Grumbles Not For Everyone

If you are not already a Robert Heinlein fan, Grumbles From The Grave is Not the place to start. A collection of Heinlein’s private correspondence edited by Heinlein’s widow Virginia, Grumbles is an extraordinary glimpse into the life of an exceptional author and a no-holds-barred look at the Business of writing.

Fans of Heinlein’s fiction may not be surprised to learn that the character he most resembled in real life is Jubal Harshaw in Stranger In A Strange Land, the unsentimental writer who makes a very comfortable living giving his editors and readers Exactly what they Want. From his very first efforts writing for Heinlein was first and foremost a business. He quickly developed a canny understanding of what editors want and will pay for and he Always gave them exactly that. He sold a Lot of books and made a Lot of money from writing which is something that is not easy to do. (Much like in the performing arts the huge money superstars like Heinlein are the rare exception to the sad fact that most writers and artists earn very little for their efforts, even when they are good.)

The flower power generation for whom Heinlein’s books and particularly Stranger, which became a kind of bible to them, were a rite of passage must read may be disappointed to learn that all of his writing about sexual liberation and plural marriages was written because it was a story they would buy and not because Heinlein particularly believed in it. By all accounts he had a very conventional and faithful marriage which bore much resemblance to the sort of marriage good boys from Missouri around the turn of the century were expected to make and keep to, rather than any of the muti-amorous arrangements with emotional depth that Heinlein was so noted for in his later works of adult science fiction.

In addition to hard core Heinlein fans this book is Highly Recommended to aspiring writers, those who are interested in earning an income from writing rather than those who write as art. While the publishing scene today is certainly very different than that prevailing when Heinlein wrote this correspondence with his various editors and agents, this inside look at how Heinlein handled the Business of being a writer can provide a number of invaluable lessons to anyone trying to earn money by typing words on a screen.