Editor, novelist and playwright A.E. Hotchner talks about J.D. Salinger’s last short story in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1948. Salinger gave the manuscript to his friend Hotchner, then an editor at Cosmopolitan, while they were playing poker at the Greenwich Village tavern Chumley’s. An adamant Salinger warned Hotchner that “not one word can be changed.” A note attached to it said, “Either as is or not at all.”
Unbeknownst to Hotchner, other editors at the magazine had made a single edit. Salinger’s title for the story, which hinges on an African-American jazz singer’s tragic death, was “Scratchy Needle on a Phonograph Record.” In its September 1948 issue, Cosmopolitan changed the title to “Blue Melody.” Hotchner chose to break the news to his friend, “Jerry,” over a beer in Chumley’s. Salinger was furious at what he saw as a betrayal of his trust.
That year, Salinger began a close relationship with the magazine he admired and preferred to be published in, The New Yorker, which gave him a “first-look” contract for his stories.