Posts tagged ‘Walter M. Miller Jr.’

Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Walter M. Miller, Jr.

In the 1950s, a story bearing the name of a brand-new author, Walter M. Miller, Jr., showed up in John Campbell’s magazine, now known as Analog. It was quite a good story and was soon followed by another written by the same hand and just as good. And then another.

They didn’t all appear in Analog. A few weren’t even science fiction, but they were coming out in considerable volume and the science-fiction world had begun to take notice that an unheralded major new writer had appeared.

At lunch one day, the man who became Miller’s principal editor, John Campbell, talked about him with mock embarrassment: “He keeps sending them in one after another,” he said, “and I just can’t stop buying them.”

They weren’t merely good, either Some among them were immediately hailed as great — A Canticle for Leibowitz, for instance. Before long it was evident that a strong new force had emerged in American science fiction, and its name was Walter Miller, Jr.

All right, friends. Now we come to the hard part, because I’m doing my best to tell the sometimes unpleasant truth. Miller wasn’t just a writer I respected He was also the man my estranged wife Judy Merril had taken up with.

At first we all acted pretty civilized about it. Then, when Judy and I got into our endless Annie Wars over the custody of that very nice little baby, Ann Pohl, that the two of us had jointly brought into the world, Miller totally took her side.

I don’t mean just in verbal encounters. I mean that once when I went to the house Miller and Judy had rented — my daughter Ann living with them because we were all trying to make a system of taking turns in having Ann live with us work — and went to their house to pick Annie up because it was my turn, the two of them refused to give her up.

What happened then was just about what you would expect to happen: disagreement, followed by yelling. But then Miller got tired of talk. He went into their bedroom, and when he came out he was carrying a rifle pointed at my face. He ordered me to leave.

Continue reading ‘Walter M. Miller Jr.: My last fist fight’ »

Carol Poh

Carol Pohl

When I realized how much I had told this Dr. Hull of the sort of things I had made a point of keeping quiet about, I couldn’t help wondering why she hadn’t at least smelled my breath before letting me talk about all the things I hadn’t been willing to tell anyone else about the deal Carol and I had made.

Or, I should say, The Deal, because talking about terminating our marriage certainly was a big enough thing in our lives to be worth capital letters. Almost twenty-five years. Four kids — very parent-conscious ones, too, because they were accustomed to a (singular) Mom and a (singular) Dad, never mind that the biological facts of life were really more complicated than that for at least the first two of them.

Backflash: When it began to look as though my custody differences with Judy (my daughter Annie’s original mother, remember?), would only get official if we argued them out in a court of law, and in that event if Carol and I married we would have a pretty good-sized legal argument if only because we had a stable home life — that is, not flitting per whim all over the place. You follow my argument? Carol and I, plaintiffs, legally married, Judy and What’s-His-Name — Walter Miller — the writer she was roaming the country with, openly unmarried but acting as though they were.

So I had asked Carol, “Care for getting married one day soon?” and she said sure. With quite a few added reservations and qualifications, it is true, of the “Like this” or “Like that” kind, but acceptable ones. For instance, if she inadvertently became pregnant we had to rethink the whole thing, which I agreed to at once. And what it all added up to, it seemed to me, — finally — was a quite nice life for at least the next year.

And the year after that. That life Carol and I had shared for more than twenty years, only she didn’t — or at least very likely she didn’t — want to share it with me any more.

All clear? Well, no.

To be continued.

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Unfortunately, by the time Judy’s novel came out, the stresses in our marriage were growing, and Judy and I were clearly finally heading toward a (hopefully civilized) divorce.

Before we reached that point, though, we still had a few good years. It looked as though, at whatever cost to our conflicting principles, we were able to function as married people and parents, and so we do what couples like us always did at that period in American life. We began thinking about buying a house.

So we spent quite a few weekends roaming around, mostly Southern Connecticut, northern New Jersey, western Long Island and so on. Judy picked the ads out of the newspaper listings, but there wasn’t much — at a price we could afford.

But Inga Pratt saved us. We had been spending occasional weekends at the giant house Fletcher and Inga Pratt owned, and called the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute, on the Jersey shore. When Judy mentioned that we’d been house-hunting she said, “I know of some places. Want to go for a ride?”

We did.

It took Inga a little while, but she came through. She drove us to 386 West Front Street in the part of Middletown Township called River Plaza (though it always had a Red Bank mailing address), and there it was. Thirteen rooms. On an acre of land, with twelve or fifteen great trees. Surrounded on two sides by a pretty good-looking river, with a beautiful broad porch on those sides so you could sit and watch the river. Or play ping-pong, or have parties or whatever, because that was one fine porch. We could even afford it, because it was astonishingly cheap — though that didn’t matter much because I was a veteran and thus entitled to, among many other things, mortgage guarantees.

True, it did have a few little problems and quirks — problems like it was eighty or ninety years old and was going to represent a steady drain of payments for repairs and maintenance, quirks like it had nine bedrooms and each one had a lock on the door, this I think because of the fact that in World War II it had been a whorehouse for the GIs in Fort Monmouth.

We bought it, and began moving in.

I have to say that, in spite of probable sooner or later marital discords and what were a few newly worrying financial concerns, I loved the house. I had a great sun-drenched, third-floor room, overlooking the trees, lawn and river, for an office, with one just like it that wound up as Cyril’s.

Red Bank was a useful little town, too. It was across the river, but the bridge was right at the foot of our property, so it was about a ten- minute walk to the railroad or bus stations, about fifteen or twenty to Red Bank’s stores, rather decent public library, movie theaters and, say, McDonalds. There was no reason we couldn’t live quite happily there.

Well, one reason. Judy no longer wanted to be married, at least to me, and then time came when she wanted me to move out. The children? Oh, they would stay with her.

I didn’t know then, and don’t know now. what the precipitating thing was that moved her to that point. I don’t think she had taken up with Walter Miller yet, and if there was any other significant man, I didn’t know it. But, of course, the signs were beginning to multiply. We had simply stopped getting along very well.

Should I have refused to leave? I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t. I left.

The next year or so of Judy’s life, I can’t write about very well because I was little involved

As for me, it wasn’t all bad. I took an apartment around the East 14th Street neighborhood in New York and lived my life. This included meeting, and a few years later, marrying, my fourth wife, Carol Metcalf Ulf Stanton, who at the time we met was married to my good friend L. Jerome Stanton. I’ll tell you all about them, but this isn’t their story or, for that matter, mine.

It’s Judy’s, and in Judy’s life the next significant thing that happened that I know of was that one day she offered to move out of the house and sell it to me.

To be continued.

Related posts:
Judith Merril, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9