn’t?

It is a wonder Mr. Wallace did not pick up on the content of
this personal ad and write his own story about it. From the work of his that I
have seen thus far, including research notes and observations, he found
inspiration in pretty much everything. He was keen to observe people when he
was looking to flesh out characters for his novels.  Sometimes I find his research notes to be more
interesting than the novel he produced from them (sorry Irving!).

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More paper please!

When you’re a best-selling author publishing in the 1960s –
1980s, you can get a lot of editing help. At least you can if you’re Irving
Wallace. While processing the series based on his book titled The Fan Club, I noted at least 3 editors
working with Wallace at different stages. To begin, after he finished an
original draft, he went back through it, his wife Sylvia went through it, and
usually Wallace would hire an editor or have his secretary retype changes for
him. Once the manuscript underwent several rewrites and he felt it was ready
enough, he’d send it along to the publisher who would then send his manuscript
to one of their freelance editors (or in house if they had them).

Over time, Wallace got to where he liked the rapport he
developed with particular editors and types of revisions or edits they would
recommend. As it happened, the one he requested to work with (again) at Simon
and Schuster was living in Mexico at the time. The reason I mention that is
because some of her cover letters to Wallace often included apologies for lack
of regular access to resources like paper. flyerpile.jpg

Apparently his favorite editor was out of paper again. When
her editing suggestions arrived for Wallace’s review, they were written on what
he called “flyers.” Each flyer was 4″ wide and varying height. They ranged from
½ and inch to 5″ in height depending on how much the editor wrote. As it turns
out, each little strip of paper was piece of scrap paper made from the large
manila envelope in which one of Wallace’s drafts had undoubtedly arrived. This
was, of course, in the 1970s before the advent of home computers or the
Internet so editing work might be shipped all over the world between editors,
agents, and authors.flyersingle.jpg

That the editor painstakingly wrote out each line that
required a suggestion is quite labor-intensive. But for every “flyer” the
editor included, Wallace also carefully reviewed it then considered his
response. Often he would converse back and forth through the mail with his
editors arguing for specific spellings or turns of phrase. Other times he would
simply take their suggestions and incorporate them into the next rewrite.

If ever a student thought they could continue going through
life with the written-the-night-before paradigm and still be successful, they
need only look to someone like Irving Wallace. In each of his book projects he
details between 6-10 rewrites before the publisher ever sees it. Then there’s a
process of at least 3-7 more drafts with changes and suggestions of his various
editors. Additionally, Wallace’s beloved wife read every project with aplomb
and enthusiasm, which would bring about another revision. Even at the stage of
page proofs, Wallace would incorporate another 3 or 4 sets of revisions. I
guess if you want to be a best-seller, that’s the kind of work ethic you need
to have.

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Getting to know you…

Irving Wallace was an incredibly prolific writer. Think Tom
Clancy or Robert Ludlum and you get the idea. As I’ve continued processing the
collection, I’ve learned some interesting things about Wallace’s writing style,
his techniques, and his process. I’ve also gained a pet peeve or two about his idiosyncrasies.

A few things I’ve learned in the last few weeks – Irving
Wallace was either VERY interested in the topic of sex or he was VERY interested
in making money with his work and knew that sex sells. Okay, it’s probably a
combination of those things, but it seems
like he’s always using sex as a major theme of his work. Last week I wrote
about Victoria Woodhull, an exceptional woman who pushed back at the roles available
to women during her era and even ran for president. But because she was
outspoken about her positive opinions of sex, Wallace labeled her the
prostitute who ran for president. There was a lot more about the other women in
the collection Nymphos and Other Maniacs
as well. Promiscuous women make for good stories seemingly. As another example,
in The Celestial Bed, Wallace’s story
revolves around a man and woman who have sex with their clients to teach them
intimacy and help them resolve their issues. I haven’t actually read the book,
but that’s the gist I sussed from working with it. Wallace hit on a theme that
worked and kept with it I think.

Another thing I learned about Wallace, like the theme of
sex, he never seemed to mind reusing techniques that got a publishing contract.
After placing numerous revisions of the manuscript for The Celestial Bed into new acid-free folders, I have now read
pretty much the first paragraph of every chapter of the book. They all use the
same formula. When (person’s full name) did (this thing: woke up, got to work,
whatever), s/he had no idea that (this thing) would happen. It seems a bit cliché,
but it works! Over and over I found myself wondering who was this cat Wallace
was talking about and why didn’t he or she know that was going to happen. As a
matter of fact, how did that happen in the first place? See what he did there?
It’s called hooking the reader. Wallace did it well even if formulaically.

