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University of Texas at Austin

Clancy Sigal:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Sigal, Clancy, 1926-2017
Title: Clancy Sigal Papers
Dates: 1800s-2008 (bulk 1956-2007)
Extent: 54 document boxes, 3 oversize boxes (osb) (22.5 linear feet), 3 oversize folders (osf), 1 galley file (gf), 16 bound volumes (bv), and 166 electronic files (317 MB)
Abstract: The papers document all major writings by author and journalist Clancy Sigal and include notes, typescripts, background research and publicity materials. Correspondence and materials documenting personal and family history are also present.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-5115
Language: English
Access: Open for research. To request access to electronic files, please email Reference.
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase, 2008 (08-11-005-P)
Processed by: Micah Erwin, 2013 Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Chance Adams and Brenna Edwards, 2015-2022.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Clancy Sigal was born September 6, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois."The bastard child of a love affair" Sigal’s parents, Leo Sigal and Jennie Persily, were both industrial workers and union organizers. Sigal's father was absent throughout most of his childhood, leaving Jennie to raise Sigal on her own. Sigal often accompanied his parents on labor-organizing trips to mid-sized industrial towns throughout the North and Mid-West.
Sigal grew up in the West-Side Chicago neighborhood of Lawndale. Almost all of his grade and high school contemporaries were children of immigrants from Ireland, Italy or Eastern Europe. He was first inspired to become a writer at the age of thirteen when he read James T. Farrell and Richard Write. Sigal was involved in union organizing from the age of 14 to 19 at which point he joined the U.S. Army. As a sergeant in Occupied Germany, he attended the Nuremberg War Crimes trial with the intent to assassinate Herman Goering, but his gun was confiscated at a checkpoint.
After his army service, Sigal attended the University of California at Los Angeles where he received a B.A. in English Literature in 1950. Following graduation he briefly worked for the United Auto Workers before becoming a Hollywood agent representing a number of prestigious writers, actors, and directors. In 1956, he received a literary fellowship from Houghton Mifflin and left America for Paris to begin work on his first novel. He subsequently moved to London where he remained for the next thirty years
Sigal published Weekend in Dinlock in 1960, a work that blends elements of autobiography, social history, and fiction. The central figure in Weekend in Dinlock is Davie, a miner and gifted painter, inspired by the real-life Len Doherty. Davie is torn between the masculine culture of mining and a personal desire to pursue his artistic talents.
In 1963, Sigal published Going Away. Although written first, it was revised and published after Weekend in Dinlock. Composed in the first person, Going Away follows one man's drive from Los Angeles to New York. Drawing on Sigal’s experience as a union organizer, a Hollywood agent, and a soldier, the novel explores America’s spiritual and political maladies.
While in England, Sigal found an audience and began to broadcast regularly from the same BBC studios that George Orwell had used. Building up a body of humanistic journalism, he published extensively in the New Statesman, Observer, Encounter, and the New Society. From 1972 onward, he served as a feature writer, U.S. correspondent, essayist, book critic, and diarist for the U.K. Guardian.
Sigal published his pseudo-autobiographical novel Zone of the Interior in 1972. The satiric novel draws upon his experience with the Philadelphia Association and the famous "anti-psychiatrists" R. D. Laing and David Cooper, with whom he collaborated to create a half-way house for schizophrenics at Kingsley Hall in London’s East End. Although the novel was published to widespread audience in the U.S. it was stopped in Britain by Laing’s ambiguous threat of libel action. Zone was finally published in the U.K. in 2005 by Ponoma books.
Throughout the 1980’s, Sigal was a lecturer in the sociology department, professor of the school of journalism, and director of the London semester program at the University of California Santa Barbara. During this time he was also a book critic, reviewer, and diarist for The Listener, BBC.
Sigal published his fourth novel, The Secret Defector, in 1993. A heavily autobiographical novel, The Secret Defector is a story of Gus Black, who leaves his job as an agent in Hollywood and moves to England where he joins the Marxist Left but ultimately ‘defects’ from the movement. Centering on a love affair, the novel explores a man’s dialogue with feminism.
Published in 2006, A Woman of Uncertain Character: The Amorous and Radical Adventures of My Mother Jennie (Who Always Wanted to Be a Respectable Jewish Mom) by Her Bastard Son, (2006) is an overtly autobiographical tale, relating the story of his mother's adventurous life. The work has been described as both a gritty piece of prose and a tender memoir of a larger-than-life woman.
Clancy Sigal was a National Book Award nominee for Going Away and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from PEN USA in 2007. He died July 16, 2017 in Los Anglels, California.


