Vintage Letters from the
Random House T3I Files
Early in 2011 the NYC offices and archives of Random House went through a consolidation process. A lot of material was culled from their book archives and several boxes of T3I books, mostly newer Dodge and Bullseye paperbacks and German-language hardbacks, were sent to me. I've since mailed most of them out to customers and fellow T3I fans. Most of these books were tagged with a computer generated sticker reading:
Please Return to the 11th Floor
RHCB = Random House Children's Books. Two of the original trade edition hardback books received were labeled as "Conversion Copies" and contained handwritten notations by editor Eugenia Fanelli as to how the upcoming Hitchcock paperback copies of those books were to be set up. On a side note, all of this material and pretty much everything else that was removed from the Random House book archives was going to be sent to libraries and churches in disaster-stricken areas of the U.S. - places that had been hit by hurricanes, tornados, etc. If any of you live in any areas like this, you may find a lot of books with various types of Random House archive labeling on them. There's probably some really good stuff to be found!
During this consolidation, the "lost" T3I files were located. Much of the correspondence from these files was made available to me except for contracts and financial/royalty statements, etc., things that Random House legal wouldn't sign off on. I made it clear that I felt an obligation to share the information contained in the correspondence with other fans and enthusiasts - this, after all, is what I've been doing for the last 11+ years through my site and the various on-line T3I forums in which I participate. I was told that this was exactly why the correspondence was shared with me, because I would make it available to the fans. However, it's not quite as easy as it sounds. I was asked to please refrain from uploading photos or scans of the material to my site. But, I can share factual information contained in the correspondence. I've tried my best to work within those parameters. There is a wonderful map of Jungle Land (from "Nervous Lion") drawn by Kin Platt, I see no reason that something like this couldn't be uploaded for all to enjoy.
There is a lot that these lost files apparently did NOT contain. For example, no series bible, no original artwork and no published manuscripts. There are holes in the correspondence record as well. Not all letters and memos were placed there or perhaps some was removed at a later date. Some titles have lots of material associated with it, others have virtually none. Still, there is much to be excited about!
In 2011 I started sharing the letters associated with "Terror Castle" and the creation of the series in "real time" 48 years after the fact on the T3I Facebook page and other on-line forums in which I participate. Now it is time to start posting these letters here to share them with an even larger T3I audience. I know you will enjoy them!
Letter #1 dated August 29th, 1963. Written by Walter Retan and sent to Robert Arthur at both a Philadelphia and Cape May address. Penned in the upper right corner of the letter is a note that says: "Start folder for Hitchcock Mystery Series $1.95".
Walter writes that he's back from a Cape Cod vacation and will get a contract off to Bob. He writes: "Our Art Department is already thinking of the possible artists to illustrate the new Hitchcock series, and I wonder if you are far
enough advanced with any of your plots to give me an outline of one or two situations for which we could request sample drawings . . . I don't think we will try to work with Fred Banbery on this." The note ends with some
pleasantries and Walter saying that he looks forward to seeing Arthur the next time he's in NY.
Letter #2 dated December 16, 1963. It is a typed letter from Walter Retan that was sent to Robert Arthur at a Philadelphia address.
Walter opens by saying that he and Louise (Louise Bonino - Wow! A bit more about her later.) have read "The Secret of Terror Castle".
"While each of us feels that it has the makings of a first-class introductory volume to the series - those first three chapters should hold any reader spellbound - I find that we both have certain reservations about the manuscript."
Apparently the two editors had many reservations as Walter goes on to say that it would be easiest and most helpful if the three of them (Retan, Bonino and Arthur) have a telephone discussion before Arthur gets too far into the writing
of the second volume.
Walter ends the letter with, "I know we all want this first story to be the best possible."
Letter #3 dated December 27, 1963. Typed by Robert Arthur on what appears to have been the same typewriter he used to later pound out the manuscript for "Talking Skull", this six page letter was sent from Cape May, NJ to Walter Retan at Random House.
