RARA-AVIS: Caldwell-Mitchell & Goodis-Fuller

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 04 Nov 2002

Mike's discussion of Erskine Caldwell's TOBACCO ROAD included these comments:
 "H.L. Mencken helped Caldwell fight the censors and get the book published. Not surprisingly, Margaret Mitchell, author of GONE WITH THE WIND, was one of the major opponents against Caldwell's book. She commented that there was not a single pervert in her novel."

Mitchell would have had little impact on the publication or reception of Caldwell's book as it was published four years before her novel was published in 1936. The two knew each other as both did stints on the Atlanta Journal in the 1920s. I don't have either Caldwell autobiographies handy but I think Caldwell had some positive things to say about Mitchell in those newspaper days. Caldwell, Faulkner, T.S. Stribling and others were all criticised by those who clung to the romantic vision of the south as presented in Mitchell's novel.

A Caldwell novel of interest to this list would be his lynching novel TROUBLE IN JULY. Perhaps wrongly, I recall TOBACCO ROAD more for its humor than anything else. Caldwell was an excellent short story writer, who like James Cain sold a few to the mystery digest "Manhunt." His reputation has suffered IMO because he had such a long career and published so many novels inferior to his early best work. But then a guy has got to eat.

Caldwell's novels helped jump start the paperback revolution as they were enormous sellers in that format. One Caldwell legacy was the "backwoods" sub-genre in paperback originals. Examples include Gold Medals by Charles Williams (UNCLE SAGAMORE AND HIS GIRLS), Harry Whittington (DESIRE IN THE DUST) and William's brother John Faulkner (CABIN ROAD, UNCLE GOOD'S GIRLS among others).

I am sorry to hear from Mark Sullivan that Sam Fuller's adaptation of David Goodis' STREET OF NO RETURN is horrible. Fuller's autobiography complains that the producer Jacques Bral spent a year recutting the movie while stiffing the crew for their pay. He does not comment on the quality of the recut/released version of the film although he notes it was a box office disaster.

Fuller's comments on Goodis will be of interest to some rara-avians. "When I'd met David Goodis in 1946, he and I were both knocking out scripts and trying to sell them to studios 'in between novels,' like a lot of aspiring writers. Neither of us were doing that well at the time. David and I would chow down together at Musso & Frank's, drink vodka, and commiserate. He was a sensitive soul, deeply affected when one of the studio goons, upon rejecting somebody's original script would say something discouraging like,
"You should go back to driving trucks." I didn't give a damn about what those meatheads said about my work, but David took it hard. He was a brilliant, shy loner searching for utopias who never quite made it as screenwriter."

Richard Moore

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