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Robert Park Mills:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Mills, Robert Park, 1920-1986
Title: Robert Park Mills Papers
Dates: ca. 1961-1983
Extent: 83 document boxes, 3 oversize flat boxes (38.76 linear feet)
Abstract: The collection contains correspondence and works for some of the most highly regarded mystery, fantasy, and science fiction writers active in the 1960s and 1970s, correspondence with agents and publishers, check stubs, appointment books, deposit receipts, and accounting ledgers.
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchase, 2000 (R 14773)

Processed by:

Debbie Guidry, Tania Chowdhury, Katherine Stewart, Emily Barker, Sean Castilla, 2001

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin


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 of 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 one of the American novelist's most productive periods (1961-1964), but he was in essence Baldwin's executive secretary, handling his literary and financial affairs. In the Baldwin files are a heavily revised typescript for the 1964 play 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 FariƱa (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 research.

(Taken in part from: Kirkpatrick, John. "Robert Mills Archive Arrives," Ransom News, vol. 8, no. 2 (Spring, 2001), p. iv.)