Arthur begins by saying that New Year's is no holiday for him, work on the series is continuing. He has been pondering the points discussed via telephone between him, Retan and Louise Bonino and that he would like to outline his line of procedure for the revision of "Terror Castle". The outline follows the points made in their telephone conversation, with some additions, and Arthur looks forward to Retan's response.
"To start with, my first thought is that we remove the name of any character from the title. I agree with your analysis of the weakness of the nickname 'Genius'; which led me to feel that if we featured the group as a whole, we would at once remove the strongest point of comparison that might be made to 'Brains Benton.' The character I am at present calling Genius Jones will of course be the leader; but the series will be identified to the young readers as the books about The Three Investigators."
Arthur then describes his visualization of how the title will look/read on the book:
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS
The Three Investigators in
The Secret of Terror Castle
"If the readers like a series, they need only a handy label to identify it for them. Many series have dispensed with individual names. In the case of "The Hardy Boys", they are of course brothers. But past successful series have been
called The Motor Boys, The Boy Allies, and so on. . . . once readers know the group, and come to identify them by their 'firm name', it will stick in their minds naturally and easily."
Arthur goes on to suggest that they could potentially present the first two books with only "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: (the story title)" and then judge whether or not to use the name of the group depending upon reader reaction.
"If we are going to drop the nickname 'Genius,' I am in favor of changing the name Jason also. Jason is an interesting name, but not a striking one. I do like alliterative names; I think they are both more forceful and more memorable."
Arthur then suggests the name "Jupiter Jones" because it is unusual and suggestive of unusual attributes. He is still thinking of names for the other leading characters, but doesn't like anything he has come up with so far. It is apparent from an outline for a new chapter (which follows later in this letter) that Dick is the working name for the character later to become known as Pete.
"I will, as we agreed, condense all of the Hitchcock introduction into one chunk, to come at the beginning. It will include a certain amount of pure exposition, which will have the virtue that it can be skipped by an impatient reader and returned to later. In any case the facts will be there. I will give it as light a touch as possible."
On the point of transportation Arthur writes: "Southern California being the spread-out realm it is, something dependable is needed. I will retain the Rolls Royce, but have Hitchcock explain it, and later it will be all but taken for
granted. I shall in fact use it as a motivating force, in that the winning of the use of the car causes the boys to undertake the adventure of becoming investigators in the first place. This will be only a sentence or two. Later, their adventures can be independent of the Rolls. Indeed, I am already demonstrating in the rough draft of the second book that such a prominent car can be a disadvantage."
Arthur reflects back to his own youthful reading experience: "I have no doubt of the readers accepting what we say on these points. They are so eager for the story, as I remember well, that the details are engulfed by the eyes like a
rowboat by a whirlpool!"
On Hitchcock's secretary, Henrietta, Arthur writes: "Henrietta and the ice cream are out. I plan to retain the fact that she originally came from their town, that they had had some contact with her though she was a number of grades
ahead of them. This merely makes it possible to dialog their scenes more easily. She knows Jupiter already, and takes a dim view of him."
On Skinny Norris, Arthur writes: "I plan to add a new character, another boy who will act as a semi-rival, an irritant, and at times a nuisance to our Three Investigators. I've talked to a number of children and find they like this type of a 'nuisance' character for the hero to have an occasional brush with. They themselves of course are well aware that in any group of children there are some who are pains in the neck. When the main characters clash with such a 'villain'
type, the clash is on a level that children can identify with more readily than they can in clashes between the boy protagonists and adult menaces."
Arthur goes on to describe E. Skinner Norris in detail, all nearly exactly as you will find him described in the Arthur T3I books. Of course, no exact age is given, only that he is "enough older than Jupiter and the rest to feel that he is entitled to be looked upon as their superior--a view accepted by no one in town except his own hangers-on." Arthur adds, "This element will afford opportunities to add mystery and even danger at times, in addition to the main perils of the case in hand. It also has the advantage of being flexible -- it can be used or, when not desired, dispensed with at will."
