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Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Strange Death of Charles Beaumont

I was not interested in politics until my sister's boyfriend gave me a box of recently published paperbacks. I was 15 at the time and my reading up to that time consisted of comics and football magazines. The first book I took from the box was "The Intruder" by Charles Beaumont. The novel, published that year in 1959, is a story about a character called Adam Cramer who visits a small Southern town on the eve of integration. His main objective is to incite the people against letting black children into the town's white school. At the time I knew nothing about Jim Crows laws and the KKK. The novel stimulated interest in American politics and it resulted in me getting history books from my local library on the subject.

Later, I tried to get other books by Beaumont from Amazon but discovered it was the only novel he ever wrote. Last night I watched "Seven Days in May". I looked up the scriptwriter, Rod Serling on the web. I discovered he had very left-wing views and was very frustrated by the amount of political censorship he suffered. In 1959, he began producing The Twilight Zone. He stated in an interview that the science fiction format would not be controversial and would escape censorship unlike his earlier work on television. In reality the show gave him the opportunity to communicate social messages in a more veiled context. He recruited his friend and fellow radical, Charles Beaumont to write scripts for Twilight Zone.

However, in 1963, Beaumont began to suffer the effects of what has been called "a mysterious brain disease". His speech slowed and his ability to concentrate diminished, arresting his creative output. He died on 21st February, 1967.

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