THE RUSSELL HAYS LETTERS


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      Among other great friendships born from these years, was the three-decade bond between LRH and fellow author Russell Hays. Hays was a fascinating figure. In addition to the penning of highly authentic westerns, he held several key patents for helicopter rotary systems, coaxed fine skunk cabbage from Kansas dust and occasionally drilled for oil. Needless to say, and notwithstanding a penchant for chewing tobacco and the monosyllabic drawl, he also possessed an exceptionally keen wit. (Ron describes it as “the sticklike quality of a twig-bug, developed to trap the unwary”). Then, too, he harbored a fairly keen interest on questions relating to the human thought process – hence, the later Hays–Hubbard correspondence on Dianetics as provided in Letters and Journals: The Dianetics Letters – and had no less to say on the woof and warp of creative writing; hence the letters here.

      These letters tells us a lot. Hays has been discussing what he terms the literary “lift,” or the plotting of stories according to an emotional curve. LRH responds with an equally elaborate theory on characterization as drawn from actual experience, e.g., “I threw away my dashing lieutenant and substituted a drunken top sergeant. I snatched up a Chinese missionary and wrote him as I knew him.” They further have a few choice words on editorial restrictions and a natural aversion to the “main track” of convention – all while proving, as Arthur J. Burks so rightly declared, “No one but a writer can understand a writer’s ailments.”





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