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Just a Bit More Rust Hills

It’s worth adding that a major part of L. Rust Hills’ literary legacy came in his having kept Norman Mailer in the pages of Esquire during one of Mailer’s tetchy periods. Here, from Carol Polsgrove’s history of Esquire in the ’60’s, It Wasn’t Pretty, Folks, But Didn’t We Have Fun:

“It was Rust Hills who brought Norman Mailer back to Esquire, adding volume and resonance to the magazine’s new voice. About a year after Mailer left [after an editorial dispute over the title of perhaps the most famous non-fiction piece Mailer ever wrote, ‘Superman Comes to the Supermart,’ which he adamantly demanded be called “Superman Comes to the Supermarket’–DT], [legendary editor in chief Harold] Hayes and Hills had been riding home together in a cab and had fallen to talking about Mailer’s self-interview in The Paris Review. Good stuff, they thought, and a real shame they had not gotten it. Hills said they ought to try to get Mailer back… Hills said he wouldn’t mind [asking Mailer]. So he did, promising, as Hayes recalled it later, ‘that the magazine would kiss Mailer’s ass in Macy’s window if that should be what it took to make amends.'”

Polsgrove goes on to report: “Hayes once called Hills ‘a fidgety and charming man who always managed to see more sides than existed to any question.'”

In addition to the writers mentioned in the New York Times obituary of Hills, Polsgrove tells us that Hills was integral in bringing work by Saul Bellow (he published an early excerpt of Herzog in the magazine) and Bernard Malamud to Esquire. Just more evidence of what a towering figure Hills was.