Guide to the John B. Sanford/Robert W. Smith Collection

Processed by D. Tambo and T. Lewis
Department of Special Collections
Davidson Library
University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Phone: (805) 893-3062
Fax: (805) 893-5749
© 2003
Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Guide to the John B. Sanford/Robert W. Smith Collection, ca. 1982-1991

Collection number: Mss 34

Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara

Contact Information:

  • Department of Special Collections
  • Davidson Library
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara, CA 93106
  • Phone: (805) 893-3062
  • Fax: (805) 893-5749
  • Email:
  • URL:
    Processed by:
    D. Tambo and T. Lewis
    Date Completed:
    11 February 2003
    Encoded by:
    David C. Gartrell
© 2003 Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: John B. Sanford/Robert W. Smith Collection,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1982-1991
Collection Number: Mss 34
Creator: Sanford, John B., 1904-
Extent: .4 linear feet (1 box)
Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Department of Special Collections
Santa Barbara, California 93106-9010
Physical Location: Del Sur
Language: English.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions


Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

Preferred Citation

John B. Sanford/Robert W. Smith Collection. Mss 34. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 1999.


John B. Sanford, born Julian L. Shapiro in New York in 1904, studied to become a lawyer until his friend, the author Nathanael West, encouraged him to take up writing. In the summer of 1931, they retreated to a cabin in the forests of the Adirondacks, where Shapiro completed his first novel, The Water Wheel. Following its publication in 1933, he adopted the name of the book's protagonist as his pen name, which he then made his legal name in 1940. The critical success of his second novel, The Old Man's Place (1935), led to a script-writing job in Hollywood, where he met his wife, screenwriter Marguerite Roberts. Having already established a successful career for herself, Roberts offered to support Sanford so he could return to writing novels.
Sanford had produced three more novels when, in 1951, he and his wife were called before the Communist-hunting House Committee on Un-American Activities, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. Both Sanford and Roberts refused to testify and were subsequently blacklisted. Overcome by guilt that his left-wing politics had derailed his wife's career, Sanford wrote nothing until Hollywood began accepting screenplays from her again in the 1960s. He soon abandoned fiction, however, and produced his acclaimed A More Goodly Country: A Personal History of America (1975), followed by the autobiographical series Scenes from the Life of an American Jew (1985-1991).
In 1982, Black Sparrow Press of Santa Barbara reissued Sanford's novel A Man without Shoes, which had failed miserably when first released in 1951. The book came to the attention of freelance book reviewer Robert W. Smith, a former CIA officer who had published numerous books and articles on Asian martial arts, on which he was an acknowledged expert. Smith began a correspondence with Sanford, and within months they had become fast friends. Smith took it upon himself to resuscitate Sanford's literary reputation and wrote glowing reviews of Sanford's books as they came out, even lobbying The New York Times Book Review to be assigned Sanford's The Winters of That Country (1984). Although the Times turned him down, Smith was able to place articles and reviews in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Washington Post.
Both flattered and grateful for the attention Smith had brought his work, Sanford maintained a cheery correspondence for several years, but their relationship began to change upon the death of Sanford's wife Maggie. Devastated by the loss, Sanford began to withdraw into himself, trying to lose himself in his writing. Then, in the spring of 1991, Smith wrote a review of the final volume of Sanford's autobiography, The Season, It Was Winter, which Sanford felt denigrated his wife's talent as a writer. With two terse notes, Sanford terminated their friendship. Shortly afterward, Robert W. Smith stopped writing book reviews.

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection contains material sent by John B. Sanford to Robert W. Smith, including correspondence, typescript drafts of articles/shorter works, and photocopies of reviews of Sanford's books from various newspapers, as well as other materials Smith had collected regarding Sanford.

Related Materials


The Department of Special Collections also has copies of John Sanford's books, including advance copies, and signed, first editions. These are cataloged individually and can be searched in Pegasus, the UCSB Libraries online catalog.

At Other Institutions:

Boston University has the bulk of John Sanford and Marguerite Roberts' papers.

Collection Contents


Series 1.  General

Box 1: 1

Address by John Sanford on accepting an award from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, June 21, 1986

Box 1: 2

Articles (about JS), 1986

Box 1: 3

John Sanford: An American Classic (transcript of an interview of JS by Robert W. Smith), 1984

Box 1: 4

Kunstler, William - "I Write Because I Want To" (typescript copy), [ca. latter 1980s]

Box 1: 5

Roberts, Marguerite (wife of JS - includes obituary and copy of a document establishing screenwriting award in her name, at USC), 1989, 1990


Series 2.  Correspondence

Box 1: 6

To Sanford [1982-1989]

Box 1: 7 - 17

From Sanford to Robert W. Smith

Box 1: 7

List (by Smith; includes correspondence and typescript drafts by JS)

Box 1: 8

1982 (8 items)

Box 1: 9

1983 (8 items)

Box 1: 10

1984 (8 items)

Box 1: 11

1985 (11 items)

Box 1: 12

1986 (7 items)

Box 1: 13

1987 (2 items)

Box 1: 14

1988 (7 items)

Box 1: 15

1989 (13 items)

Box 1: 16

1990 (12 items)

Box 1: 17

1991 (5 items).

