November 23, 1935 Commissioner Valentine
New York City
The New York Chapter of the American Fiction Guild is holding an informal dinner meeting at the Hotel Knickerbocker, December 6, Friday evening at six-thirty.
At the meetings it is customary to have some noted personality of the day address the professional writers of the organization upon some subject touching their work. We have had, for instance, in the past, several noted criminologists whose talks have been of great help to our detective story writers, most of whom try in all sincerity to present the police departments accurately in their stories.
It has been suggested that you might like to deliver your views with regard to the problem of crime. It would not, I assure you, fall on barren ground. Our detective writers reach between fifteen and twenty million impressionable minds a month and it has often been mentioned that fiction might do well to play a hand with the law. Crime stories have always borne the brunt of many attacks, and it is conceivable that they influence crime itself. So far, however, the law itself has done little but condemn detective fiction.
Very few of our detective writers––and by that I mean some of the biggest names in such fiction––have ever seen the inside of a station house. Most of this material is turned out blind. The writers do not seem to realize that they hold a mighty bludgeon of influence with their stories.
While the police departments are critical of newspapers and pay strict attention to newspaper comment, these departments pay little attention to fiction which ranks only second in importance to newspapers.
The fault does not lie wholly with the writers. They do not think that police stations and police agents have time to give out accurate information concerning their work and, as a consequence, the detective writer has molded a model of his own which is quite probably far from the truth.
Recently we considered asking James J. Finn of the Hauptmann case to speak at one of our future meetings, but in discussing detective work we decided that we might make an attempt to better the position of our detective writers.
We know that you are given more than you can possibly do, we appreciate that your time is valuable and that this request might seem a little presumptuous, but there is this to consider: If you, with your position and authority, spoke to us in regard to police work, and extended to our detective writers an invitation to help the law with their work, and if you were to suggest that any station house and precinct was open to their inspection, we are certain that the address would have a greatly desired effect.
You would not, in extending that invitation, deluge your department with any amount of work. There are less than a hundred detective writers of importance in the country. A large share of them will be present at the dinner. But though their numbers are few, this scant hundred write 95 percent of all the detective fiction printed in the country, from the best-selling novel down to the cheapest detective pulp.
It is, therefore, a rather simple task to influence the entire field. Fiction has made the G-man soar to heroic heights in the hands of this group of writers. It was this which suggested to us that we might better our treatment on a closer subject, the police departments of our large cities.
The American Fiction Guild operates primarily for the benefit of today’s professional writer, but sometimes we step aside and grasp other urgent work. We fight plagiarism, fraud of all kinds, and so you might say that we’re something of a police department ourselves.
Any message you might care to give the New York Chapter of this organization would be relayed promptly to almost every writer of importance in the United States.
We want, frankly, a closer alliance between fiction and fact. We have accomplished that in other fields. The Department of Justice has given writers immeasurable aid so that G-man fiction is gradually becoming accurate and there is, therefore, a better public understanding of that work.
This is, therefore, no idle request that we make. We earnestly desire your presence at this dinner. It is not exactly a social affair and it does not try to achieve social standing. We are men trying to do a sincere job in a sometimes difficult world. Our imaginations give us worldly wealth, and information is highly responsible for whatever prestige we might attain. An address by you and an invitation from you would result, we assure you, in mutual benefit.
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