"I believe I can easily enough take care of several smaller points that came up -- such as why the missing movie star's body was not discovered, and the proximity of Blind Canyon and Black Canyon. I will take pains to clarify these and at the same time make the clarification strengthen the mystery"
Arthur's first "Terror Castle" manuscript was written from first person viewpoint but it is not clear from the letter if that is Jupiter's viewpoint or perhaps Bob's. Arthur believes he can achieve third person viewpoint with only some minor rewriting, it's "more a matter of changing many small details rather than of a major revision."
"In eliminating Hitchcock's intrusion into the book around the page 45-50 region, . . . as well as by removing altogether the character Mr. Martinham . . . I believe that the middle section will shorten by from five to ten pages. I will use these pages instead to add a new chapter of action, with some mystery and definite danger attached. This chapter should come just about in the 'letdown' stretch you and Louise commented on, and I think will give us the lift we need here."
In their telephone discussion, Walter Retan suggested the use of a real gang as an additional menace, someone using the castle as their hideout. Arthur believes that "this would add such a massive subplot that I don't see how it could be handled. From my study of a number of other series books, we have fully as much plot as most of them, and more atmosphere and color and general spooky tone than any but the best. (More, certainly, than any I have been able to find.) I will be appreciative if you can find for me some of the best one-shot mysteries in the field, for me to read . . .the best of these may surpass us, but on the series level I have confidence that we will be giving the readers a quality product."
Arthur then proceeds to outline his new chapter over the course of a page and a half of this letter. What Arthur outlines and envisions to be one chapter actually turns out to be chapters 7, 8 and 9 of the finished book. The only major difference between the outline and the finished book is an important one - in the outline Mr. Rex confirms to the boys that he identified the body of Steven Terrill after it had been found in the castle. Arthur explains: "Now, of course, the identification of the body is a false one. It was a deliberate deception in the past, for which Mr. Rex, who explains the truth at the end, is properly regretful. As he is, however, living a masquerade existence, he is permitted to tamper with the truth to keep the mystery alive. This chapter should add a definite lift of action and danger to the section of the book that needs it most."
Arthur then plans to return to the story as it stands but to bring Skinny Norris back into the tale for another scene and then to have him lie low for the remainder of the book. "His existence will in itself help motivate the boys. Scary though Terror Castle may be, Jupiter Jones will not let himself or his companions abandon the investigation because to do so would enable Skinny to have the final laugh on them. This thread will not be overemphasized . . . It will come out briefly in an occasional conversation . . . I visualize the new character as adding an element of juvenile rivalry and pride of excelling which I am sure will be understandable to every child reader."
"You mentioned . . . that it might be possible to persuade the sales force to accept two volumes as a package, rather than three. If this can be done, it will make the job infinitely easier of accomplishment!"
Ending the letter, Arthur shares that he is able to work better in Cape May than in Philadelphia and plans to spend most of his time there. He offers a new phone number and prefers to receive calls between 10 and 12 in the morning or
after 4pm. After requesting additional feedback or suggestions from Walter, he ends with "Happy New Year!"
Letter #4 dated January 13, 1964. One page letter typed by Robert Arthur and sent to his editor, Walter Retan.
Arthur indicates that he has just received the revised pages for "Terror Castle" and that he is pleased with the new pace of the story and the change in viewpoint from first person to third.
"In the reading, a thought struck me. Normal structure for the book would call for it to start with what is actually Chapter 4 and for Chapters 1, 2, and 3 to be inserted on Page 57 where they are mentioned."
"The reason I used the flashback technique was, naturally, to grab the reader first and get him excited before going to the quieter opening material. But here are two thoughts I'd like you to entertain:"
"One: we might start as outlined above, depending on the Hitchcock name and introduction to promise the excitement, and let the story develop in its natural manner. This will give us a middle crammed with action and excitement."
"Two: we might start with the present Chapter one, or its equivalent. Then we might go into the present Chapter 4, using almost the same opening line, varying it just slightly, a very small writing point. Then on page 57 we might get the boys into the castle in a sentence or two, referring to Chapter 1, then go through the present chapter 2 and 3, let the boys run out and hurry back to Headquarters, and continue from there. This would give us an opening suspense
chapter, and would also give us some added action and suspense around page 50 - 60, as well as being closer to the natural story structure."
