Hiring Hemingway as War Correspondent could be expensive, as Collier’s learned the hard way: “His expenses in London included $680 (about $9,700 in 2019 money) for hire of a car and chauffeur, $220 ($3,100) for laundry, newspapers and tips, and a total of $1,824 ($26,000) for entertaining officers, meals with fighter pilots and three dinners with British politicians and newspaper proprietors. … He charged the magazine for things that got lost or destroyed, including $350 ($5,000) for field glasses ruined in Schnee Eifel and a typewriter destroyed at St. Lo. His entertainment budget for this segment of the trip ran to $2,200 ($31,000).” And so on.
Collierâ€™s, a glossy weekly with a circulation of 2.8 million, was known as a forum for stellar writing. It was perhaps the most prestigious magazine in America, rivaled only by The Saturday Evening Post. It had commissioned Hemingway to cover what are now some of the most famous events in history, including the western Alliesâ€™ invasion of France and the collapse of the Third Reich.
We might have remembered that reportage alongside the best of his fiction. But we donâ€™tâ€”because Hemingwayâ€™s stint at Collierâ€™s was a disaster.
His editors in New York were unimpressed with the six articles he filed. They were heroic portrayals, as requested, but of himself as much as of the protagonists in the epic events he was covering. Though heâ€™d proven himself a capable war correspondent in Spain, China, and elsewhere, he had grown to dislike journalism. The relationship with Collierâ€™s was cursed from the outset, and by the end of the war it had descended into a spat over an expense claim for about $13,000â€”or $187,000 in todayâ€™s money.