ARCHIVE OF 203 LETTERS (TLSs and ALSs) TO HIS AMERICAN LITERARY AGENT, KIRBY McCAULEY, WRITTEN BETWEEN 1967 AND 1981. The archive consists of 180 typed letters signed (TLSs) and 23 autograph letters and notes signed (ALSs and ANSs) from Aickman to McCauley, plus 28 other letters (copies) from or to others. Most of the letters are written on A5 personal letterhead, with a half-dozen on A4 corporate letterhead: almost 400 pages in all. A detailed calendar is available on request. In the period of the 1950s-1970s, Aickman produced half a dozen collections of "strange stories," as he called them: deliberately inconclusive tales, suggestive of "a supernatural danger lurking on the edge of consciousness," as Gary Crawford explains in Sullivan (ed), The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, pp. 1-2. "Aickman's entire body of short fiction expresses a coherent vision and philosophy: man is trapped in a vortex of subtle, symbolic terror, a victim of forces within himself over which he has no control. Aickman's work is haunting and poetic, and he was surely one of the last masters of the English ghost story." - ibid. Other critics tend to agree. Aickman was "... perhaps the finest writer of the ghost story in the second half of the twentieth century ..." - John Clute in Clute and Grant (eds), The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997), p. 12. "In his work is a vast disparity between the well-mannered tone and the stories' actual emotional content. On the surface of things ... Aickman was a cultivated, sensitive, thoroughly English individual ... Very good horror writers often demonstrate that ordinary life can be horrific and tedious at once for the sensitive person, and one suspects it was so for Aickman." - Peter Straub, Introduction to THE WINE-DARK SEA, pp. 7-8. Robert Aickman was largely unknown in America until the 1970s, when he gained the services of a dedicated and discerning American literary agent, Kirby McCauley. This archive shows the growth of that relationship. It starts in 1967 with a gracious reply from RA to a fan letter from KM, whose combination of warm praise and critical acuity represented "the exact amalgam that every artist wants, needs, and, lacking, dies ..." (30 September 1967) Their friendship grew slowly over the next few years before there was any discussion of business between them. The early letters in particular document the discovery of each other’s taste in literature, film, politics, etc. and they are richly detailed. Aickman’s own skill as a critic emerges clearly. As he points out, he had worked as a film and theater critic, as well as editor of the first eight volumes of the annual FONTANA BOOK OF GREAT GHOST STORIES. Aickman belongs in the same tradition of author-critic (before these roles bifurcated in modern times) that includes Johnson, Coleridge and T. S. Eliot. Though not of their same stature, he strikes one as very well-read indeed, especially in regard to continental writers. Among twentieth-century author-critics of supernatural fiction, Aickman was probably the most cultured and critically acute. What’s also impressive is the ease with which KM followed suit. Aickman's letters show no trace of condescension. His judgments are always interesting and often surprising. As with many Brits, his knowledge of American writers was somewhat parochial, but Russell Kirk's THE SURLY SULLEN BELL, was "quite simply, the best collection of new stories by a single writer that I have read for at least twenty years, and perhaps much more." (10 June 1969) In the course of their getting to know and trust each other, it became apparent that Herbert van Thal, Aickman's English agent (whom he liked very much), was not effectively selling to the American market, and in the early 1970s, Kirby began making some modest sales for RA to the US magazines. Soon there were negotiations with August Derleth for an Arkham House collection. After this point much of the correspondence is taken up with details of literary agency, showing us another side of Aickman as a careful and prudent businessman. Aickman acknowledged Kirby’s salesmanship skills as graciously as he acknowledged his critical acumen. He finally turned down Derleth’s offer. "I can well believe that Derleth is in no position to pay more, but that of course does but further reduce the attractions of being linked with him commercially." (19 April 1971) KM eventually landed better deals with Scribners. Many of the letters are loaded with nuggets of substantive literary interest and tidbits of gossip. Aickman’s critical observations cover dozens of writers, film directors and actors, composers, styles and movements. This archive offers a precious resource for scholars of this vital figure of twentieth-century literature. Some letters have old paper-clip rust marks or indents but generally they are in nearly fine to fine condition. (#134673).