The Buck Stops Here : Celebrity Writers Send In Their Best Words for $1

<i> Cork Millner is a Santa Barbara writer. </i>

When some Oxford students heard that Rudyard Kipling, author of “The Jungle Book” and “Kim,” earned 10 shillings per word, they sent him 10 shillings and asked for one of his very best words. Kipling replied with one word:


Wondering how best-selling authors of today would respond to a similar query, I sent the following letter to a selected list of celebrity writers and included a crisp, new $1 bill:

“I understand you get $1 for each word you write. Please find enclosed a dollar for one word.”


Of the 30 writers queried, 15 responded. The first to do so was syndicated columnist Art Buchwald. On his letterhead stationary he typed the single word:


William F. Buckley responded rapidly with this brief, scribbled reply:



Norman Mailer enclosed two dollars with his letter, then added a short, typed note that read:

“You will get my silver-dollar word. It is:


(And receive two dollars in return for the most original letter of the month.)”

Not to be outdone, spy-thriller author, Robert Ludlum, returned the new dollar and sent a long, hand-written memorandum that illustrated his investigative insight:

“I was going to write:


And keep the buck! However, upon close examination I’ve come to the conclusion that it (the dollar) is entirely too clean, bright and pressed to be authentic and therefore have concluded that you wish to put me in jail for passing counterfeit money.


Nice try, pal.”

Super-prolific author (300 books) Isaac Asimov penned the most unusual single word:


(Which is defined as a bacterium that is a causative agent of pneumonia.)

Charles Schulz, creative cartoonist of the “Peanuts” gang, sent a note that said:


Leon Uris wrote:

“You made my day.”



Author Alex Haley returned the $1 bill with an inscription on his photograph that contained exactly 12 words: “To Cork Millner--with best wishes to you my colleague! Alex Haley.” He then attached a note with this accounting: “The $12 you can send along some other time.”

Columnist Ann Landers kept the dollar but advised that she was not as well paid as everyone imagined. She wrote:

“There is no truth to this, dear. I thank you for your interest and wish you well.”

Novelist Judith Kranz mirrored the response Kipling gave to the Oxford students by answering with the two words:


She also added a note: “This is the first tax-free buck I’ve ever earned. I shall treasure it.”

Authors Mario Puzo, Sidney Sheldon and Gay Talese concurred with Kipling. They all said:


Statuesque film star Raquel Welch, author of the beauty book, “Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program,” returned the dollar sans a note, but autographed the greenback:



The final letter came from comedian George Burns, who replied with the two words he says he always uses when someone asks him to say something funny:


To this compendium of “dollar” thoughts I’ll add a final two words at no extra charge: