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Register of the William Murray Papers MSS.691
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Contents note
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Restrictions
  • Preferred Citation note

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: William Murray Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: MSS.691
    Contributing Institution: Mandeville Special Collections Library
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 12.4 Linear feet (31 archives boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1926-2005
    Abstract: Papers of William Murray, noted The New Yorker writer and published novelist. Materials document the literary and professional career of California-based writer noted for his mystery fiction and contemporary feature writing. The collection contains correspondence, both professional and personal; typescripts and drafts of published and unpublished literary works; appointment books and notebooks; biographical materials; and audiorecordings of his interviews, notes, and readings.
    creator: Murray, William, 1926-2005

    Scope and Contents note

    The papers reflect the literary career of published novelist and journalist William Murray. The collection includes personal and professional correspondence; typescripts for published books, magazine, and newspaper articles; and appointment books and notebooks. The materials also contain photographs, biographical memorabilia and audiorecordings. The papers are arranged in five series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) WRITINGS BY WILLIAM MURRAY, 3) APPOINTMENT BOOKS AND NOTEBOOKS, 4) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, and 5) AUDIORECORDINGS.
    The CORRESPONDENCE series is arranged in three subseries: A) Chronological, B) Alphabetical and C) Family.
    A) The Chronlogical correspondence documents mostly business related letters written to and from William Murray to book publishers, friends, and editors of magazines. The dates range from 1949-2004.
    B) The Alphabetical subseries contains correspondence with Murray's various literary agents, including Helen Brann and Morton Leavy.
    C) The Family correspondence represents letter to and from William Murray to his mother, Natalia Danesi, and father, William. Of particular note is correspondence written from writer, Janet Flanner to Natalia Danesi Murray. The letters are arranged by date.
    The WRITINGS series is arranged in six subseries: A) Books, B) Magazine Articles, C) Plays, D) Television Scripts, E) Essays, and F) Unpublished Manuscripts.
    A) The Books are divided into published manuscripts and miscellaneous manuscripts; the latter includes unpublished manuscripts and preliminary contract agreements. The published manuscripts, arranged chronologically, contain typescript drafts, page proofs, and book reviews. Materials include the typescripts for Fortissimo: Backstage at the Opera with Sacred Monsters and Young Singers, published posthumously in September, 2005.
    B) The Articles are arranged by title of publication and subsequent articles by date. The bulk of the collection represent The New Yorker, New West, and the Los Angeles Times West magazines. Murray wrote both monthly columns, feature articles, and reviews for book, film, music, and live theater for over thirty magazines and newspapers.
    C) Murray adapted several plays by Luigi Pirandello between 1966 and 1979. The materials include playscripts for both original and translated plays including "Naked", "Ave Caesar", and the "Killing Touch", and are arranged alphabetially by title. In addition, Murray wrote several television scripts for syndicated on air shows, with "Malibu" adapted into a mini-series.
    D) The Essays, arranged alphabetically, are published and unpublished short non-fiction typescripts including "Theory and Practice of Editing" written for The New Yorker magazine.
    E) Arranged alphabetically, the Unpublished Manuscripts are typescripts of feature writings and interviews dated between 1962-2002.
    The folders in series 3 contain bound calendar appointment books annotated with notes and schedules and steno notebooks containing handwritten notes, story leads, and ideas for feature writings.
    The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS is arranged in two subseries: A) Photographs and B) Miscellaneous Materials. The photographs represent Janet Flanner, Natalia Danesi Murray, and the William Murray family, arranged by name. The Miscellaneous Materials include articles, memorabilia from Murray's early childhood and participation in local theater, and newspapers clippings about Natalia Danesi.
    The AUDIORECORDINGS series contains audiocassette recordings of interviews conducted for background research for Janet, My Mother, and Me. The interviewees include Phil Hamburger, Maurice Grosser, and Doda Conrad. The collection also includes a taped lecture given by Murray at University of California, Riverside. The tapes are arranged by date.

    Biographical/Historical note

    William Murray, born in New York City on April 8, 1926, was the only child of William Murray, head of the New York branch of William Morris talent agency and Danesi Murray, an Italian actress, opera singer, and publisher. At age 6 months, after his parents divorced, Murray moved with his mother to Rome, Italy; he returned to the United States at the age of 8. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy from 1942-1943, and, after graduating, he enrolled at Harvard, where he developed his interest in opera and singing. After college, he spent time in the Army Air Force and qualified for the GI Bill. He returned to Italy shortly after to pursue his opera career; when he lost his voice temporarily, he turned to fiction and journalism. Already a freelance writer and a stringer for TIME, he acquired his first professional job in the fiction department at the THE NEW YORKER in 1956 and continued as a staff writer for more than thirty years.
    Murray married Doris Rogers in 1952, settled in New York, and then relocated to Rome at the end of 1961. Already a regular contributor to The New Yorker with the "Letter from Italy" column, he then published Fugitive Romans (1954) and Best Seller (1957). By 1966, the Murray family, with two daughters and a son, moved to California, settling in Malibu and then Del Mar. He and Doris Rogers divorced in 1972; he married Alice Bigbee in 1975.
    Murray's parents had divorced in 1936, shortly after his mother began an almost forty-year relationship with Janet Flanner, American writer and journalist who served as the Paris correspondent of The New Yorker. In Janet, My Mother, and Me: A Memoir of Growing Up with Janet Flanner and Natalia Danesi Murray, published in 2000, Murray tells the story of the relationship between his mother and Flanner who helped raised him during his teenage years.
    After moving to California, Murray wrote his noted mystery series set at the Del Mar racetrack, featuring his characters, "Shifty Lou Anderson" and his gambler sidekick "Jay Fox" with Tip on a Dead Crab (1985), When the Fat Man Sings (1987), The King of the Nightcap (1989), I'm Getting Killed Right Here (1991), Now You See Her, Now You Don't (1994), and A Fine Italian Hand (1996).
    Murray contributed to more than thirty magazines and newspapers on travel, horseracing, gambling, and California lifestyle. He also published books and articles on Italy and Italian culture with Italy: The Fatal Gift (1982) and The Last Italian: Portrait of a People (1991). Murray also wrote plays, including translations of Luigi Pirandello's "Naked"; essays; reviews of theatre and music; and television scripts.
    William Murray died March 9, 2005, in Manhattan.


    Audiorecordings in Series 5 are restricted. Researchers must request a listening copy to be produced.

    Preferred Citation note

    William Murray Papers. MSS 691. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Del Mar Race Track.
    Flanner, Janet, 1892-1978
    Murray, Natalia Danesi
    Murray, William, 1926-2005 -- Archives
    Journalists--United States
    Novelists, American--20th-century