JOHN KEEL: NOT AN AUTHORITY ON ANYTHING

January 26, 2011

“Poets of America”

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The last post mentioned that John was editing the magazine “Poets of America” in 1948; this is what it looked like.

He was very interested in poetry at the time;  he recalled that he used to declaim his verses in the park, in the grand old Greenwich Village tradition.  This issue included selections from 29 poets, as well as a tribute poem to Anton Romatka by the editor, and an ad selling Romatka’s books.  John remembered quitting the magazine when the editor wanted to charge poets for publication — a policy John found unethical.

Here you can meet the staff, in an excerpt from a subscription flyer, including a bio of the 18-year-old John A. Keel.

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January 17, 2011

John Keel and Anton Romatka

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One of John’s sadder experiences in his teens was finding the body of Anton Romatka.  But I’ll let him tell the story himself, in this article from the Greenwich Village paper Caricature, April 1948.

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January 5, 2011

John Keel and the American Forces Network in Germany

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John spent most of his military service in Frankfurt, writing for the American Forces Network.  The first photo above shows him listening to sound effects; the second busy at his typewriter.  Most of his scripts were based on subjects from the army publication “Troop Topics,” devoted to points of military discipline and morale.  He often dramatized them as science fiction, or as comedies — many featuring a hapless Brooklynite named Mulvaney.  He did, however, also write material on some of his preferred subjects: Halloween broadcasts from Frankenstein’s castle and the Great Pyramid, coverage of the army chapter of the Baker Street irregulars — even a documentary on UFOs.

I’ve listed all the scripts I know of in the bibliography; any additions are welcome!

Ivan T. Sanderson and John A. Keel: The Book They Never Wrote

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In 1967, John Keel and Ivan Sanderson made a serious attempt to write a book together.  The subject was UFOs; the year was notable for the unusual number of sightings, and public interest was at its height.  A book by these two remarkable writers and researchers was bound to be a success.

They chose the title to avoid the words “UFO” and “saucer” (which “send the interested reader and even the aficionados screaming for television”), and to invoke Sanderson’s popular book Abominable Snowmen: “it avoided both the stigma of kookery on the one hand and heavy science on the other.”

Unfortunately, this promising idea was never to be.  All that remains is this title page, a brief pitch, and a proposed table of contents.  The book was to be “strictly reportorial… completely without faiths, beliefs, and theories.”  The table of contents was chronological, from “The Beginning: Prior to 20,000 B.C.” to “The Breakthrough: A.D. 1966.”

Despite these clear intentions, their collaboration proved impossible.  Keel found Sanderson’s approach too speculative and chatty; and Sanderson, in turn, wasn’t interested in detailed lists of sightings.  Both went on to write their own, very different, treatments of the subject.  And we’ll never know what their combined approach would have produced.

“My First Really Published Article”

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I hope you don’t mind seeing this sideways; that’s how John pasted it into his scrapbook.  “A Moron Speaks” is a column of humor, topical comment, and light verse.  Nothing remarkable, perhaps, but a pretty professional job for a boy of 15.

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