"In reading over the new mss. (manuscript), would you try both of the above? Start with Chapter 4 and then read in 1, 2, 3, when reached? Also start with Chapter 1, jump to Chapter 4, and read in 2 and 3 when reached?"
"I think either of the two methods would give us still greater impact in the action of the mss., and neither would involve more than writing a few lines, and shifting around of some pages. They could actually be done even after the work
was in the galley, without any real difficulty, though I know you like to avoid that when you can."
Arthur ends the letter by indicating they are experiencing some severe winter weather and also points out a couple of typos/corrections that need to be made to the current revision and then signs off with "Best, Bob".
Seth here: If you have a copy of "Terror Castle" in front of you and are trying to follow along with all of Arthur's suggestions, please keep in mind that the chapters and page numbers he is referring to are from the manuscript they were using at that point in time and don't necessarily match what you find in the published book. Arthur and Retan will still be working on "Terror Castle" for another 3 months with more changes to come. Still, by reading the published
chapters in the various orders suggested by Arthur (just have some fun with it!), you'll get some insight into the thought and work it took to make this book such a successful debut.
Letter #5 dated January 15, 1964. This one-page inter-office memo was sent to Louise Bonino from Walter Retan.
"Bob Arthur has turned in his revised manuscript. In many ways it is an improvement. The whole story is now told in the third person, and the exposition is worked in more smoothly."
Retan expresses concern over the length of the story between the introductory chapters and the spot where the real story gets going. Retan has marked some pages for cutting. Retan believes that from page 105 on, the switch to third
person was hastily done and is rough - an editor can clean it up.
"I find particularly distasteful the new bit about the "fake" corpse. I think this needs to be changed. I am also doubtful about Terrill, the former actor, having hired actors to come in and prove that the castle was haunted. Such a large number of people would never have managed to keep the secret to themselves."
"I wonder if a word of explanation should be added to account for al the furnishings having been left in the castle. . . . Children won't question this fact, but adult reviewers may."
"Now that I've seen the revised script, I wonder if Arthur perhaps made a mistake in trying to start the story with the first expedition to Terror Castle. Had he started with the boys invading Hitchcock's studio, he would have had an
interesting opening which could have worked up to the climax of the first visit. I hesitate, however, to ask for any more revisions. What do you think?"
"There is still too much about the junkyard. Seems to me that one secret hiding place would be enough for this book."
Letter #6 dated March 14, 1964. A two-page letter regarding STUTTERING PARROT typed by Robert Arthur in Cape May, NJ and sent to Walter Retan in NYC.
I have been rereading THE MYSTERY OF THE STUTTERING PARROT, and I see that the cutting will have to be in shorter takes than at first I thought. While I spotted a paragraph here and there that could be lifted out whole, I believe the best way to cut will be to take a sentence or half a sentence at a time. In some cases two successive exchanges of dialog can be eliminated.
My rough estimate is that we can cut about two lines per page for a total of say 350 lines. The typed lines run a bit longer than the printed lines so this would be increased in type.
If we can reduce the number of pictures by say, four, a reduction I don't believe any reader would notice, they're so unaccustomed to getting any pictures at all these days, this would give us four more pages or slightly better than another 100 lines.
Four chapters end with very short sections on the final page, cutting the typed page total by an effective four.
There are three, perhaps four and in a pinch five spots where chapters can be consolidated, saving possibly another three pages here.
Glancing at my copy of THE BOYS LIFE BOOK OF MYSTERY STORIES it still seemed to me that another line of type could be added at the bottom of the page. Especially if the lines are given a slightly greater width, this should still leave a nice looking page -- nicer looking than any of the competition and at the same time more meaty. This would in itself save about 175 lines.