A last thing I’ve come to appreciate about Wallace in the
last few weeks is just how well he understood his audience. As I’ve insinuated
above, he knew his reader, but he even understood his other audiences. On each
and every copy of his manuscripts I’ve worked with, Wallace has a little note
attached explaining to the archivist and the researcher what this particular
draft is about. He usually states how many revisions there were before the
first draft that went to the agent or publisher to see if they wanted to buy
it. Or how many more revisions were involved after he got that contract. One manuscript I processed today was a
draft copy for his wife to review. I cannot fathom it, but apparently she
reviewed and edited every single manuscript he wrote. He always took her
suggestions into account when revising. It astounds me that one or two years
later, sometimes more, Wallace can still remember what every draft was about.
Sometimes he cranked out entire books in a mere three months’ time all while
working on other projects along the way. All of these things I appreciate, but
even Irving Wallace can’t escape pet peeves.

My pet peeve with Wallace? Paper clips. Lots and
lots and lots of paper clips. Mind you by now they’ve been replaced by
archive-friendly plastic clips, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason for
them. Why Irving?! Why did you bundle this set of pages together? And why didn’t
you leave any inscriptions about them like you do about the drafts? Sometimes
pages are bundled across chapters, sometimes within chapters. Sometimes he
bundled huge swaths of papers (30-50 sheets at a time), while others he might
choose to clip a mere three pages together. Was this where he stopped reading
that day doing revisions? Was this where he stopped writing that day? Maybe,
but who knows. It’s a little thing, but then pet peeves mostly are, right?

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Do you know Victoria Woodhull?

v_woodhull.jpg

In The Nympho and Other Maniacs: The Lives, the Loves and the Sexual Adventures of Some Scandalous and Liberated Ladies Irving Wallace wrote a series of biographies about sensational women. In “Book Three: The Rebel As a Scandal” Wallace featured Victoria Woodhull as “The Prostitute Who Ran For President.” But do you know who Victoria Woodhull was? She was quite a remarkable woman.

Victoria Woodhull (1838 – 1927) has her own biography on the History Channel’s website and is featured in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. On their website they claim that Woodhull was “a passionate campaigner for social justice who combined deep belief in Spiritualism, radical views on achieving equal rights for women, advocacy of divorce law changes, birth control, working people’s rights, and tax reform as her platform for change.
She was the first American woman to address Congress and the first to run for the office of President of the United States.” Tidbits I’ve read about Woodhull suggest that she certainly had no end of lovers, but there’s nothing to indicate she made a vocation of her sex or that she sold it.

I wonder if Mr. Wallace may have misunderstood her advocacy for what she called free love.
Unlike the “free love” of our hippie parents or grandparents who lived (and loved) their way through the 1960s, Woodhull’s call for free love was more akin to equality–to the end of racism in many ways. The History Channel noted that in one of Woodhull’s speeches she claimed, “I want the love of you all, promiscuously. It makes no difference who or what you are, old or young, black or white, pagan, Jew, or Christian, I want to love you all and be loved by you all, and I mean to have your love.” While the use of the word “promiscuously” here was often taken to mean sexually, it is quite likely that Woodhull used it as an ill-chosen synonym for the word “freely” or “equally.” After all, though she was quick to spot and take advantage of an opportunity, her education did not begin until age 8 and only lasted sporadically for about three years.

Irving Wallace certainly thought she meant it sexually, however. In John Leverence’s Iriving
Wallace: A Writer’s Profile
, Wallace said of his book, “I am writing about individual women of the recent past who, whether by plan or by accident, wittingly or unwittingly, refused to accept any simplistic biological definition of female as mere childbearer and the second best of the sexes.” He went on to explain more about the women he profiled in Nympho
and Other Maniacs
placing Woodhull among his rebels. Apparently openly discussing sex during the Victorian era while declaring women have a right to decide what happens with their bodies and calling for birth control and better divorce laws made her a prostitute in Mr. Wallace’s eyes. I wonder who else he profiled among the “uninhibited ladies” in his “magnificent tour de force“?