Clancy Sigal, 1926-. Contemporary Authors Online. (accessed 24 October 2013).
Clancy Sigal Papers, 1800s-2008. Harry Ransom Center.
Sigal, Clancy, "Profile: Clancy Sigal," Writers Guild of America, West, Nov. (1989): 20-22.

Scope and Contents

Handwritten, typed and printout drafts, correspondence, screenplays, playscripts, research materials and notes, legal and editorial, records, photographs, audio and video recordings, awards, books, notebooks, journals, magazines, and other periodicals, newspaper clippings, periodicals galley proofs, and maps document the life work and family of Clancy Sigal from the mid-1800s to 2008. The five series are arranged by size and/or importance: I. Writings, 1950s-2007; II. Career and Personal, 1800s-2007; III. Journals and Notebooks, 1950s-2005; IV. Correspondence and Name Files, 1943-2008; V. Clippings, 1958-2005.
Series I. is divided into two subseries: A. Long Works and B. Short Works. The Series comprises over a third of the collection and documents Sigal’s literary activities from the 1950s to 2007. In addition to his five published novels, several unpublished screenplays and one unpublished novel are represented. Research materials relating to military desertion during the Vietnam War and mining and miner’s rights in England, from which he drew inspiration for his novels and articles, are also well represented.
Subseries A. Long Works, includes handwritten, typed and printout drafts, correspondence, clippings, and research materials for Going Away (1963), The Secret Defector (1992), and A Woman of Uncertain Character (2006). Weekend in Dinlock (1960), and Zone of the Interior (1976), are represented with notes, correspondence, publicity and extensive research materials, but lack drafts. Sigal’s writing process is particularly well documented in materials for A Woman of Uncertain Character (2006). Extensive notes and research materials relating to Chicago (the primary setting of the work) along with numerous printout chapter drafts and draft fragments record the evolution of this autobiographical work. Chapter drafts for A Woman of Uncertain Character are listed in the Index of Works. The subseries also includes two unrealized screenplays, an unrealized novel with co-author Barbara Probst Solomon, along with an unrealized essay collection. Also included are extensive research materials, chapter drafts, draft screenplays, and draft essays regarding military desertion, especially during the Vietnam War, all of which are organized under Sigal’s working title The Uses of Treason. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title. All titles in this series are listed in the Index of Works.
Subseries B. Short Works, includes clippings, correspondence, and research materials along with numerous drafts of published and unpublished essays, short stories, op-eds, articles, interviews, and chapter drafts. This subseries also includes eleven distinct playscripts all addressed to the same London location. A few chapter drafts from his longer works are intermingled with items in this subseries. The subseries is arranged alphabetically by title and all titles are listed in the Index of Works.
Series II. Personal and Career, is the second largest series and documents Sigal’s family origins, his early years working for the Jaffe Agency, and his road trips through to his later career as a successful journalist and author. Materials relating to his UCLA graduating class of 1950 and their 1975 reunion constitute a significant portion of this series. Correspondence, draft essays, and research materials regarding Watergate and UCLA graduates John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman are well represented including drafts of an unpublished manuscript entitled "Revenge of the Commie Nerds or My Watergate Hangup". Photographs (2 boxes) from the 1800s to the 2000s record the life of Clancy Sigal, family, and friends. The series is arranged alphabetically. All drafts in this series are listed in the Index of Works under "Jaffe Agency" and "UCLA Reunion".
Series III. Journals and Notebooks, includes typed and handwritten, diaries, and journal entries documenting Sigal’s early years on the road, his departure from America, experiences with LSD and R. D. Laing, his relationship with Doris Lessing, his 1984 heart attack, and other significant events in Sigal’s life. Comingled with these materials are numerous notepads and pocket notebooks with Sigal’s handwritten contact lists with names, addresses, phone numbers, and journalistic scribbles, along with some research notes on topics such as the Young Americans for Freedom, and Thurcroft. This series is arranged chronologically.
Series IV. Correspondence and Name Files, spans seven boxes and is organized alphabetically by name. Individuals are represented either by incoming and outgoing letters, as subject and correspondent, or as subject only. Name files can include correspondence, clippings, photographs, bound volumes, and typescripts by or about the individual. Prominent subjects include Enid Balint, Brendan Behan, R. D. Laing, and Grover Lewis. Short-stories-as-fictionalized-accounts record his well-known relationship with Doris Lessing. These are listed in the Index of Works under "Doris Lessing". The series includes incoming and outgoing letters with friends, colleagues, editors, military deserters, activists, family, and other associates. Prominent correspondents include Richard Attenborough, Enid Balint, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Fabian Society, Frances Goldin Literary Agent, E. M. Forster, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Harper Collins Publishers, Mervyn Jones, R. D. Laing, Doris Lessing, Barbara Probst Solomon, Deborah Treisman, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Margaret Walters. Correspondence with his former wife Margaret Walters (divorced 1989) is also located in Series II. Personal and Career where they take the form of extensive journal entries/notes on UCLA and Watergate.
Series V. Clippings, gives ample witness to his publishing activities as a journalist, reviewer, and essayist. Spanning five decades, this series includes published versions of Sigal’s book, television, and theatre reviews; interviews; Guardian articles; New York Times Op-Eds; and Los Angeles Times articles and obituaries. The series is arranged alphabetically by material type, then chronologically.