Roughly, then, if pressed to it, I think we can save between 500 and 700 lines or close to twenty printed pages. This, I am hopeful, would eliminate length problems, without detracting from the book at all.
I would be glad to tackle the cutting, but I feel that possibly you, going at it objectively, can do it better than I, and in any case the time necessary to compare cuts I might make with cuts you might make would result in little if any saving of effort.
The first check was waiting for me when I got here. Needless to say it is both appreciated and already spoken for!
Unless some special reason arises, I probably won't be in New York again until April, but I am available if any need does come up.
It was nice seeing you and I hope we can have more equally pleasant and profitable meetings!
P.S. There is an occasional repetition of information which you have probably already noted. I did not try to avoid repeating in the book some of what Hitchcock says in his Introduction, on the theory that some readers may skip the intro or it is not beyond possibility that at some future date the intro might be eliminated from a future edition. However, take care of internal repetition as you think best.
Letter #7, dated March 24, 1964. A two-page typed letter regarding STUTTERING PARROT from Robert Arthur in Cape May, NJ to Walter Retan in NYC.
I have been testing the actual length of the typescript of STUTTERING PARROT and comparing it against the actual length of a printed page of BOY'S LIFE BOOK OF MYSTERY STORIES.
I enclose one page copied from this book on my machine --- including errors and all -- and also one page from typescript recopied on to my machine so I could get a fair comparison.
According to my best judgment, one page of the typescript will equal one page of the finished book, unless the paragraphs divide badly. Notice that on my machine one full page crowds a typewriter page. One fairly full page of her typing corresponds to one normal page of my typing, thus leaving a leeway of perhaps a line one way or the other but probably in our favor.
I think this will help you judge the final length better than any printer's estimate.
I have gone on this principle: A line of dialog of nine words or less will probably make only one line of print. More than nine words may make two lines, hence I tried to make sure no line was ten or eleven. If they ran to two lines, I let them, but I tried to make all short speeches under nine words. This saves wasting lines on one or two words.
The typists' script will equal the books pages, plus wasted pages or extra pages devoted to contents, illos, intro, etc.
Every 26 lines we cut should give us approximately one saved page of type. Every illo we eliminate will equal 26 lines cut.
We had probably best condense eight chapters into 4. Any chapters that end in three or four or five lines in the galleys can, if the book is too tight, be cut back to clear that final page.
With this to guide us, I think we can know where we stand when the cutting is finished. If I had been able to get this close an estimate before, I could have cut more before sending it off, but it was hard to tell just how much I had written.
Just this week a batch of Deal Seal books have come on the market for the juvenile trade, priced at 35 cents each and being more or less novelettes or short stories blown up to 30,000 words. I just picked one up at the local store.
They are supposed to be the first of a series, but though they bear an imprint saying they were first published in Sept. '63, no new titles have appeared. One title is a detective story (very weak) containing a brainy and dull boy character called 'Sherlock' Jones. This is very poorly done in my opinion.
I do not believe the possible audiences would overlap nor do I think that, inasmuch as we are featuring first 'The Three Investigators', there is any reason to feel there will be confusion between the two characters -- theirs and ours. I myself am doubtful if the experiment, or at least this series, will continue.
Seth adds: Unfortunately, these are the only two letters in the Random House Correspondence File regarding "Stuttering Parrot". I have little doubt that there was a LOT of discussion between Arthur and Retan on the development of this story, particularly in regard to the 222b address. I sometimes have the notion that Arthur was quite a salesman. In addition to these two letters there were three items from May/June 1973 concerning the conversion of this book to the Windward paperback edition:
A May 17th internal note from Jenny Frisse to production supervisor Ada Vine concerning some corrections.
A June 4th note showing proposed changes to the copyright page.
A June 19th letter from Hitchcock's legal team saying that he has okayed the new cover art for the Windward edition.
Letter #8 dated April 17, 1964. A two-page letter typed by Robert Arthur in Cape May and sent to Walter Retan in NYC.