Abstract: [Says in one letter, 5 Apr. 1991, that he can't see continuing the chronological approach in a vol. 6 of Scenes, just too old for that, but proceeding with memoirs, that can jump back and forth in time; 26 Apr. 1991, says he has sent off first 325 pp. of Memoir to John Martin and asking if he will publish it.]
Box 1: 18

No date (2 items)


Series 3.  Writings

Box 1: 19

The Color of the Air: Scenes from the Life of an American Jew, Volume 1 (reviews and publicity)

Box 1: 20

The Waters of Darkness: Scenes from the Life of an American Jew, Volume 2 (reviews)

Box 1: 21

A Very Good Land to Fall With: Scenes from the Life of an American Jew, Volume 3 (reviews)

Box 1: 22

A Walk in the Fire: Scenes from the Life of an American Jew, Volume 4 (reviews)

Box 1: 22

The Season, It Was Winter: Scenes from the Life of an American Jew, Volume 5

Box 1: 23

Foreword, 1990

Box 1: 24

William Carlos Williams - John Sanford: A Correspondence (reviews)

Box 1: 25

Winters of That Country: Tales of the Man Made Seasons (op ed piece in newspaper)


Series 4.  Typescript Drafts

Scope and Content Note

Copies sent to RWS; versions of some, e.g. the pieces on the Sacco and Vanzetti jury, Ty Cobb, Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Wolfe, Richard Nixon, Billy Graham, George Patton, Jr., Truman Capote, and Oliver North, appear in Maggie: A Love Story; others, e.g. the pieces on Roy Cohn, Fidel Castro, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, appear in Intruders in Paradise.
Box 1: 26

After a Long Absence: Genus Bison, 1986, n.d.

Box 1: 27

Ars Longa: Truman Capote, 1924-1984, 1990

Box 1: 28

Babylon the Great Has Fallen: Ezra Pound, 1885-1972, n.d.

Box 1: 29

Christian Soldier: Oliver Laurence North, 1941- , 1990

Box 1: 30

Clown: Charlie Chaplin, 1889-1977, n.d.

Box 1: 31

Frank Wills: The Watergate Break-In, 17 June 1972, 1989

Box 1: 32

The Hidalgo: Fidel Castro, 1926- , n.d.

Box 1: 33

His Soul Was Not Left in Hell: William F. 'Billy' Graham, 1918- , [1990]

Box 1: 34

I Have Blood on My Hands, he said: J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1904-67, n.d.

Box 1: 35

The International Sport: Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961, n.d.

Box 1: 36

Jack: Richard Milhous Nixon, 1913- , 1990

Box 1: 37

Joe McCarthy and Another Joe: The Army-McCarthy Hearings, 1954 (includes saying this is for volume 5, of Scenes), n.d.

Box 1: 38

Junker: George Patton, Jr., 1885-1945, 1990

Box 1: 39

A Last Stand on Last Stand Hill: The Little Big Horn, 1988, n.d.

Box 1: 40

A Long Season of Rain: Katherine Anne Porter, 1890-1920, n.d.

Box 1: 41

The Lowlife: Roy Cohn, 1927-1986, n.d.

Box 1: 42

A Middle-Aged Jewish Woman: Thomas Wolfe, 1900-38, n.d.

Box 1: 43

Money Is the Root of All Eval, he wrote: Henry Ford, 1863-1947, 1990

Box 1: 44

The National Game: Ty Cobb, 1886-1961, 1990

Box 1: 45

The No-Spikka Peoples: Ellis Island, 1892-1954, n.d.

Box 1: 46

Of One Who Blew the Gaff: Elia Kazan, 1909- . n.d.

Box 1: 47

Picture-Writing and Other Pictures: John and Marguerite Sanford, European Trip: Scene 3: April-August 1952 (old version), n.d.

Box 1: 48

The Poor Get Screwed, he said: Augusto Cesar Sandino, 1895-1934, n.d.

Box 1: 49

La Revolucion Agraria, in photographs: Mexico, 1910- , n.d.

Box 1: 50

St. Thomas, an assumed name: Emily Hale, 1891-1969, n.d.

Box 1: 51

Twelve Good Men and True: The Sacco and Vanzetti Jury, 1921, [1990]

Box 1: 52

With the Instinct of My Race: Matthew Henson, 1866-1955, [1990]

Box 1: 53

Foreword in the form of a Memoir (with note saying this was submitted to Capra Press, and markings in red are by the Capra editor)