Friday, July 05, 2013

Edward Whittemore in the 21st Century

I have mentioned the novels of American writer Edward Whittemore previously and indeed for 12 years have maintained  Jerusalem Dreaming, a Whittemore tribute website.

So I was pleased to learn that new eBook editions of his five novels will be published on 23 July 2013 by Open Road Media.

Whittemore_QuinsShanghai_ebook_m Whittemore_SinaiTapestry_ebook_m Whittemore_JerusalemPoker_ebook_m
Whittemore_NileShadows_ebook_m Whittemore_Jericho_ebook_m EWa

Above, cover art for the new eBook editions and a photo of Edward Whittemore taken by his life long friend Carol Martin.

Edward Whittemore is best known for his Jerusalem Quartet, a series of novels set in the Middle East, composed of  Sinai Tapestry, Jerusalem Poker, Nile Shadows and Jericho Mosaic. Quin’s Shanghai Circus was his first published novel and is set in Japan and China. It was published in 1974 and the Quartet followed, its four novels being published over the period 1977 to 1987.

Edward Whittemore died in August 1995 of prostate cancer, but his literary work lives on, though even now is not all that well known. He remains an obscure and mysterious writer, but deserves to be a household name.  The books are quite wonderful in the truest sense, full of marvellous and strange events - a secret history of the Middle East no less - funny, humane, wise and beautifully written.

I readily admit that the novels of Edward Whittemore changed my life. When I first discovered Sinai Tapestry back 1979, I became obsessed by it and eagerly looked for any further books by the author. Eventually Jerusalem Poker was published in a UK paperback in 1980 and I realised that the two novels were part of a series.  The later volumes of the Quartet were only available in US hard covers, so I went to great lengths to acquire copies. This was before the Internet and the books were impossible to find in Australia, so they had to be specially ordered.

When I finally acquired Internet access in 1997, one of the first things I searched for was Edward Whittemore novels, whereupon I learned of his death.

As there was very little information on Edward Whittemore on the Internet, it occurred to me that someone should create a website for him.  That someone was me.  I had  long been wanting to create a website after learning how to use Dreamweaver, so this tribute site was the ideal opportunity. It has gone through three designs in the 12 year period it has been online, and still remains my favourite of all the sites I have created or managed. And it still serves its original purpose; to be a repository of Edward Whittemore information, and a lasting appreciation of his literary oeuvre.  I’ve had lots of help over the years with contributions of articles, photos, ephemera etc. donated by people  across the world.

In the process of creating the Jerusalem Dreaming website I came to communicate with several people who had been personally acquainted with Whittemore, and eventually that led me to attending the launch of his reissued novels in New York in 2002. It was quite an adventure for the sedentary creature I was at the time, and I enjoyed the experience immensely.

gotham invite

I also wrote a long essay on the novels, which was published by the New York Review of Science Fiction in January 2003 – my one claim to publishing glory.

Though my essay was published in the NYRSF, Edward Whittemore’s novels are not in any way Science Fiction, though they have their fair share of magic realism.

It’s good that Open Road Media has taken on the task of publishing the eBooks, as their list is pleasantly catholic, with diverse genres represented. Whittemore is in good company, along with authors such as Barbara Pym, Michael Chabon, Pearl S Buck, Frederick Forsyth, Carl Hiaasen, the list goes on.

Naturally I have quite a large collection of Whittemore books, even though he only had five published, so they represent multiple copies of each of them. I have hard cover first editions, a complete set of the Old Earth Books paperback editions, and others in various languages – French, Dutch and Russian. I’ll no doubt add the eBook versions to my Kindle, so I’ll be able to read them at my whim.

So if you’re looking for books to escape into, books that might even change your life, or make your soul grow – as one Whittemore admirer averred – search no further.  The wonderful books of Edward Whittemore will be readily available again very soon in the most popular eBook formats.


Ann ODyne said...

WOW. Thanks for that new road to go down, and yes, pre-Internet, everybody had to go to great lengths to source anything. It separated those in search of knowledge from the rabble who can now be instantly informed without any effort at all.
So impressed that you have been to The Gotham Book Mart. Patti Smith worked there and I still have little notes she wrote on books I got by mail. She sent a copy of Hey Joe with one order, and that was the last of her in my little world.
My immediate thought on Whittemore is that he was CIA. Does anything bad happen to camels or donkeys in any of his stories? I can cope with anything else in a book but sad animal stuff, although when car Hiaasens' crazy Senator barbecues a suspect's poodle I was able to smirk.
Going to gooSearch now, like the lit-rabble does.

Ann ODyne said...

well of course that 'car' is what my keyboard made out of Carl.
Now I am back from your link and Snap! CIA. Now why do I love all spy literature (even that ex-MI5 woman, and I started with James Mitchells' CALLAN books) but am appalled by the hypocrisy of the actual business, ie America pretending to be squeaky clean while doing every single thing they disdain China and North Korea for doing.

Anne S said...

Ann, the mention of Patti Smith reminded me that on the occasion of the launch at Gotham there was an exhibition of Patti Smith photos on the walls of the room where the event was held. I have photos of the event with PS photos in the background

Don't expect conventional spy novels from EW - his are off beat and very individual.

And as far as I can remember in the books, no nasty things happened to animals, but some very nasty things happen to people. EW's take on the Smyrna massacre is vivid and shocking.