I think that TERROR CASTLE flows along very smoothly this way. The explanation for the loss of the body is good, and all in all it progresses neatly. I miss the scary beginning, but I think that the title, the pictures, the frontispiece, et al., will indicate to the reader that there is excitement ahead, and we get a steady buildup.
I noticed the cutting, and it is smoothly deleted except for two points on which I have strong reactions.
One of these is the naming of the exits -- Tunnel Two and Easy Three. To speak of various hidden entrances is not enough. I want this milieu to come alive to the readers as it has for me, and so I visualize these entrances in concrete terms. I put back Tunnel Two as it only took a sentence. Out of deference to the need for shortening I did not put back Easy Three, but I should like to if you think space permits.
Jupiter Jones is both imaginative and practical. The imaginative side comes out in his use of chalked question marks, in the mysterious titles he gives the exits, and so on. The other boys are delighted to go along with him, as boys in a group usuually are when one turns out to have a creative imagination. (Same reason some go along for J.D. -- somebody has a destructive imagination.)
Later -- if we should go ahead -- the terms used would be familiar to most of the readers and, what you couldn't guess, I'm already building toward a big climax scene for some book yet unwritten. If it ever does get written, it will involve a conflict with one or more sinister midgets, who can follow the boys into Headquarters. The boys will be taken unawares by the appearance of antagonists at each of their exits --- Tunnel Two, Easy Three, one unnamed, and possibly one other to be devised.
However, Jupiter thinks ahead. He has provided even for this contingency. There is one emergency exit never used saved in the direst straits, which have now arrived. They use the exit, and the enemy is foiled. For this reason the actuality of the exits is something I want to build up and make a part of the background.
Therefore, if we can put back the short paragraph needed to describe Easy Three, I would like to. It helps, as well, establish the way in which this Headquarters is hidden behind harmless seeming junk.
The other point lies in the description of the way Jupiter deduced the place Bob's mother had hidden her ring. This is a simple enough scene and perhaps seems at first glance unnecessary. But it has a definite point. It demonstrates in advance of our meeting him that Jupiter is a deductive thinker capable of deductions others may not arrive at. As it is, all we know is that he has left an imaginatively worded message -- anyone can do that. But the scene in which we speak of the ring immediately established him as one who works with his mind and gives him greater validity -- or so I feel.
I didn't try to rewrite this into the galley, but it would certainly delight me if you could take the original mss. and re-insert it, as well as, though not as imporrtantly, Easy Three.
Elsewhere I have filled out a short line where I thought a telling phrase could be used, and suggested one or two minor wording changes -- nothing of consequence.
I notice you felt the final Hitchcock comment unnecessary. I agree with you here -- it reads well without it. However, I don't think this will be true of the second book. There the final summation serves a purpose.
Do you feel that blurbing the second book at the end of the first is undignified and vice versa?
As a boy, those blurbs at the end of the books whetted my eagerness to read the others to a fine edge of impatience and I felt that we could gain the same effect here.
See you Thursday.
P.S. Please request that nothing be done in the way of paging and plating the titlepage and the revers of it until we can hear from Lee Wright. I have asked her to investigate the possibility of putting my name on the title page at least on an equal footing with the illustrator, and I shall discuss this further with her on Friday.
Letter #9 dated June 24, 1964. A short, typed note sent from Walter Retan in NYC to Robert Arthur in Cape May.
This is just a note to remind you that everyone is most eager to have two more Three Investigators books on the fall, 1965, list. Have you progressed any farther in your planning? I know you have been busy with the anthology, but we are already being
pressed for information with regard to fall, 1965, books.
Letter #10 dated June 26, 1964. A one-page letter typed by Robert Arthur in Cape May and sent to Walter Retan in NYC.
I have the book [anthology] for Louise all but completed and am planning to start on Jupiter Jones after the holiday.
THE MYSTERY OF PHANTOM ISLAND will probably be No. 1. I have notes on this, leaving a few gaps to be filled in but am sure the setup will provide plenty of room for development.
At the moment I lean toward THE CASE OF THE WHISPERING MUMMY for the second book. My notes on this one are sketchier but I like the situation and believe it can be developed once I can give it my full attention.
