Monday, January 21, 2008

A famous Kelland!

"Kelland was one of the most widely read and highest paid authors in the world."

Sadly, they’re not talking about me. They’re talking about a guy called Clarence Budington Kelland (“Bud”), who was a hack writer of the early 20th century. Bud wrote literally hundreds of magazine stories and sixty-odd novels. Several were made into movies – most notably, his story Opera Hat was the basis for the classic 1936 Gary Cooper / Frank Capra movie Mr Deeds Goes To Town (and the 2002 remake Mr Deeds with Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder).

Although Bud was financially very successful, he never achieved lasting fame. He wrote, "When I am very old, people will begin to believe I was a greater man than I was, and that will tickle my vanity. There will even be people who will feel it a little distinction to be around with me, because a sort of tradition will have built itself around me, and legends and so on. None of which, probably, will be true, but they will be there and I shall benefit from them." Harlan Ellison used Bud as an example of “how easily a once famous writer could be forgotten".

According to The Wicked and the Banned, a 1963 book about the history of censorship in America, the stories Bud was writing in 1919 caused a furore and prompted a review of what was deemed acceptable in print, though I can’t find anything about this in the online sources. Now there’s a man I can relate to. Churn out the work, be happy to describe yourself as “the best second-rate writer in America”, get paid shedloads, and upset people.

Bud died aged 82, almost exactly when I was born. It’s an odds-on cert that he was a none-too-distant relative. There aren’t a lot of Kellands in the world, so we’re pretty well all related one way or another. I reckon I can even place him in the family tree, in the blank bit that says “went to America mid-19th century” about four generations back. He looks a bit like my Dad too. Next time I’m in the States, I might see if I can swing by Portland, Michigan, and go see the Kelland Memorial.

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