January 29, 2011

"SINCE WHAT?":

Charles Portis, the man who wrote True Grit: How an enigmatic and reclusive ex-marine created Rooster Cogburn and inspired the 10-time Oscar contender. (Martin Chilton, 1/28/11, The Telegraph)

After three years in Little Rock, Portis moved on to the Herald-Tribune, working for three years in New York before his spell in London.

Based near the Savoy Hotel, he combined reporting with his duties as bureau chief. He was amused rather than annoyed by the constant clicks of the telephones that indicated British intelligence were tapping his calls. He also dealt with Downing Street, as he remembered: “The Prime Minister was Sir Alec Douglas-Home. He gave us – a handful of American correspondents – one or two off-the-record interviews and spoke of Lyndon Johnson as, 'your, uh, rather racy president’, referring, I suppose, to Johnson’s barnyard humour.”

He quickly became disillusioned with the whole business of “management comedies”. As he says: “I wanted to try my hand at fiction, so I gave notice and went home to America.”

That was in November 1964. Four years later, he had published True Grit to widespread acclaim. Roald Dahl – who rarely reviewed books – wrote in praise for the American first edition dust jacket: “True Grit is the best novel to come my way for a very long time. I was going to say it was the best novel to come my way since…Then I stopped. Since what? What book has given me greater pleasure in the last five years? Or in the last 20? I do not know. I expect some have, but I cannot recall them right now. Marvellous it is. He hasn’t put a foot wrong anywhere. What a writer!”

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2011 5:58 AM
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