Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A bestselling novel in nineteen days

In 1945, the wedding took place in Mississippi between one Mary Ann Pearce and a Brooklyn-born US Air Force flight instructor with the given names of Frank Morrison. He was keen to make the marital home in New York State, and needed $1000 as a down payment on the land; so he decided to write a book. Before the war, he had had modest success writing comic book stories, but this would be his first full-length novel. He finished it in just nineteen days, and sent the manuscript to publishers EP Dutton, a Penguin subsidiary who no longer exist. They took it on, thinking, apparently, that what it lacked in literary merit it made up for in sales potential. This was a good call, because within two years the book sold 6.5 million copies in the United States alone.

I mentioned that the author's given - that's to say, Christian - names were Frank Morrison (if you ask an American his or her Christian name, you normally get a look of polite puzzlement). Well, he was given them exactly ninety-three years ago today, although for most of his life he was known as Mickey. The title of the book was I, The Jury, and the author's surname, in case you hadn't twigged, was Spillane.

Mickey Spillane had an answer for those critics who slammed his writing, citing his novels' high sex and violence content. He said, 'Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar.. If the public likes you, you're good.'
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