I hate to say positively I won't think of something I like better in the next couple of months -- it's hard to tell what ideas will come when I begin digging into the characters again. But as of now, these two feel hottest to me and if you want me to be definite I'll undertake to stand by these two. I have in reserve a plot idea for THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST WAGON TRAIN, but it needs more development.
Sorry I haven't been in town lately, but it's so nice down here I can't bring myself to leave -- especially with New York so crowded now with Worlds' Fair-goers.
WHISPERING MUMMY is the story mentioned at the end of PARROT --- the elderly Egyptologist who is very upset because his 3000-year-old mummy whispers to him in ancient Egyptian, but no one else can hear a word.
We have a 12-year-old boy staying here at the moment, and he has been reading SOLVE THEM YOURSELF MYSTERIES. He seems quite absorbed in them, and his vote for the best story is MYSTERY OF THE THREE BLIND MICE. I'm inclined to think he's right. This could have been expanded into a book without too much trouble.
I'll keep in touch and may get into town next month, although I won't promise it. Summer is here now and it's been a long time coming!
P.S. Have you been able to manage anything along the line of an expense voucher for typing costs and other miscellaneous expenses, re our brief conversation on the subject last Spring? b
Letter #11 dated July 1, 1964. A one-page typed letter from Walter Retan in NYC and mailed to Robert Arthur in Cape May.
Thanks for your letter of June 26th. Don't feel tied down to the ideas outlined there in case something you like better pops up. I just wanted to be able to reassure our sales department that you are at least in the planning stage on two new books, and that they will be ready for fall, 1965. I leave at the end of the week for a three-week vacation, and will be back in the office on July 28. I am certainly looking forward to it; we have rented a small house at Amagansett on Long Island.
If, in the meantime, you should be coming into the city to see Louise, by all means feel free to discuss "The Three Investigators" with her if you wish advice or an editorial reaction. She can pass the gist of the conversation on to me. I don't blame you for not wanting to leave the shore in this kind of weather.
By the way, I meant to tell you after one of our last conferences, that I don't think you need to worry about working Skinny Norris into books where the boys are traveling. It might seem too much of a far-fetched coincidence. I think kids always enjoy having a new "threat" or "villain" get into the act.
Hope you have a pleasant and profitable summer.
Letter #12 dated August 18, 1964. A one-page, typed letter from Robert Arthur in Cape May, New Jersey to his editor, Walter Retan in New York City.
Nice to hear that you had a good vacation. New York is always a more delightful place after a vacation, somehow. Here of course I mix vacation with business, and sometimes it is hard to decide which to concentrate on. However, things do get done.
I'll be looking forward to the copies of the two books. As soon as additional copies are available, I would like to have more than two sets as other relatives are waiting to see the results.
For the record, the two titles I'm working with are:
THE CASE OF THE WHISPERING MUMMY
THE MYSTERY OF PHANTOM ISLAND
I've been doing a bit of exploration of the field of boy's mysteries, handicapped by lack of access to any large library, and I find the specimens I run across rather pallid. I would like to get a better idea of what is being done in the field, so if you can get the names of any books in recent years considered top-rated by readers (first) and librarians (second) I'd like to look them up.
I don't know just what day I'll be in next month, but I anticipate it will be round the 16th-17th. I'll be letting you know.
Letter #13 dated August 20, 1964. A one-page, typed, inter-office memo from Ruth Shair to Emanuel Harper.
Since I will be working with Robert Arthur on future books in this series, Walter Retan has suggested that I consult you about our contractual arrangements with Mr. Arthur and Alfr
Robert Arthur is preparing manuscripts for the next two titles in this series: THE CASE OF THE WHISPERING MUMMY (to be delivered October 1, 1964), and THE MYSTERY OF PHANTOM ISLAND (to be delivered February 1, 1965).
To cover these two titles, we will need either a rider to our original contract with Robert Arthur (for THE SECRET OF TERROR CASTLE and THE MYSTERY OF THE STUTTERING PARROT, dated January 20, 1964) or a new contract.
