Francis Irby Gwaltney, November 9, 1963

From Project Mailer
142 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn 1, New York
November 9, 1963

Dear Fig,[1]

I really enjoyed the hell out of your last letter and have taken a month and a half to get around to answering it only because I’ve gotten caught up in a job of work which could be killing if it gets going wrong. I decided the only way out of my financial hole was to take a jump, and so I contracted with Esquire to write a novel in eight parts, each installment (ten thousand words) will appear in a successive month, and since I didn’t have anything behind me when I started, it comes down to writing a book in eight months, which has a finished draft good enough to make it a good novel. I did, however, succeed in selling it to Dial and Dell before I started for a price so large it’s crazy, and what’s good about this is that I’ll have economic freedom for a couple of years and may be able to do my big book in relative calm.

Incidentally, the agent I had who brought this deal off was a real live wire who accomplished a hell of a lot for me—his name is Scott Meredith—and so if you’re dissatisfied with John when the time comes to get a new book published, maybe it would be worth your while to let Scott take a crack at it.

Things are going along quietly in New York with lots of work, and Bev and I take off for two weeks each month to the country, either to Provincetown or to Jamaica, Vermont, and there I sweat the fat drop and try to do my work. I’d love to get out to Ruston to see you this winter, but I don’t think there’s too much chance of it, what with the work schedule. Maybe if I get fed up with the East I’ll go out to do my two-week’s stint in Louisiana. But the trouble is that I’m very poor company when I’m writing and so hesitate to visit friends at such a time. If the impulse ever did take me, what airplane route does one take to get into the vicinity of northern Louisiana?

This letter isn’t as long as I’d like it to be, but that’s because I haven’t answered any mail in a month and so as usual I have to knock off sixty letters in a day and half.

Give my love to your sly-boots lady and to Yee-Yee and to Frank. Bev sends her love,

This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.


  1. Mailer served in the Army with “Fig” (1921-1981), a teacher, novelist and native of Arkansas. During a visit there in March 1975, he introduced Mailer to the woman who became his sixth wife, Barbara Norris Church Mailer.