Monday, February 19, 2018

Dear Mr Ambrose

The Winter of 1946-47 must have been a magical time for John D MacDonald and his young family.  In a year that began with him frantically trying to sell his second story, buried in rejection slips, desperately getting a day job to support his debt-ridden family -- ended with the sale of a handful of short stories, freedom from his job (he quit using his wife's health as an excuse) and a planned winter stay in Taos, New Mexico to escape the brutal New York winter. The MacDonalds never made it to Taos, instead stopping in Ingram, Texas, where they rented a hillside cabin at the Bon-Air Lodge. MacDonald wrote about it the following year in his Clinton Courier column From the Top of the Hill, again in The House Guests (1966) and even used it occasionally in his fiction. (See "Hand from the Void," "School for the Stars," The Deep Blue Good-By). His recollections were always fond and it was clearly a high point in his early life as a writer.

A good example is MacDonald's 1982 response to a fan letter, something I recently came across, where he again reminisces and reveals some details heretofore unknown. It is both illuminating and amusing.

31 May 82

Dear Mr. Ambrose,

Thoughts of Austin bring back memories of a long time ago, of the winter of 1947 when, looking for a low rent district, we rented a hillside cabin in Ingram, Texas, the only all-rock town in the US. The owner had sawed up some PW barracks and imported them on flat beds from Louisiana where they had the prisoners working rice during WW II. He was finishing them off inside and then having the local masons rock the outsides. He couldn't figure out why I was sitting at a typewriter all day long, pecking away. It wasn't seemly work for a man. Perhaps to shame me, he tried to talk Dorothy into driving to Austin with his truck, towing a great long flat-bed trailer, and bringing it back with a load of that nice white rock you have -- or used to have -- up there. I think that she was tempted for a little while, but when I told her that truck-tractor had like twelve speeds forward, she dropped the idea. I think the owner was slightly crazy. The place was called Bon Air, and it was then angora goat country, the bells a nice sound in the early morning. And there were meadowlarks on every other fence post -- before the locals spray-killed everything they fed on, and starved them out.

Cordially, John D. MacDonald

No comments:

Post a Comment