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Michael Shaara (also known as Michael Joseph Shaara, Jr.)
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Michael Shaara Papers



Title: Michael Shaara Papers
Author/Creator: Michael Shaara (also known as Michael Joseph Shaara, Jr.)
Size: 10.50 linear feet
Inclusive Dates: 1946-1998
Bulk Dates: 1957-1987
Repository: Broward County Main Library, Bienes
Museum of the Modern Book, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33062
Telephone: 954-357-8243

Important Information for Users of the Collection

Restrictions: This collection is open for research.
Preferred Citation: Michael Shaara Papers, Broward County Library, Bienes Museum of the Modern Book.
Publication Rights: Photocopies of original materials may be provided at the discretion of the Bienes Museum librarian. Inquiries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this archive should be directed to the Bienes Museum librarian.

Biographical Sketch

Michael Shaara was born on June 23, 1929 in Jersey City, N.J., and died on May 5, 1988 in Tallahassee, Florida. He was the son of Michael Joseph Shaara, Sr., an Italian immigrant and union organizer, and Allene (Maxwell) Shaara. He married Helen Elizabeth Krumwiede in 1950 (marriage which ended in 1980), and had two children: Jeffrey and Lila Elise. Shaara graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in 1951, and continued with graduate studies at Columbia University (1952-53) and University of Vermont (1953-54). Although he knew in Rutgers that writing would be the main goal of his life, his prolific short story career began in the 1950s, after a short stint as a paratrooper, a merchant seaman, and a police officer in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 1959, Shaara was hired as an instructor of English at Florida State University, and by 1968, he had risen to the position of Associate Professor. Shaara received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975 for his novel, The Killer Angels.

Shaara wrote four novels and published more than 70 short stories in magazines including Cosmopolitan, Galaxy, Fantastic Universe, Playboy, Redbook and the Saturday Evening Post. He began writing in the science fiction and fantasy genres for the popular pulp fiction magazines of the time and won several awards. It was the fifties --- J.R.R. Tolkien published his trilogy Lord of the Rings and Russia launched Sputnik into orbit. The space race began and shortly after, the country was threatened by the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962. Shaara's themes reflected his times and dealt with everyday events, as well as with aliens, and the devastation of complete cities from nuclear disasters.

During his writing career, he received many rejections from publishers. Even his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was rejected by fifteen publishers before the small, independent David McKay Company purchased the manuscript. However, two of his novels were turned into films. In The Killer Angels, inspired by his visit to the Gettysburg battlefield, Shaara recounted the story of the bitter July 1863 battle through the eyes of the participants. His novel was adapted into the television miniseries Gettysburg after his death in 1993. The manuscript of his fourth and last novel, For Love of the Game, was found by his son after his death and published in 1991. This baseball story was picked up Universal Studios and released as a major motion picture in 1999 starring Kevin Costner.

Shaara was a dynamic man who had a wide variety of talents and interests. He had a zest for life and relished exploring the world. Unfortunately, Shaara had to contend with some serious physical conditions during the course of his life. In 1965, he had his first major heart attack and wrote about the experience in an article published by the Saturday Evening Post. The article, "In the Midst of Life", won an American Medical Association award for medical journalism. While teaching an FSU abroad program in Italy, Shaara had a devastating motorcycle accident in 1972. He was unconscious for weeks and suffered from a severe brain injury. Later he described the events in his story "Brain Damage". In his letters, Shaara claimed that his eyes were not "working together" and that he could not read very much. Shaara also had difficulty with both speech and thought patterns. Emotionally, he suffered from bouts of depression. In a 1986 letter, Shaara admitted that he was medically retired and "largely unable to write …, but am slowly coming back". He had his second heart attack in 1988 and passed away.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The contents of the Michael Shaara papers date from 1946 to 1998 and include materials that Shaara created, received or collected during his lifetime (1929-1988). After the author's death, his family placed additional monographs, serials, printed materials, and a videocassette with his papers. The archive contains manuscripts; correspondence; items relating to Shaara's professional life and awards; his teaching and lecturing engagements; legal and financial records; some personal materials; newspaper and magazine clippings; print material; serials; manuscripts written by other individuals; audio-visual materials; and photographs.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Helen Shaara and family donated the papers of Michael Shaara to the Broward County Library at the behest of the Broward Public Library Foundation and the Florida Center for the Book in October 1998. At a formal reception, the author's papers were presented to the Bienes Center for the Literary Arts (now the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book) in the Broward County Main Library, Fort Lauderdale.

Processing Information

Processed by: John Anthony Adams, Margaret Bing, Rita M. Cauce, Earl Chesler, Maria Muñoz, and Lillian Perricone. First processed by Bing, Cauce, and Chesler in the fall of 2002. The initial finding aid was completed in December 2002 and posted on the Broward County Library website. At this point, much of the archive was largely unprocessed. In the spring of 2006, Adams and Perricone began to process the remaining archive and revise the arrangement of the series and files. By February 2009, Perricone completed the finding aid and processed the archive. Muñoz was instrumental in formatting the final document.

During the initial processing, the librarian worked primarily with the manuscripts; placed each short story in an acid-free folder; included the number of leaves; and the date (or no date) on the piece. She also described if the work was in typescript, carbon copy, photocopy, or holograph, and noted author corrections. The librarian removed all paper clips; indicated if the paper had been damaged and any other physical characteristics. The first finding aid consisted of five series and placed oversized manuscripts in a separate series. Correspondence pertaining to Shaara's novel, The Killer Angels was subdivided into two alphabetical sequences: correspondence to Shaara and correspondence from Shaara. The librarian also processed Donald T. Pitcher's maps of the Battle of Gettysburg from The Killer Angels.

In the new finding aid, the existing five series were augmented into thirteen new series. Within Series I: Writings, the librarian included Shaara's notebooks that contained drafts and story ideas. Oversized manuscripts were interfiled alphabetically within the series listing; placed in legal-size folders; and stored separately in record storage boxes. Shaara's creative output also included drawings and cartoons from his army days. These items were incorporated into the collection in Series II: Arts (original cartoons and drawings). Series III: Correspondence was completely overhauled and divided into the following subseries: Agents and publishing activities; Derivative works; Financial and legal; Personal and family; Professional activities, awards, interviews, and lectures; Students, and General correspondence. Correspondence with individuals was sorted according to the person's primary relationship with the author. Materials are filed under the name of the correspondent or corporate entity. The archive primarily contains letters received by Shaara with some letters written by Shaara. In the finding aid, file folder descriptions with the starblack starsymbol indicate that letter(s) from Shaara are included.

The remaining papers were placed in the following new series: Series IV: Professional papers: awards, interviews, speeches, and teaching; Series V: Financial and legal papers; and Series VI: Personal papers and memorabilia; Series VII: Clippings (collected by MS and others); Series VIII: Printed matter; Series IX: Serials; Series X: Manuscripts of other individuals; Series XI: Maps; Series XII: Audio-visual materials; and Series XIII: Photographs. It should be noted that Series IV: Professional papers consist of actual awards, certificates, printed interviews, lectures, speeches, syllabuses, exams, and teaching notes. Series V: Financial and legal papers contain Shaara's bills and invoices, contracts, royalties and earnings statements, and some tax files.

Most of the materials in the Michael Shaara papers are stored in acid-free folders and record storage boxes. During processing, all metal paper clips and staples were removed and replaced with vinyl-coated paper clips. Other oversized serials were placed in file folders and stacked on top of each other in appropriately sized record storage boxes. When necessary, folded paper was flattened. Newspaper clippings and printed telegrams in a variety of conditions were retained and interleaved with buffered tissue paper. The librarian also discarded duplicate photocopies, except when the original was in poor condition.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized as thirteen series:

Related Material

Related archival material can be found in the Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver, Colorado. Visit for further information.​