"AS A KID, I WOULD READ ABOUT PEOPLE who would get in a box that a mad professor invented and go to another time," says Jack Finney, 83. "Bells would ring, sparks would fly, and they would step out at the Battle of Waterloo." That early fascination with time travel inspired Finney's most enduring work, Time and Again (1970), which will be adapted to the stage (1996) and screen (Robert Redford plans to produce in 1997). "For quite a while I didn't feel like doing a sequel," says the writer, who has been able to support his wife, Marguerite, and their two children Margie and Kenneth on the income from his short stories and 13 novels.
Over the years, Finney, who grew up in Chicago and worked briefly as an ad copywriter in New York City before settling in Mill Valley, Calif., in the '50s, would embark on a sequel, then abandon the project. Each time he would unknot the problem during a dream or a hot bath, and after persistent prodding from his agent, he decided to "struggle through and finish it."
Like Simon Morely, Finney would not mind waltzing into the past. "It would be fun to walk down Manhattan's West 74th in the 19th century," he says, "and see if Edith Wharton would walk out of her house." But Finney's affection for the past is not matched by curiosity about the future. In fact he might stiff-arm an invitation to venture into the 21st century. After all, this is a writer who still works on a typewriter. "I don't need anything fast," he says. "For me, having a computer would be a little like having a race car to go to the delicatessen."