In response to:
Sex, Noir & Isolation from the March 25, 2021 issue
To the Editors:
Vivian Gornick has written a beautiful and significant review about three novels by my father, Alfred Hayes [“Sex, Noir & Isolation,” NYR, March 25]. I am so very pleased and grateful to Gornick for her fresh insights and compelling interpretation of his work, and to The New York Review for bringing these novels to the attention of new readers. However, I would like to correct a few biographical facts for the record.
My father attended City College for perhaps six months; he was not a graduate. I am aware from his papers that he was a member of the Young Communist League, but it is not clear that he actually joined the Communist Party later on. He was drafted into the army and trained for combat. It was only later, stationed in Italy, after a chance encounter with an old friend from New York, that he went into the special services rather than being sent to the front. He did not remain in Italy after the war but was shipped home to New York in December 1945, where he wrote his first novel, All Thy Conquests.
He did not work at Cinecittà. There are many reasons why he ended up as a Hollywood screenwriter, including the success of two of his first novels, not simply that he was “initiated into the work” at Cinecittà. It was in the brief period during the summer of 1945, after Italy had surrendered, that he worked with Roberto Rossellini. He did more than “lend a hand” on Paisà. It is likely that the film was his own story concept. He wrote in a letter to my mother that he had contracted with the producers to keep the story rights, which then became All Thy Conquests. He also wrote several of the film’s episodes.
Josephine Hayes Dean
New York City