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John O'Hara, writing the foreward to the 1953 Modern Library Edition of Appointment in Samarra:

   A word about the title. One of my social activities was to have tea, literally tea, several afternoons a week with Dorothy Parker at her flat a few blocks from my hotel. I had written about 50,000 words of this novel, which I was calling The Infernal Grove, and one day Mrs. Parker handed me a copy of the play Sheppey by W. Somerset Maugham, with the book open at the Samarra legend. I read the thing and said "There's the title for my book."
  "Where?' said Mrs. Parker.
  "'Appointment in Samarra,'" I said.
  "Oh, I don't think so, Mr. O'Hara. Do you?"
   Dorothy didn't like the title, Alfred Harcourt didn't like the title, his editors didn't like it, nobody liked it but me. But I bulled it through. I tell this to make it clear that the novel is not based on the Samarra legend, and Maugham would be the first to tell you that he didn't invent the legend. It's thousand of years old; Maugham happened to put it gracefully, and his way of putting it fitted nicely into the inevitability of Julian English's death.
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) British novelist and playwright.
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) American poet, short story writer, satirist, critic.
Alfred Harcourt (1881-1954) American publisher and founder of Harcourt, Brace and Howe.

"...to have tea, literally tea..." Tea was slang for marijuana.

For years I thought Appointment in Samarra was a spy novel. I'd see some CIA agent in a dark suit with sunglasses and a briefcase walking on a hot, dusty street somewhere in the Arab world (I didn't know where Samarra was. It's in Iraq, outside Baghdad).

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