Related Material

For additional Clancy Sigal correspondence and related materials at the Harry Ransom Center, see manuscript holdings for Alfred A. Knopf, Barbara Probst Solomon, Doris Lessing. Joan Rodker (via correspondence with Doris Lessing), New Departures, and Norman Mailer.
Materials relating to Clancy Sigal can also be found in the Trocchi Alexander collection (MS 69-2084) at the Washington University Archives.

Separated Material

34 audio cassettes were transferred to the Center’s Sound Recording Collection.
1 book was transferred to the Center’s Library.
20 computer disks related to A Woman of Uncertain Character were transferred to the Center’s Electronic Records Collection.
A black flag (approximately 50 x 60 cm) bearing a white peace sign was removed from the military deserters materials and transferred to the Center’s Personal Effects Collection.

Index Terms


Doherty, Len.
Laing, R. D. (Ronald David), 1927-1989.
Lessing, Doris.
Lewis, Grover.
Persily, Jennie.
Sigal, Leo.
Solomon, Barbara Probst.
Terkel, Studs, 1912-2008.
Treisman, Deborah, 1970-.


George Howland Elementary School.
Lucy Kroll Agency.
Philadelphia Trust Ltd.
University of Southern California, School of Journalism.
University of California, Los Angeles.


Blacklisting of entertainers--United States.
Communism--United States.
Chicago (Ill.).
Laing, R. D. (Ronald David), 1927-1989.
LSD (Drug).
Miners--Protection--Great Britain--History--20th century.
New Left--Great Britain.
University of California, Los Angeles.
Vietnam War, 1961-1975.
Watergate Affair, 1972-1974.
Worker’s rights.


Los Angeles.
Kingsley Hall.
Thurcroft (England).

Document Types

Electronic documents.
Galley proofs.
Legal documents.
Page proofs.
Printed ephemera.
Sound recordings.

Container List