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.
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.
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.