The photographers were waiting like assassins outside the door on the cold slate street. John O’Hara, the millionaire hermit novelist, sort of staggered down the churchsteps in front of me; his legs buckled as he reached the final step. He looked smaller than I would have thought from gossip about him as a barroom brawler 30 years ago. His Rolls Royce was waiting for him in front of the church. He was wearing a natty doublebreasted grey-check suit, ears sticking out like Gable and Mailer, eyes on the steps, speaking to no one… . Alert, but a stone misanthrope—that was the message.
—Seymour Krim, writing about John Steinbeck’s funeral service (1969)


American he-men writers used to pride themselves on their ability to punch their way out of a paper bag. For these bare-knuckled typists, writin’ was fightin’, to paraphrase Ishmael Reed, and some...


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