"TO SHERMAN BILLINGSLEY, A PERFECT HOST, WISHING HIM LOTS OF LUCK (AND KEEP AWAY FROM FINNEY)": EXTRAORDINARY FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION/ASSOCIATION COPY, OF HEMINGWAY'S GREEN HILLS OF AFRICA, WONDERFULLY INSCRIBED BY HIM TO THE FOUNDER AND OWNER OF NEW YORK'S FAMED STORK CLUB—"THE PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN IN THE BIG APPLE"
HEMINGWAY, Ernest. Green Hills of Africa. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935. Octavo, original light green cloth, original dust jacket. $30,000.
Exceptional first edition, a very memorable presentation/association copy of Hemingway's gripping account of big game hunting, inscribed by him to the colorful founder and owner of Manhattan's star-studded Stork Club—"a Gatsby-esque extravaganza"—one of Hemingway's favorite watering holes, "To Sherman Billingsley, the perfect host, wishing him lots of luck (and keep away from Finney) Ernest Hemingway," in original dust jacket.
Between the publication of Winner Take Nothing (1933) and To Have and Have Not (1937), "Hemingway went to Africa to shoot the bounding kudu and the ungainly rhinoceros and to reply to his critics. The result is Green Hills of Africa… It is the most literary hunting trip on record" (New York Times). Here Hemingway "attempted to write an absolutely true book to see whether the shape of a country and the pattern of a month's action can, if truly presented, compete with a work of the imagination" (Foreword). This distinctive presentation/association copy is inscribed by Hemingway to the founder and owner of "Manhattan's Stork Club, one of the most famous watering holes in the long history of American nightclubbing… the place to see and be seen in the Big Apple. The slick, sexy, smoky creation of a native Oklahoman and ex-bootlegger named Sherman Billingsley, the Stork was, in the words of legendary gossip columnist and radio loudmouth Walter Winchell, 'New York's New Yorkiest' joint" (Time).
The Stork Club was "a plush oasis where starlets stalked millionaires and… Hemingway one night got into a shoving match with Lewis E. Laws, the warden of Sing Sing, and knocked him down. Billingsley said his press agent told him not to worry, that 'one fight a year is good publicity providing the fighters are big names.' Another night… Hemingway tried to pay a bar bill with a $100,000 movie royalty check. Billingsley said he told the author to wait until the night's receipts were in and then coolly cashed the check" (New York Times). "The Stork also found its way into Islands in the Stream (1970), during a conversation between Tom Hudson and his friend Roger Davis, on the many ways Roger had broken up with girlfriends" (Greene, To Have and Have Another). JFK celebrated his 39th birthday at the Stork with Jackie, and other regular patrons included Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, Marilyn Monroe and Jo DiMaggio. The club "blended movie stars, politicians, writers, debutantes, heiresses and mobsters in what has been called a 'Gatsby-esque extravaganza'" (Wallace, Capital of the World, 28-29).
The "Finney" of Hemingway's inscription refers to Ben Finney. The two were longtime close friends, fellow big-game hunters. fishermen and adventurers who also shared a fondness for nightclubs. A Lt. Colonel in the Marine Corps and friend, as well, with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Finney was a witness at Hemingway's 1946 marriage to Mary Welsh Hemingway. In his autobiography, Finney recalled a night when he and Hemingway were aboard a yacht belonging to the heir to the Woolworth fortune. The two were "knocking back a few on the stern of Woolie's fishing boat" that was docked next to a yacht belonging to a well-known if unnamed New York publisher. When the publisher demanded they stop shooting off flare guns, Hemingway confronted him. Finney recalled: "Down the dock came the publisher hoping, I'm sure, to be able to take home a story of how he had talked down Ernest Hemingway. He didn't have a chance. BAM! Ernest hit him. Although stunned, the big man did not go down. POW! Ernest let him have it again. Still the man was on his feet. Turning to me, Ernest asked: 'What's holding the bastard up?' The third time Ernest really poleaxed the publisher… Ernest muttered: 'I had to hit that bum three times.'" Finney also wrote of a day in Manhattan when he and Hemingway were met by autograph hunters who did not recognize the writer. "The fact that he had not been recognized did not worry Ernest, but that they did not even know his name must have. He went into a funk that lasted until he had downed three drinks at the Stork Club" (Feet First, 194-95). First edition, first printing: with Scribner "A" on copyright page. First issue dust jacket with green bar on rear panel extending "through seven lines of the blurb" (Grissom A.13.1.a). Dust jacket supplied from another copy. Hanneman 13A. Bruccoli & Clark I:179.
Text and inscription fresh and crisp, only light toning to cloth as almost always; light edge-wear, toning to spine of scarce unrestored dust jacket. A most desirable presentation copy with a striking association.