RUNYON, DAMON. One autograph letter signed, one autograph note signed, seven typed letters signed, forty-two typed letters, and one typed note to his son Damon Runyon, Jr. in Cincinnati, nearly all written from New York (a few from Florida), 3 July 1945-22 November 1946, and no date (most undated). Together 52 letters and notes, 102 pages, mostly 4to, mainly double-spaced, a number on tan copy paper, some on his personal note paper headed "Damon Runyon says:", the eight signed letters and one note signed "Dad" (nearly all in pencil), the others with "Dad" typewritten, several with pencilled or inked corrections/revisions by Runyon, all in five black-cloth binders; in very good condition.
FATHER AND SON
An exceptional series of letters written during the final year-and-a-half of Runyon's life and showing his remarkable courage in the face of terminal illness and severe family problems. Runyon died in New York on 10 December 1946 at the age of 66. Cancer of the throat had necessitated removal of his larynx a year earler, forcing him to communicate with his many friends (at such spots as his beloved Lindy's restaurant) by means of notes written on his note paper with printed heading "Damon Runyon says:".
At the time Runyon's son, in his later twenties, was a newpaper reporter in Cincinnati and a would-be writer for Hollywood movies. He never advanced, though, beyond a career as a journeyman journalist, laboring in the shadow cast by his famous father. In 1954 he published a bitter memoir, Father's Footsteps, about Damon Sr.'s "destructive egomania." In 1968, at age 49, he committed suicide.
The letters deal primarily with family relationships and problems: Runyon's daughter Mary, a recently divorced alcoholic in need of psychiatric care; Runyon's own health and his anticipated death; his financial difficulties, worsened in part by a divorce from his second wife in 1944; his son's pending divorce and his drinking problem (there is much in the letters about Alcoholics Anonymous). But throughout the correspondence Runyon gives advice to his son about his writing and talks of his own newspaper and literary career (including his stints as a Hollywood writer).
3 July 1945: "...I think the samples of your work that you sent me are excellent reporting with a swell human interest touch. I have always thought you could write and it has always been my hope that you would carry on what I think is an honorable name in the newspaper game, the greatest profession in the world...I quit drinking thirty-five years ago in Denver and have not had a drink since. I quit because I realized that I got no fun out of drinking. Liquor only gave me delusions of grandeur that got me into trouble. It never made me happy and bright and sparkling as it does some people. It made me dull and stupid and quarrelsome...It destroyed my pride, my sense of decency. I quit because I saw that I was not going to get anywhere in the world if I didn't and I wanted to go places..." "Wednesday," n.d.: "...Set yourself to work on a number of story treatments such as the one I read so when you do go out there [to Hollywood] you will be 'heeled' in a manner of speaking. You will have something to show, something to sell...Remember this: They don't care about ideas unless they are on paper. That is the important thing -- get it on paper. With something on paper you can walk in anywhere and start talking. But verbal routines are no good...Most young guys go to Hollywood with chips on their shoulders. I found it one of the warmest, friendliest places I have ever been in my life with many swell people there and my greatest regret is that I did not find it sooner in life..."
"Tuesday," n.d.: "...I think my greatest misfortune was in getting caught in a current that demanded a certain standard of living and it took money to meet that standard. I would have been better off if I had remained a struggling and obscure fellow of no great means in a small community where I might have found peace and contentment in plain living and spiritual considerations instead of becoming a big town by-line writer always fighting to keep up there and to make money..." "Wednesday, n.d.: "...I notice you do a lot of thinking about yourself and your problems. Sometimes when you are in a mood for thought give one to your old man who in two years was stricken by the most terrible malady known to mankind and left voiceless with a death sentence hanging over his head, who had a big career stopped cold, saw his only daughter undergo a permanent mental collapse and had his domestic life shattered by divorce and his savings largely dissipated through the combination of evil circumstances. All this at 65 years old age when most men's activity is completely ended. Try that on your zither some day, my boy, especially when those low moods you mention strike you.." "Saturday," n.d.: "...I don't know if you have my latest book, In Our Town, a collection of stories published in newspapers and magazines years ago but they are a type of fiction that someone is going to come along with one of these days and create a bit stir and you might as well be the one. Of course du Maupassant had the idea too but before him were the writers of the Bible. I think they told some great tales without much waste. I think the new magazine trend will be toward more and more brevity. As you probably know, it is more difficult to write a short than a long..." "Wednesday," n.d. (reminiscing in a two-page letter about his early newspaper days): "...I refereed prize fights, a practice that Gene Fowler who was more or less my successor continued. I went up in a balloon. I slept in flop houses as a hobo for color for a story. I did a hundred and one similiar stunts and had a lot of fun doing them...I always made covering a standard story, like a big race or a ball game, more or less of a stunt...When the great Pittsburgh slugger Honus Wagner came to town I covered the game, not from the press box, but from the bleachers and a rear view of Honus...Pardon an old gentleman's mumbling..." "Saturday," n.d.: "...Yes, I am in a group picture that appears in Collier's this week, a story on Lindy's, and I think it is pretty good...A New Yorker has no community life outside of night clubs and they are expensive and tiresome. You can always visit New York but you can't always live here in the true sense of living. I notice that most successful writers who are born or migrate here always wind up living in the suburbs or some town outside New York...I love Beverly Hills as a small town but of course that's good only if you are in the movie industry somehow..."
[no date]: "...Scripps-Howard are having a tough time digging up new columnists to take the places of fellows like Broun, Pegler, Pyle and others...Looks as it I'll have to dig up a new line as all the boys are starting to imitate the Runyon-Winchell pilgrimages...Let me tell you a secret. I never liked doing a column until lately. I could always make so much more money with less effort on fiction..." "Sunday," n.d.: "...I have started again at 66, an invalid, without any possessions, just as I started again at 46 when your mother took practically everything...I have worked a lifetime for nothing as far as material possessions are concerned and for nothing in every way unless you justify my faith in your ability to keep my name alive in journalism and literature..." 17 November 1946: "These are your instructions for the disposal of my remains and you are not to permit anyone to dissuade you from them on any gounds...I desire that my body be creamated and my ashes scattered without publicity over the island of Manhattan, the place that I have truly loved and that was so good to me. I think you can get Captain Eddie Rickenbacker of Eastern Airways to get his boys to perform this service for me..." (52)