Incorporated in the new agreement -- or rider -- there should be a change in the clause dealing with the allocation of income from the sale of foreign rights. Our original contract with Robert Arthur grants Random House foreign rights and the author receives no share of income received from the sale of these rights.
Our contract with Alfred Hitchcock (dated April 1, 1963) covering various stipulations regarding the entire series grants Hitchcock 80% of any income received by Random House for the sale of foreign rights.
Mr. Hitchcock has now agreed to divide his share of income from the sale of foreign rights equally with Mr. Arthur, and to make this arrangement retroactive.
The original contract with Mr. Arthur and our contract with Mr. Hitchcock should, therefore, be amended; and the rider or new contract with Mr. Arthur for the two forthcoming books should include a clause covering the new arrangement.
In every other respect (except for delivery dates) the terms of the agreement with Robert Arthur for the two new titles mentioned above are to be identical with the terms of the original contract.
Seth writes: I neglected to post a couple of the letters from the Random House T3I file from September 1964 as they weren't particularly interesting. In one, Robert Arthur makes plans to meet with three of his editors in NYC, Walter Retan, Louise Bonino and Ruth Shair on Sept. 17, 1964. This meeting did take place.
Arthur also mentions that the copies of "Terror Castle" arrived at his home and were well-received by his children. "I hope my daughter (Elizabeth) - who is ten - is an accurate barometer of our reception for she found it very good." And Arthur requests that two copies of each of the first two titles be sent to the headquarters of the Mystery Writers of America. "We members try to keep the shelves stocked with our latest, for professional purposes." Other letters from September regard the amendments made to Robert Arthur's contracts with Random House.
Typed letter sent to Walter Retan in NYC from Robert Arthur in Cape May, dated Oct. 28, 1964 -- mostly in regards to "Whispering Mummy".
My typist made an extra effort, so that I can send the scripts to you in time, I trust, for you to read the story before we meet.
I have cut this one ahead of time, making it shorter than the last , so that I hope it will come out more closely on the nose. It was a good deal longer at first, but I have squeezed out all adjectives, adverbs and just plain verbiage. What is left is, I hope, what I have been told over and over again what the young readers want---action and mystery, excitement and danger.
I have, however, disregarded the advice of one young reader who said, "Children don't care WHY it happens--they just want to read about it happening." I have supplied reasons and answers for everything that happens, but tried to do so deftly so that no one would be slowed down by it.
Still, the remark might indicate why such things as The Hardy Boys have been successful.
Lee says that for her Nov. 5th is good for lunch. I hope we can get together then on Nov. 4th, which is Wednesday?
I shall look forward to seeing you again.
November 23, 1964. A one-page typed letter sent to Robert Arthur in Cape May from Ruth Shair in NYC.
Walter Retan has turned over to me your letter of November 14 and your revisions for THE MYSTERY OF THE WHISPERING MUMMY. The changes seem fine. I've incorporated all of them in the setting copy and I will return your corrected carbon in a day or two.
I have now had a chance to read through the entire manuscript once again. The beginning is much improved and everything seems to fit neatly into place. I think your changes throughout are good.
Walter and I did suggest at lunch that day that you make the older Hamid's motivation for retrieving the mummy more convincing. I still wonder if readers will believe that just getting the mummy of an ancestor (which Hamid heard about for the first time from an itinerant beggar) would be important enough to him to make him send Achmed and the boy over here to steal it, if necessary. Wouldn't he have to suspect that it was valuable in some way? However, if you feel that your audience will accept this - as I'm sure you do, since you haven't changed it - we'll let it stand. Let me know if you have any second thoughts about it.
I have asked our publicity department to send a review copy of GHOSTS AND MORE GHOSTS to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It would be fine if they would review it.
I am about to set the MUMMY happily on its way through the mysteries of the production department. I hope by the time we have galleys for you you will have something to show me on the next one.
Walter sends his best - and so do I.
RH Dennis Lynds Letters
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