Friday, August 21, 2009

A Consummate Wordsmith

This little book is a mystery inside a mystery, by an author inside an author.

1339...Or So Being An Apology For A Pedlar is based on "the vigorous oral tradition of Welsh prose, in which the author Professor Nicholas Seare, toiled amongst the ballads, poems and tales of Welsh Mabinigion mythology".

Or not. But first, an excerpt from the book (simply because it's a great read, no matter what it's based on, or who it's written by):

"...early Christians labored under the assumption that the end of the world was at hand; as indeed it was...for them. The promise of obliteration enabled them to withstand their deprivations and self-denials, sustained by the grim conviction that there were only a few years left anyway, and that the life-lovers would soon get theirs too.

"These misguided men wasted the gift of life, covered to the lee of beauty and surprise, denied their bodies, constricted their minds, and dimmed their visions on the gamble that they were storing up treasures in heaven, albeit in small change.

"Whatever bitter disappointment the Chosen felt when the un-co-operative world did not end on cue, they had sacrificed far too much to let it go at that. Doomsdays continued to be predicted... Among the Greater Endings, A.D. 88 stands out, as does 700, 707, 770 and 777.

"...{In 1339} the Great Snow was not the only omen attending the End of the World....Stars had fallen in showers, and March had been muddled. All across north Wales good people gathered around fires and whispered of things unspeakable...

"But most amazing and foreboding of all was the mystic transportation of Llewellan, Cleric of Caernarvon. He was discovered in a sheepcote with Magin the was learned upon interrogation that they had both been spirited from their distant and lonely beds by forces best not named aloud."

The author, Professor Nicholas Seare, was actually created by Peter Trevanian.

And there's the mystery in the mystery: exactly who was Peter Trevanian? To start he was a best-selling author, who never made a personal appearance, or attended a book-signing, or agreed to an interview until 1975. Fans and web sites ran rampant speculating on his true identity. Some thought he was actually author Robert Ludlum (he wasn't), others speculated that he was a Department of Labor employee named Jack Hashian (he wasn't).

As a writer he refused to stick to a particular genre. But each book he wrote in its respective genre was a masterpiece. With each new genre, Trevanian used Method-acting to imagine himself as the author, then sat down to write his book. Each book carries itself with a unique style, particular to that book. Trevanian sold millions of books that were translated into 14 languages.

Finally, a literary gift in March of 2006 confirmed his identity: His name was Dr. Rodney William Whitaker, and he had passed away in December of 2005, in the West Country of England. He wrote under at least five pseudonyms and kept his true identity a mystery for decades. Before he turned to novels, he was a playwright, compared in one obituary to the likes of Mark Twain, with a naturally witty and graceful gift of writing "well-structured dialogue", being "ever the consummate wordsmith".

What better epitaph for a writer: "the consummate wordsmith".

1339...Or So Being An Apology For A Pedlar, First Edition, 1975, currently offered for sale as of August 22, 2009 at:

1 comment:

cloudhand said...

oh wow! oh wow! oh wow!...
thank you for existing.