Friday, July 19, 2013

Seward, Alaska, 14 June 1945

Rosita my love, 

This is my second day at the Seward office [ACS] and gradually I am being I am being initiated into the mysteries of the telegraph rates. With me the computation is not, as yet, an exact science but I manage to approximate the toll. The characters for whom the Morgan tolls are really quite wonderful. One old Alaskan came in today and misspelled seven words out of seven, including his own first name. I am assured that this only ties the local record. In fact it seems unlikely that the editor of the Seward Polaris could do better.
The paper is surpassing strange, in which it resembles the editor. Hunt, who puts it out, is an old time job printer from Medford, Oregon. More recently he worked in the back shop of a Fairbanks weekly. He is not very good on printing and his newspaper experience is negligible and absurd….

The paper only comes out twice a week—Wednesdays and Saturdays. I’m going to see Hunt and suggest that his time is very valuable and that he would be saving himself a great deal of money and bother if he would turn all the editorial direction of the paper over to me (for $200 a month) and put his time on getting ads and setting type. There are no floormen at all in this town, and he literally drags people in off the street to help him set heads, make ads, and make-up the paper on press days. I doubt very much that he will see the need for my superb services, however, as he fancies himself a crusader. Even if he does, there is still another problem. Because of his crusading, he has deeply offended the local Army officers and on them depends the final decision of whether I can work for the paper. If the business gets that far, I would present it to them as an assurance of better cooperation between the press and the military (don’t say it—my conscience hurts already) were I to take charge.

"I usually get a temporary enthusiasm after about ten thousand words of anything."

In the meantime I am back at my writing. I have started again on “Shadows Fall” [first published in 1949 as The Viewless Winds, based on the still-unsolved Laura Law murder case in Aberdeen in 1940; republished by OSU Press in 1990] and though I don’t particularly like the start I have I think I’ll just bull along until I get into it. I usually get a temporary enthusiasm after about ten thousand words of anything. Lord, Nunny, how I need the encouragement of selling something again. It has been a very long time. 

In doing “Shadows Fall” I’m going to set myself a bit more ambitious goal than before. I want to try telling it in the first person and show, in the development of the story, not only the impact of the crime on the community, its disruption of the social fabric, but also to underline the developing awareness of social problems of the young city editor as he follows the story. Besides which I intend to soup the thing up with enough gonadal doings so that Miss Windsor will have to drop down the scatological ladder and we move up into the upper income brackets.

The weather today is soft and beautiful, almost too warm. Everyone is roaming around in shirtsleeves as, they say, they have been for nearly two months. The last winter was quite mild, and even the bad ones are not too bad…. The mosquitoes are huge but, so far, infrequent.
Food prices are high, but there is a pretty good assortment. We cook our own at the quarters, on a nice electric range. Milk is 30 cents a quart, butter 65 a pound, lettuce 30 a head, oranges 60 a dozen, steak 60 to 80 a pound, pork 50 a pound, bread 20 a loaf. Those are the only prices I’ve seen so far. The boys say it costs about forty bucks a month to eat very, very well. 
Write me long and often about your plans, my little love. Everything looks better all the time from this end. 

You are adored,


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