PCL MS 138 Michael M. McDowell Collection
|PCL MS 138 Michael M. McDowell Collection
The Michael McEachern McDowell Collection includes 20 cubic feet of correspondence and manuscripts dating from 1966-2001. This author of predominantly horror and occult-themed novels and screenplays began donating his collection to the Browne Popular Culture Library around 1987 until his death in 1999. His literary executor, Laurence Senelick, continued to transfer additions after that date. No restrictions have been placed on the use of the collection for scholarly purposes. Researchers are responsible for securing copyright permission when using all unpublished manuscripts and published works whether authored by McDowell or by other authors whose work may be found in this collection. The documents were arranged and described by Eric Honneffer and the finding aid completed by him in January 2010.
Michael McDowell was born June I, 1950 in Enterprise, Alabama and attended public schools in southern Alabama until 1968. He graduated with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in English from Harvard in 1972. In 1978 he was awarded his doctorate degree in English and American Literature from Brandeis.
His seventh novel written and first to be sold, The Amulet, was published in 1979 and would be followed by over thirty additional novels written under his own name or the pseudonyms Nathan Aldyne, Axel Young (both with Dennis Schuetz), Mike McCray and Preston Macadam (both with John Preston). McDowell preferred to work in such fiction genres as horror, male adventure, detective, thrillers and "general." He admitted that the pseudonyms and collaborations permitted him an opportunity to embrace the challenge of writing in genres that he might not have tried on his own. Among his favorite projects were a gothic work called The Elementals (1981) and the occult-horror novel Black Water, published in six parts by Avon beginning in 1983.
By 1985 he was writing screenplays for television, notable among them were episodes of"Tales from the Darkside," "Amazing Stories," and "The Alfred Hitchcock Show." He wrote the movie script for Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice" (1988) and after its success, rented an apartment in Hollywood, obtained business partners and began writing for the major studios. Several projects were produced including "The Nightmare Before Christmas"(1993) and "Thinner" (1996). "Tales from the Darkside: The Movie" premiered in 1990. By the mid 1990's McDowell returned to Boston to stay with his partner, Laurence Senelick. Around this same time, McDowell was diagnosed with AIDS. In his last years he openly wrote about his battle with the disease. He died December 27, 1999 from AIDS-related illness. Tabitha King, wife of author Stephen King,"completed" an unfinished McDowell novel, Candles Burning, which was published in 2006.
|Scope and Content
The Michael M. McDowell Collection records the life and career of a writer who excelled in academic performance at Harvard and Brandeis and discovered along the way a passion for creating popular fiction for mass audiences and dramatic productions for television and the movies.
Four cubic feet of correspondence offer a glimpse into McDowell's family background, his friendships, personal and professional life. Especially significant is his own correspondence in which he records his thoughts when writing family, friends and colleagues. The correspondence with his immediate family, his father in particular, contains the most detail about McDowell's financial struggles, building a life for himself in Boston, his collecting interests and sharing his success via publicity and copies of his books sent home once he became a published author.
Another portion of the correspondence reflects McDowell's activism. A 1969 letter describing his attendance at an anti-Viet Nam War protest in Washington D.C. indicates a strong social conscience. Other letters, sent to such Massachusetts legislators as Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Paul E. Tsongas, and the Honorable Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr., contain his views on the 1970's energy crisis, sex discrimination, federal support for the arts and a variety of concerns. McDowell's letters written between 1994 and 1999 to medical providers and tax collectors are a vivid account of his life with AIDS.
Other correspondence can be found arranged by various names, subjects and by titles of his writing projects. These document the evolution of his writing and academic pursuits as well as his vast circle of professional associates, fellow authors and friends.
Sixteen cubic feet of manuscripts contain class files, dissertation, novel manuscripts, dramatic production manuscripts, synopses, notes, a joumal, some shorter works and a few manuscripts by other authors who were working with him on projects. Researchers interested in McDowell's early writing and his evolution toward novelist and screenwriter might wish to examine the class files with their research papers, notes as well as other evidence of scholarly interests that may have shaped his future career. Also included are instructional materials and notes for classes which he taught later in life, most notably, script writing courses. The journal kept for about a year in 1985-1986 concentrates primarily on his writing regimen, social life and details of putting together the screenplay and production of the movie Beetlejuice.
The unpublished manuscripts include a 1978 novel called Blood and Glitter for which there is correspondence and some discussion of this early example of McDowell's gay-themed fiction. In the 1980's McDowell and Dennis Schuetz wrote a series of successful mysteries under the pseudonym, Nathan Aldyne, featuring gay detective, Daniel Valentine and his female sidekick, Clarisse Lovelace.
There are no novel manuscripts in the collection written by McDowell and John Preston under the pseudonyms of Mike McCray and Preston Macadam.
Boxes in the McDowell Collection are numbered according to the following abbreviations: