Sunday, June 2, 2019

William Sambrot

William Sambrot (b. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 17 December 1920; d. Napa, California, 26 July 2007)

William Anthony Sambrot was the son of Anthony Sambrot (a laborer at a machine company, per the 1920 US Census) and his wife Nancy, nee Ciccetti, both of whom were immigrants from Italy.  He had two older sisters.

By 1930, William was in Salt Lake City with his widowed mother, and in 1939 he graduated from Balboa High School in San Francisco. He enlisted in the US Army in San Francisco on 29 June 1943, and served in Germany. He studied briefly at the University of Biarritz in Switzerland, and then at University of California in Berkeley, and he studied journalism and short story writing in San Francisco, though he earned no degrees. He worked for a while in a brewery, and at other odd jobs. On 18 January 1948, he married Marina Dianda (1922-2007).  They had one son and one daughter. Sambrot lived in California for the rest of his life.

His first professional sale, in June 1951, was a story "The Strong Man," which became his second published story when it appeared in the February 1952 issue of Esquire ("The Saboteur" appeared in the Fall 1951 issue of Suspense Magazine). He became a full time writer in 1954.  He published some fifty known stories in various slicks and men's magazines in the 1950s and 1960s.  His sole book is a collection of fourteen stories, Island of Fear and Other Science Fiction Stories (New York: A Permabook Edition published by Pocket Books, 1963). He compiled a second volume of science fiction stories but never found a publisher. Sambrot told Contemporary Authors "I am very much interested in writing science-fiction. . . . I'm not happy, however, with the field in general; would like to see it treated with respect by critics, especially our literary lights."  He worked on two novels, Zone of Combat and Substance of Martyrs (the second based on one of Sambrot's own short stories of the same title, published in Rogue, December 1963), but they were never published.

In an autobiographical letter published in Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II (1979), Sambrot noted that he had well over 200 published stories in all the top-paying markets. Sambrot reputedly used two pseudonyms, Anthony Ayes and William Ayes, but no stories have been located published under these names. He summed up his book-publishing experience as follows: "From my own experience with Pocket Books, the advance they gave me ($2000) about equalled what I got for each of some seven or eight stories in the collection of mine (14 stories) they published.  Many of those stories are still selling [in reprints] . . . So, even though that SF collection sold some 385,000 plus here, and went into two printings in England (Mayflower, 1964 and 1966), each of over half the stories therein had earned me well over the total earning for the whole schmear."

Sambrot's 1958 story "Island of Fear" has some decided similarities with a C.S. Lewis story, "Forms of Things Unknown", first published posthumously in 1966.  I have written in more detail about this scenario at my Shiver in the Archives blog, here.

7 comments:

  1. The other Sambrot story that I remember is "Creature of the Snows." This, like "Island of Fear," appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, I believe; I saw it, as I recall, in Robert Arthur's anthology Monster Mix, from around 1969. No time to track down details right now. The scenario is a big game hunter tracking down the elusive yeti. But at last he refrains from killing.

    Dale Nelson

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  2. "Creature of the Snows" appeared in The Saturday Evening Post for 29 October 1960. It was collected in Island of Fear and Other Science Fiction Stories (1963), and reprinted in a number of anthologies, including Monster Mix (1968), edited by Robert Arthur.

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  3. I just finished his collection, and I wasn't too impressed. The stories felt too formulaic, with predictable "surprise" endings. But I won't dismiss him as a writer because of the very fine "Creature Of the Snows" and (to me) the even greater "Island Of Fear" which is a little masterpiece of threatening atmosphere.

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  4. My grandfather was quite a man. He was coarse, and yet a perfect gentleman. He was cynical, observant, and full of zeal. He was always questioning accepted knowledge, long before that was accepted behavior. He was at times shockingly gruff in his assessment of the world, and in his retelling of old war stories, which terrorized, thrilled, and formed me.

    Bill was not met with mainstream success in his life, but he was successful by any cultured measure: he won the Valley Forge medal for contribution to the American Way of Life in 1951. He won the Soldier's medal for puling men out of a transport that went down in a minefield. In his late 70s he knocked a young man out cold on the street for calling Marina a bitch. I remember his hands that never aged.

    I think Bill could have been anything, but his outspoken distaste for convention and proclivity for skepticism made him an outsider, and relegated him to this list, which is accurate. He was often angry, but always earnest. On the one hand, I don't think he would have fared well in the modern age, and he always told me that "he didn't envy me" for what was on the way - whatever that thing is, I am eternally on the lookout for it (perhaps today is the day). On the other hand, I think he possessed a rare phylum of personality and voice that we need now.

    I'm sitting in my office looking at 6 bankers box full of original manuscripts, submissions correspondence, and other (very strange and intense conspiracy-theory-oriented) correspondence that I have lived with and puzzled over for the past year. From what I can remember, and now see, there's a larger story about his life that perhaps more interesting than any of his shorts.

    I have to think that my father's rescuing of my grandfather's life works from my mothers orders to destroy, and bequeathing them to me was with purpose. And I further think it would be worthwhile to procure a literary agent to go through this material with me, to see what still rings true, where these things fit now - if anywhere. But the best story of all is his life story.

    I don't know where to begin, and I have a creative life of my own. I am not unburdened by these boxes of stories. But like my father, I cannot bring myself to ignore them, and to wonder how these stories might serve.

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    1. Hello,
      I stumbled upon this page and then your comment. Your grandfather was my Uncle Bill. His sister, Elsie was my mother. Over the years, my mother received a lot of very entertaining letters from Bill. I have all those letters and have often thought they would (if properly formatted) make a great read...lots of humor...his corrected misspellings on the typewritten pages...insight into his thoughts about the way he saw the world, etc. I am guessing you are Shelly's son/daughter? In any event, If interested in a chat, I can be reached via email at albie1kanobe@gmail.com

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  5. Thanks for the very personal memories. If you do in the future find some way to present his life/stories/etc., please come back here and let me know. All best.

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