Is this the fate of most authors? – Clarence Budington Kelland

I was listening to a talk Harlan Ellison was giving about how many younger writers these days don’t know many of the older authors. It was sobering to hear his thoughts and one of the authors he mentioned as essentially being forgotten was Clarence Budington Kelland. I feel like I’ve read a lot, particularly when it comes to the classics, but I was sad to admit I’d never even heard of Kelland. I immediately wiki’d him.

Clarence Budington “Bud” Kelland (July 11, 1881 – February 18, 1964) was an American writer. He once described himself as “the best second-rate writer in America”. Although largely forgotten now, Kelland had a long career as a writer of fiction and short stories, stretching from 1913 to 1960. He was published in many magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post and The American Magazine. A prolific writer, his output included sixty novels and some two hundred short stories. His best known juvenile works were the Mark Tidd series and the Catty Atkins series, while his best known adult work was the Scattergood Baines series. Other notable adult books by Kelland include Conflict (1920), Rhoda Fair (1925), Hard Money (1930), Arizona (1939), and Dangerous Angel (1953). Kelland was the “literary idol” of the teenaged John O’Hara. Kelland’s work resulted in some thirty Hollywood movies, including Speak Easily (1932) starring Buster Keaton. Opera Hat, a serial from The American Magazine, was the basis for the film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) starring Gary Cooper. “Opera Hat” later was turned into the short-lived television series Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1969–70), and the movie Mr. Deeds (2002). One of Kelland’s best-known characters was featured in the Scattergood Baines series of six films from 1941–43, starring Guy Kibbee.

This guy had an incredible output. I mean, 60 novels? 200 short stories? Works that resulted in 30 movies. And I hadn’t even heard of him!


I recently watched Amadeus and I’ve always been fascinated by Salieri. As it turns out, Salieri had quite a career during his lifetime. He had tremendous output, was one of the most famous composers of his time, and now, I only know him as the killer of Mozart in Amadeus.

This brings me to writing, in fact, anything we pursue. As passionate as I want to be, I have to remind myself to keep perspective. Well, to quote my own self from one of my stories, “A Collection From Existence”:

“I sometimes stood in the middle of the street realizing that fifty- sixty- maybe seventy years from now, the logos, the namebrands, the legend of so and so sports star would all be here. But I wouldn’t. Even as a clone of counter-culture lost in my sea of depression and sorrow, I disappeared among the table of coffee drinkers and journalistic poets who wrote all their thoughts down in little black notebooks while crying out against the depravity of man and the fact that ‘no one understood.’”

It shouldn’t mattered, right? As I think about the things we fight for, the stories we struggle with, the disappointments we all have with our writing, I am reminded to always keep things in perspective and never to lose track of making sure to have fun and to enjoy the work. That’s not much solace in the grand scheme of things though, is it?

Yeah, I know.


Now let me get off my ‘all is vain’ spiel and wish everyone a great weekend.


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