The papers of the American literary agent and editor Robert
P. Mills (1920-1986) brings to the Ransom Center important material for
research in the literary industry of the 1960s and 70s. The Mills agency
handled a number of the most highly regarded mystery, fantasy, and science
fiction writers active in those two decades, and the files for writers with
other interests are extensive and notable.
Among the writers represented in the firm's files are Isaac
Asimov, Richard Brautigan, Edward Bryant, Alice Childress, prolific writer
pulp fiction Norman Daniels, Avram Davidson, John Deck, Gordon Dickson, Thomas
Disch, dancer Katherine Dunham, Harlan Ellison, Ronald Fair, Leonard Feather,
Nat Hentoff, Langston Hughes, film critic Pauline Kael, Daniel Keyes, South
African novelist (who wrote the screenplay for
The Wizard of Oz) Noel Langley,
Fritz Leiber, Helen McCloy, Naomi Mitchison, M. D. Post, Clifford Simak, China
expert Edgar Snow, Walter Tevis, and many others.
Files for three writers offer revealing hints of the richness
of the archive. Mills was nominally James Baldwin's literary agent during
of the American novelist's most productive periods (1961-1964), but he was
essence Baldwin's executive secretary, handling his literary and financial
affairs. In the Baldwin files are a heavily revised typescript for the 1964
Blues for Mr. Charlie and a 1963
Baldwin letter from Istanbul in which he discusses at length an essay about
Henry James that he worked on for a number of years but never finished.
There are seventy substantial letters from Jim Thompson, the
author of disturbing character studies in such novels as
The Getaway (1959),
The Grifters (1963), and
The Killer Inside Me (1953), all
of which have been adapted for film.
The Killer Inside Me, based on a
real-life encounter with a deputy sheriff in West Texas, is considered by many
to be Thompson's best work.
The very large files for Richard Fariña (1937-1966), killed
in a motorcycle accident two days after his only novel was published, include
manuscripts for unpublished stories and poems. The novel,
Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To
Me, which sold two million copies in hard and soft cover editions, was
compared to the work of J.D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac.
The archive is organized into two series: Series I.
Alphabetical Files, 1961-1983 (74 boxes) and Series II. Financial Records,
1961-1980 (11 boxes). The alphabetical files contain both chronologically
arranged correspondence and alphabetical groupings of works for many authors,
as well as correspondence with agents and publishers. The financial records
include appointment books, check stubs, deposit receipts, and accounting
ledgers. The archive is in good physical condition and is open for
(Taken in part from: Kirkpatrick, John.
"Robert Mills Archive
Ransom News, vol. 8, no. 2
(Spring, 2001), p. iv.)