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Writing Date

Pub. Date






Late 1955 to Early 1956




Lost ms



[Capsule: Manuscript received at SMLA on 10-17-55. Written in mid 1955. Revised and rejected before 2-1-60. Never published.]

A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS was the first in a new round of mainstream novels that Philip K. Dick sent to his agent after sending him the manuscript for THE MAN WHO JAPED. This new novel arrived in early 1956 and was not met with a happy reception at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. The Agency reviewer "Didn’t like this before, & still don’t."

In a reply to a letter from Eleanor Dimoff on February 1st, 1960, PKD went on at some length about the mainstream novels he had written thus far. Dimoff had made some solid criticisms of A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS to which Dick agreed; but he liked the character of George Stavros himself and felt that "George Stavros is as good a character as any I have produced. There is as much chance that he could be the basis of a successful book as any character, so I would be willing -- even pleased -- to start with him as a premise in this work."

Now whether Dimoff, an editor at the Harcourt Brace publishing house, had suggested that her publishing house would welcome another rewrite of Stavros, or Dick had determinedly talked himself into using Stavros as a character on whom to base another novel, is unclear. Rickman’s research implies that A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS had already had one rewrite between the time of its submission in 1956 to the time of Dimoff’s letter in 1960. And now here was Dimoff asking for another. From this slim evidence I feel that Dick, hope springing eternal for mainstream publication, tried to salvage something from A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS – it’s main character – and grasped at Dimoff’s implied straw of better consideration for any new Philip K. Dick novel. But he definitely, in this letter, would "…scrap the book called A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS, withdraw it, and take it apart.

The result, as Rickman said, was "one of his gloomiest books, HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND, a book with no readily "identifiable" characters at all."

HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND reached Harcourt, Brace in October 1960. Anne Dimoff, having read both novels, believes that HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND was "probably 95% the earlier novel."

In a letter to Harcourt Brace editor Eleanor Dimoff on February 1, 1960 in which he responded to her criticism of A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS, Philip K. Dick stated his intent to salvage what he could from that novel and write another. The new novel, HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND, arrived, manuscript-wise, at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency in October 1960.

It took three months for Harcourt, Brace to reject it. In a letter to Dick’s literary agency, SMLA, editor Don Wickenden said, "One is left asking, at the end, what the book has really been about, what the author is trying to do and say in it. As with earlier Dick novels, it simply doesn't add up to enough."


TTHC 304

STAVROS was rejected by 23 publishing houses…

TTHC 308

After turning in JAPED to Meredith in Oct 1955 Dick... gave up sf to concentrate exclusively on his literary fiction. A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS was the first of the new cycle to arrive... editor Don Wickenden of Harcourt, Brace, who would have a decisive influence on Dick’s literary future, rejected it with regrets in February 1956. (fn10) {Don Wickenden to SMLA, 2-21-56. This was the third Dick ms Wickenden had seen.

TTHC  307 

{...} Dick grounds his keenly observed characters in locales he knew well. This generally means close to home -- Kleo recalls that A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS "started on the basis of a car mechanic down near us on San Pablo Avenue."

TTHC  363

The SMLA card for GEORE STAVROS, in 1956, read (impying one rewrite of it already)

   Didn't like this before, & still don't. Long, rambling, glum novel about 65 yr old Greek immigrant who has a weakling son, a second son about whom he's indifferent, a wife who doesn't love him (she's being unfaithful to him). Nothing much happens. Guy, selling garage and retiring, tires{sic} to buy another garage in new development, has a couple of falls, dies at end. Point is murky but seems to be that world is disintegrating, Stavros is supposed to be symbol of vigorous individuality, now a lost commodity.

PKDS Pamphlet #1 3


    I have been contemplating what you say about my STAVROS book. I feel that it is the weakest of the lot, that the ending falls apart But I agree that Stavros himself is a fine character. Why you should have such special fondness for that book I can't make out. All I can do is agree that, yes, I do think there's a better book to be made out of the character and some of the scenes (in particular the whole business where Stavros travels up to see the construction going on, runs into Carmichael, falls and has a heart attack, etc.) And the scene where he fights with Andrew. So let's get down to business. I'll outline my reaction to the concrete notions which you present.

