paul sann journalism, letters, writing


                            Excerpted from the Saturday Review December 19, 1959:

    I felt the tug from Frank Brookhouser's "These Were Our Years," a panoramic look at the Twenties and Thirties. . . . Brookhouser (The Philadelphia Bulletin's columnist, a man who manages to be both "popular" and intelligent at the same time) has seen how Carl Sandburg and Robert Paul Smith, Thomas Wolfe and John Lardner, Franklin Roosevelt and Walter Winchell all help tell the same rather tall story. He has sensed where journalism bids to become art, as in the work of Paul Sann, Ben Hecht, Jimmy Cannon and Red Smith, and how it, too, is a part of that story.


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                            Excerpted from a 1977 New York Post column by James A. Wechsler:

  REMEMBRANCE: There was a large farewell party for Paul Sann, this newspaper's long-time executive editor, Monday night. I tried to say a few of the warm and sentimental things I felt about him and our long association, and I will not labor them here, but journalism students may derive some wisdom from my first encounter with him.
    It was very long ago, when I was Columbia correspondent for The Post and he was a young copy boy who handled the phones for city editor Walter Lister. He awakened me early one day and said Lister urgently wanted a statement from philosopher John Dewey on an urgent current issue.
    I dressed feverishly and rushed to Dewey's home. About 90 minutes after Paul's call, I telephoned him and proudly began to tell him I had the statement.
    "Thanks a lot," he said crisply, "but don't bother, we got him on the phone an hour ago."
    And so, students, never minimize the value of a telephone book. It wasn't the only lesson I learned from Paul Sann.

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                            From The New York Times obituary on Sann's mentor, Walter B. Lister:

walter lister     What makes a good reporter these days, he was asked near the end of his career.
    "Heaven alone knows," Lister replied. "Perhaps a reporter has to be born that way. I'd say, however, that there are certain essential ingredients, first among which are an interested alert mind and a good background.
    "Background can be considered education, I suppose; but if so, I mean real education. The truth is that no one ever had enough education to be a good newspaperman."
    It was this viewpoint that he tried constantly to convey to his reporters. He was aware of the pressure that he put on them.
    Once, when a young reporter had pestered him for weeks for a job, Lister finally wired the young man:
    "Job waiting for you but why don't you go back to Ohio and be happy?"
    The reporter wired back:
    "I don't want to be happy. I want to work for you."
    A lot of good newsmen, over the years, felt the same way....

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                            On Paul Sann's KILL THE DUTCHMAN!:

    "A knowledgeable, tautly written book . . . a minor classic of true crime reporting and a reprise or all the gangster movies we thrilled to in the 1930s and '40s . . . The period comes alive as an old newsreel."

                                            ROBERT KIRSCH
                                            Los Angeles Times

    "Paul Sann captures the essence of Schultz's life and times in lively journalese."

                                            NEW YORK TIMES

    "Sann has both the inside dope and the lingo with which to tell it. . . . You'll find this book the genuine article, the real McCoy."

                                           JOHN BARKHAM
                                           Saturday Review Book Service

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                            Sann, in a 1971 letter to the editor of the Saturday Review:

Haskell Frankel [SR, Apr. 24] credits me with "a certain reportorial breeziness" in the writing of Kill the Dutchman! but then asks the question: "Are you interested in Dutch Schultz to the tune of 337 pages?" Well, Haskel Frankel certainly wasn't. He says that Dutch Schultz "rose to the top of the American underworld," but he didn't read that in any of my 337 pages. And he didn't read any of the pages about Prohibition, the Harlem numbers racket (bigger and better in Fun City now), Murder Inc., Lepke & Gurrah, Lucky Luciano, Fiorello H. La Guardia, Thomas E. Dewey, J. Edgar Hoover, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, or etc., etc., etc. I have to credit Mr. Frankel with a certain breeziness as a reader. How can a kid make good as an author with guys like that passing judgments in the Saturday Review?
                                                                    PAUL SANN,
                                                                    New York, N.Y.

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                            On Paul Sann's Trial in the Upper Room:

    "In TRIAL IN THE UPPER ROOM the irrepressible Paul Sann takes us with him on a unique, moving, hilarious, wild and profound trip -- of both the old and the new sort. Is it a realistic fantasy or a fantastic reality? Whichever, it is a dazzling entertainment, unbelievably believable and, as they say in some parts of town, 'It's heaven!'"
                                                                   GARSON KANIN

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                             From "The Ghost of the Gridiron," by W.C. Heinz; p. 316, The Realm of Sport,
                             edited by Herbert Warren Wind (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1966):

Red Grange was the most sensational, the most publicized and, possibly, the most gifted football player and greatest broken-field runner of all time. . . . His name and his pseudonyms--The Galloping Ghost and The Wheaton Iceman--became household words, and what he was may have been summarized best by Paul Sann in his book The Lawless Decade:

"Red Grange, No. 77, made Jack Dempsey move over," Sann has written. "He put college football ahead of boxing as the Golden Age picked up momentum. He also made some of the ball yards obsolete; they couldn't handle the crowds. He made people buy more radios: how could you wait until Sunday morning to find out what deeds Red Grange had performed on Saturday? He was 'The Galloping Ghost' and he made the sports historians torture their portables without mercy."

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                                                 Page One wood sizes Sann kept in his wallet:


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                                       Holiday card, drawn by cartoonist John Pierotti, from the staff:

holiday card

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                                     Sann's most-prized memo from the publisher, which he framed:


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                        Pete Hamill, in a Daily News column on Sann's 1977 retirement:

    Sann kidded about how he got his first $12-a-week job as a copy boy on what was then called the New York Evening Post, back on May 11, 1931. pete hamill"My father, I think his name was Harry, got me the job. He thought it was a garment factory. It was a garment factory." And then he tried to sum up what all of it had meant:
    "We write our own words on our conscience," he said. "We all know when we failed and when we hit the ball. I know I did some things that were good, and some things that were not so good. I was imperfect."
    Then he talked about a line he had found in a letter that William Faulkner had sent to Malcolm Cowley.
    "I guess this says it all," Sann said, looking at the quote. "'If I could just do it over, I would do it better, maybe even right.'"

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              Last paragraph, Last Will and Testament of Paul Sann:

paul sann "When I take leave, I ask no more than the minimal observation:
a shroud, the least inexpensive pine box, no eulogy beyond what Howard Sann may wish to say if he so desires, someone to play Mr. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 and the Jewish anthem Hatikvah, and then to be laid to an uneasy rest on a green hill in Westchester County, N.Y., alongside the woman I loved and never stopped loving. It is my hope that there will be no tears, because it is not to weep. I had my shot and took it. Let all those whose paths crossed mine rejoice, and see what the boys in the back room will have, because I had more than my allotted share in my days."



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