I think the first time I ever heard of electronic mail, or email as it is now ubiquitously called, was when Francis Ford Coppola mentioned that he was using it back in 1989, during the early days of his development of the script of The Godfather: Part III at Paramount.
Before then, what we now call "snail mail" was the preferred method of written communication, with all of the attendant accoutrements of stamps, envelopes, stationary, ink pens or typewriters, and more than anything else...patience.
There is a website called "Letters of Note" that is bringing back the art of the letter and features vintage correspondence from the famous to the not-so-famous to the "famous-to-their-mother-in-their-own-house-at-lunchtime", as my wife likes to say.
In an homage to both Letters of Note and to one of my personal heroes, I dug out of the file to share with you this letter I received back in 1984 from the legendary hard-boiled crime fiction writer (he disdained the label novelist) Mickey Spillane.
Dig that logo design for his production company! Classic!
Here is the text in case it is hard to read:
March 24, 1984
Sitting a death watch over my friend Dave is a rough deal. How he manages to hold on, eaten up by cancer the way he is, seems incredible. This, coming on top of the fribullation that hospitalized me, has left me shaky enough to curtail a lot of activities.
Frankly, I don't see any way I can get involved with any more projects at this point. Any active segments of my agenda are being decelerated and I am going to have to take it easy from now on. Luckily, I'm old enough not to be bothered by having to slow down.
I'm sorry to have to cancel out of the arrangement we discussed, but those things happen. I'll notify Con Murphy and Jack McKenna and they can get your check back.
Meanwhile, best regards and stay a tiger on the courts.
The Dave in the letter is Dave Gerrity, a drinking buddy of Spillane's and the author of "Cry Me A Killer" "Kiss Off The Dead" and other noir books in the Spillane idiom, who passed away not too long after this letter was sent. Despite the retiring tone of the letter, it is interesting to note that Spillane lived for another 22 years after "decelerating the active segments of his agenda", passing away in 2006 at the age of 88.
I had met Gerrity and Spillane and his then 92 year old agent Jack McKenna down in Naples, Florida one weekend back in 1983 to discuss a proposal to make a film based on two of Spillane's novellas "Me, Hood" and "Killer Mine".
I played a lot of tennis in high school and was even captain of my tennis team one year. But I was no match for the amazingly spry and seemingly bionic McKenna, who was 92 going on 16 and ran me ragged around the court while Spillane and Gerrity drank and laughed at my expense.
So the last line of the letter is really quite an endearing joke on me, "the tiger" who got whipped on the courts, from the old literary lion himself.
Spillane knew that "people buy a lot more salted peanuts than they do caviar" and always fancied himself a guy who typed books for the masses. Having this typed letter from him makes me remember and appreciate those more epistolary days, and the letters of note we exchanged with one another.