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Summer 2002
Fahrenheit 451 Revisited

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He said, "Just a moment," and went away. When he came back, he said, "451 Fahrenheit."

"Oh my God," I said, "that's wonderful. Just reverse it and it has a nicer sound. Fahrenheit 451." So I rushed to my typewriter and placed the new title on my book.

That was the summer when Joseph McCarthy was running rampant in Washington with his threats to the libraries and his investigation of supposed communist backgrounds of screenwriters. It was very difficult to find a new publisher in magazine form before the book was published.

A young editor who was starting a new magazine approached me. He had only $450 with which to buy a property.

I said, "I have Fahrenheit 451, and you can have it for that money."

He bought my novella and it appeared in the second, third and fourth issues of Playboy. I think there are a lot of young men in the world who might thank me for helping Hugh Hefner at the right time!

The book's history started small and grew over time, and I still did not realize what I had done.

When I wrote Fahrenheit 451 for the stage, I called back my characters and asked them to explain more about their lives. Beatty spoke up and told me the reasons why he burned books. It turned out, as he spoke, that he was once a romantic and a book lover, but in the years following his love of libraries a series of disasters ensued. There was a failed romance, his mother died of cancer, his father was a suicide and so, at the age of 30, he opened the books and found the pages were empty, they were no longer able to sustain him as they had in his younger years. He then turned on the books as if they had offended him, and he became a fireman.

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