This collection consists of one box of material that includes heavily edited and complete manuscript pages from the Autobiography of Malcolm X, his writings on Mahalia Jackson, Wilma Rudolph, the story Queenie, a follow-up to Roots, and other writings. Also included are his notes regarding the re-run of the mini-series Roots. He mentions a meeting he had with Warren Beatty where they discussed Roots. The notes are titled "Re: Roots Re-Run for TV Guide. Between the Covers acquired the collection from a bookseller who bought it directly from the estate of Virginia Hannon. A group of early letters from Alex Haley it's seven letters sent between 1949-1954 (one from 1967) to close family friend, Virginia Hannon. The letters present Haley, then a journalist in the Coast Guard, trying to get his writing career started and relating thoughts about his working habits, carious siblings, and plans for the future. All letters are written light, optimistic, and sometimes flirtatious style. Accompanying them are several related photographs, including one of Hannon in uniform, and a copy of Haley's posthumous novel Queen inscribed to her by his brother, George.
The July 2015 addendum includes an archive of seven Typed Letters Signed from Alex Haley sent between 1949-1954 (with one from 1967) to a close family friend, along with related photographs and the first edition of Queen Inscribed by his brother George Haley. The letters are overall near fine with typical folds from being mailing and light toning, with their original mailing envelopes that show wear including are nick, tears, and chip, but all are present; the photos are fine. The book is fine in a fine dustwrapper.
The letters, which are signed both as "Alex" and "Palmer," his middle name, were written to Virginia Hannon, a woman who taught Alex Haley French at Alcorn College before he left to join the Coast Guard. The letters begin after he's become a journalist writing for Coast Guard Magazine, and it seems, after an absence from Hannon. The letters are very familiar and playful with references to her French class, updates on his brothers George and Julius, and although married, some flirtatious comments about her breasts, "they were not as you say, spinsterly," and his faraway demeanor in class, "believe me, love, I was not, when you observed me, thinking about any damned touchdowns." There is also lots of talk about Haley's writing career. The early letters from 1949 included his thoughts on his drive to be a writer: "I'm trying pretty hard and have thus far had some minor successes," as well as his bad habits: "I'm essentially lazy, but I love to write once I get started." It's during an extended hospital stay for the treatment of a pilonidal cyst in 1953 that he seems to really make headway: "I never had so much time on end to write in my life. I have to stand up to type, to be sure, but - boy, am I turning out the words! Things I've wanted to work on for ages." In a letter the next year he excitedly describes what was his first big career break: "The prime accomplishment to date, a milestone in my life, I guess, was the sale two weeks ago, of 'The Harlem that Nobody Knows,' a 4,000-word piece, to Reader's Digest ... As a result, I, last week, got taken in the stable of Ruth Aley, probably one of the top 5 literary agents in the country. I am working like a bastard, to put it bluntly." The job led to a series of articles in the magazine and an assignment with Playboy interviewing many of the most important African-Americans of the day. The final letter from 1967 takes the form of two short but sweet holograph notes to Hannon written on the margins of a form letter and a photocopied travel article. They show a busy, successful writer still trying to keep in touch with an old friend.
The letters are accompanied by a black and white photograph of a young Hannon in a military uniform (possibly Red Cross), along with two later color photos of George with Wynelle [Hannon's sister] and George with President Bill Clinton. Plus, there is a copy of Haley's book Queen, published posthumously, and warmly Inscribed by George: "To my dear sister, Virginia Rose Hannon With love, respect and appreciation Your brother George Haley - and all the rest of the Haley Family 12 June 1993." An interesting and intimate collection of early correspondence from one of the most influential African-American writers of the 20th Century.