Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Mystery of the John Wilstach Letter on THE DARK CHAMBER

In the early 1990s, as I began exploring the papers of Leonard Cline, I found an interesting undated and unsigned carbon copy of a letter to The Saturday Review about their review of The Dark Chamber. Reading the letter, I thought at first that Cline himself might have written it, for the tone, and some of the sentiments, are similar to Cline's. Also, I had before me the review in The Saturday Review by Allan Nevins from Cline's own scrapbook, and noted that Cline himself had bracketed two comments, one of which is also quoted at length in the letter.   

The review itself appeared in the 10 September 1927 issue of The Saturday Review, and the letter of comment, signed as by John Wilstach, appeared in the 8 October issue. It didn't take much digging to realize that John Wilstach  (1890-1951), was a real person, a newspaper man who published stories prolifically and who also worked as a theatrical press agent. He must have moved in the same circles in New York as did Cline, and thus they likely knew each other by 1927 (they certainly knew each other by April 1928). So having penned his reply to the book review, Wilstach sent a carbon to Cline, then in jail in Tolland, Connecticut. 

I present here the letter carbon from Cline's papers, and and the review from Cline's scrapbook. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

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