As you read the following letter from Harlan Ellison – particularly the incredible first paragraph – bear in mind that Thomas Pluck, the letter’s recipient, was an avid fan of Ellison’s at the time and had previously paid good money to become a member of the Harlan Ellison Recording Collection, thereby gaining access to more of the author’s work. Also remember that this was his first contact with the author; not the latest bothersome letter in a relentless stream of correspondence to which such a response would be more understandable.
That said, it’s a joy to behold, and I’d personally be quite proud to have provoked such a grumpy response from ‘possibly the most contentious person on Earth‘.
Transcript follows. Huge thanks to Thomas of ‘Pluck You, Too!‘ for his permission to show the letter.
10 November 89
Mr. Thomas Pluck
Nutley, New Jersey
Dear Mr. Pluck:
All a writer has is time and a portion of talent. Answering queries from readers eats away at the former, thus disallowing full use of the latter. I continue to beseech my readers not to burden me with this sort of personal need, but every day I receive a dozen items that demand my response. Yours is one of them. My wife advises me that you are a HERC member, and thus are deserving of attention, but I cannot conceal my annoyance at having to depart from deadline work to satisfy your curiosity. Please don’t do this to me again.
The quotation “…there are men whom one hates until a certain moment when one sees, through a chink in their armour, the writhing of something nailed down and in torment,” comes from the short story “Busto is a Ghost, Too Mean to Give Us a Fright” by the late Gerald Kersh.
The story appeared in a long out-of-print collection of Kersh’s work, titled I GOT REFERENCES, published in England and, to the best of my knowledge, never reprinted here. That was the case with most of Kersh’s work. He was an American, one of the finest writers of the 20th century, revered in England and shamefully ignored in his homeland. He died in 1968, to our eminent loss. I knew him first through his work, then through correspondence and, though we never met in person, he became my friend; and I edited a small collection of his best stories in 1968, just prior to his death. The book was titled NIGHTSHADE & DAMNATIONS and was published by Gold Medal in paperback. Copies turn up, from time to time, in used bookstores and this slim volume contains “Busto is a Ghost…” and ten other brilliant, stunningly original Kersh stories.
I commend his writing to you. If you can obtain copies of his two best novels NIGHT AND THE CITY and FOWLER’S END(both of which had U.S. editions) or anything else by Kersh, you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.
All best otherwise,
(Signed, ‘Harlan Ellison’)