My mother was born in High Springs, Florida in 1899, my father in
Frankford, Pennsylvania in 1898, and my brother in Savannah, Georgia in 1922. I
was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1932, shortly before the end of the Hoover
By 1938 my parents had decide to relocate. They liked Lake Worth,
Florida, the very small town where my mother's folks were living at the time.
Taking me along, my mother went to Lake Worth to try to set up in the tourist
business. My Dad had a job in a radio factory in Chicago. Since this was during
The Great Depression and he didn't want to take any chances, he stayed there to
collect a regular salary while my mother got the business established. My
brother, then in high school, stayed with him to finish the school term before
he came south.
My mother rented a large rooming house on the federal highway and hung
out her shingle, but her timing was bad. That winter there was record cold. The
tourists went further south, or back to their fireplaces and furnaces in the
north. The next winter she rented a smaller place, but the same thing happened.
Even so, my father left his job and joined us.
Things looked so unpromising in Florida that they decided to go to
That's where they'd met and married and built a small house. They
still owned the house so they figured whatever happened, they'd have a roof
over their heads. We arrived in the fall of 1940. My father landed a job as a
radio repairman. Based on past experience, I figured we'd be moving again
before long but we didn't. My parents settled in and stayed for the next twenty
I'd done my first two years of grammar school in Florida. I got the
rest of my formal education in Savannah. After I finished high school, I went
to the local junior college. In grammar school, my ambition had been to become
In high school I decided I wanted to follow in the family footsteps and become
a radio technician. In college, I got involved in the local theater
, and wanted to do that
for a living. By the time I graduated in 1951, I didn't know what I wanted
My brother had gone into the Air Corps in WWII, had been stationed in
England and had come home with a bride from London. He apprenticed to my father
under the GI Bill. By the time I got out of college, they were partners
planning to open their own radio & TV service business. I didn't yet realize
it, but I was fated to work in the store for them until I left home.
My job was minding the counter, answering the phone and doing clerical
work. Much of my time in the store was spent waiting for something to happen.
With all that time to kill, I read a lot. When I got tired of that, I amused
myself by writing my own books. Although I was an avid science-fiction fan, it
was the western that came most naturally to me. I'd finish one and send it to
be read by an out-of-town friend who liked westerns. Once I sent one to another
friend who'd made some book sales. He thought it was salable and told me to
send it to his agent. It bounced back without a word. I decided I was not ready
to become a professional author. I was right. Years later, I looked back at
those manuscripts and was glad so few people had ever seen them.
While still in college, I got into science-fiction fandom. I did some
amateur (fanzine) publishing and went to several conventions. After I started
working, I began spending my vacations on cattle ranches instead. Then in the
fall of 1955 I decided to go to the World Science-Fiction Convention in
Cleveland. That's where I met Larry Shaw, editor of the new science-fiction
Larry and I spent much of the convention together and began a
rapid-fire exchange of letters afterward. In one of them, he proposed marriage.
I accepted. He came to Savannah to meet my folks and in the spring of 1956, I
went to New York 4,
to get married. In retrospect, I think we were a little hasty.
In 1958. Larry and I split up, and I moved into an apartment of my own to
discover the joys of single life.
I was into the growing folk music scene
that produced The Kingston
Trio, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. In NYC, it centered In Washington Square. On
Sunday afternoons, the area around the fountain was open to all who wanted to
pick and sing in public. Since I couldn't make music myself, I published a
folkmusic fanzine. It grew with the fad and achieved international
distribution. It got too big to be fun so I sold it.
Folknik friends introduced me to sports car racing
as a safety
inspector, spectator and, briefly, photographer. I did some writing then, but
had no plans to try doing it professionally.
I got a job with MD Magazine. It was clerical work and
it was boring. I went to Hoffman Motors (no relation), an importer of foreign
cars. There I was working as a Claims Clerk, which meant I was handling
complaints. That was no fun. Then I found a job with a large letterpress
I got into the Production Department, and that was fun. It
paid well, too. I bought a motorcycle and rode it back and forth to work. But
when the company lost the account I was working on, I was one of the people
laid off. I tried a couple of other jobs with printers, but as a female with no
formal training, I kept ending up doing clerical/secretarial work, and I just
wasn't suited to that.
I had gotten involved in New York SF fandom by then, and was going to
regular meetings of a group called Fanoclasts. Its leader, Ted White, was just
breaking into writing SF novels professionally. He encouraged me to try my hand
at it. I tried a Western. Another friend, Terry Carr, who was an editor at Ace
books then, encouraged me to submit it. I did and it sold. So did another. I
quit my job and decided I wouldn't look for another until I had to. That was in
1966. I never did get another honest job.
By 1971, New York was changing. Many of my friends had moved elsewhere,
and I had a feeling it was time for me to do the same.
My parents had retired to west coast Florida. My brother and his family
were living in Tampa. The area seemed a natural. I figured the whole family
could get together. I bought a house not far from my folks. But just then my
brother and his family relocated to Atlanta. The family did get together but
not nearly as often as I had hoped we would.
The market for Westerns began to fade away. Historical romances were
the big sellers in the genre market. My agent wanted me to try my hand at one.
I did and it was fun, so I started another. It wasn't so much fun. Neither was
the next one. I was distracted and in no mood for writing. My parents were in
decline. More and more, they needed my help.
After my father became wheelchair bound and my mother had a heart
attack, they needed full-time care. I sold my house and moved into theirs with
them. After they were both gone, I wrote a couple of rather long short stories
for anthologies. I didn't enjoy doing them and didn't feel satisfied with them.
So I retired completely. Now I mess around with various hobbies
and do as I
(Lee died on February 6, 2007. There have been many theories
about what she is doing now.)
Read more about...
- first hurricane
- Lee's horses
- The Savannah Playhouse at
Armstrong Junior College
- New York City
- South Street Seaport Museum
- Fulton Street heap
- folknik days
- sports cars and go karts
- Arrow Press
© 2014 Gary Ross Hoffman