   George Stavros is as good a character as any I have produced. There is as much chance that he could be the basis of a successful book as any character, so I would be willing -- even pleased -- to start with him as a premise in this work.

    I will, then, scrap the book called A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS, withdraw it, and take it apart. I'll save the theme that here is an old man with enormous appetite, wit, and tenacity, a kind of genius -- and yet hopelessly ignorant of the contemporary ways by which men rise to economic and social success. I'll saddle him with the physical defect of a failing heart, and equip him with an animal-like cunning, an ability to spar, fight, scrap and wrassle. And -- an ability to see through humbug, the pretensions of others.


    A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS. Here, a man arises who denies the above. Contact with vile persons does not blight or contaminate or doom the really superior; a man can go on and be successful, if he just keeps struggling. There is no trick that the wicked can play on the good that will ultimately be successful; the good are protected by God, or at least by their virtue. The good have better luck than the bad; otherwise they could not afford to be good in the first place. It is the weak who are vicious, not the strong. And the weak, although very dangerous, have no stamina; they can be outlasted. And they are terribly gullible; they can be misled by a good man who is astute enough to put up a good line. In fact, the weak -- e.g. Andrew -- will mislead themselves with their own silly stories, their vain and pompous plans. Stavros is an aristocrat. He would have been able to manage Hig; he would have slighted him, sent him packing, humiliated him. Being able to see through pretensions, Stavros would have not even been worried by Hig. But he would have had trouble with Milt Lumky, whom he would have identified as a good man, a fine fellow. It would have baffled him that Lumky, in the end, did a bad thing. Lumky's bitterness would've made Stavros bitter, too. They probably would've stepped out and taken a couple of swings at each other. There would have been bad feeling between them. And Bruce's wife -- Stavros simply would have avoided her without even trying to understand her. Likewise Fay, in CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST. Stavros would have avoided her by instinct, not insight. He would have liked Charley Hume, but shaken his head sadly at the man's stupidity. He would have kicked Nat in the ass for ever getting mixed up with her. Reform her? Hell -- dunk her head in a bucket. Without having read TAMING OF THE SHREW, Stavros would have known what to do. And yet the contemporary institutions would have defeated Stavros as they defeated the two kids in THISBE. Or so I believe.

{... ...} {PKD>Eleanor Dimoff, 01 Feb 1960}{Complete text of this letter can be found in  PKDS Pamphlet #1 or in THE SELECTED LETTERS OF PKD:1938-1971} {In many cases, this letter contains the only information we have on many of PKD’s early mainstream novels -- Lord RC}


 TTHC  363:

   {...} Dick's reply to Dimoff evades her points neatly, and between the lines he stated his own ideas about what he wanted to write. Going through each of his novels Dimoff had read, he commented on them, emphasizing in each case their incorrigible bitterness. There was one exception, A TIME FOR GEORGE STAVROS. In that book alone Dimoff saw a novel that didn't "taper off toward the end." It is this novel that Dick now proposed to rewrite. He would rework it, he wrote her, to supply a character "with whom 'the reader can identify.'"

    Harcourt, Brace told him to go ahead. He did, and in a few months produced one of his gloomiest books, HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND…

…Wickenden commented in passing that HUMPTY DUMPTY IN OAKLAND as delivered was "quite different from the outline" they'd seen. And this is true: HUMPTY DUMPTY is a lot closer to what we know of GEORGE STAVROS than the new novel he had spit-balled in his letter to Dimoff. Anne, who read both, characterizes HUMPTY DUMPTY   as "probably 95% the earlier novel."{...}

{...} For most of its way HUMPTY DUMPTY follows the same plot line as STAVROS with the important exception that Stavros' home life is completely changed yet again. Stavros, no longer Greek, is now named Jim Fergesson. his wife Lydia now does love him, though fussily: she is Greek, a thickly accented, middle aged "professional student." They have no children. Lydia continually chastises her husband for his materialist attitudes, for his pessimism, and for his tolerance of the book's other major character, Al Miller. {...}

Collector's Notes

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