This Tuesday, for the first time ever, PRINT THE LEGEND, my Hector Lassiter novel about the death of Ernest Hemingway and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover's very real war on authors, returns for its first trade paperback and first reasonably priced eBook publication via the wonderful Betimes Books.
(After this, just two novels and a short story collection remain in the series to appear.)
To prepare for Tuesday's release, a flashback essay penned in 2011 for the hardcover release of PTL. This one originally appeared in Mystery Scene Magazine....
Ernest Hemingway wrote, “All stories, if continued far enough, end in death.” It’s possible Hemingway’s 1961 death by shotgun blast was something other than the suicide history records.
My new novel, Print the Legend, explores Hemingway’s demise: one of the most infamous of American authors’ deaths. Given its violent circumstances, it may also be the most unjustly under-investigated.
If Papa’s fourth wife, Mary Welsh, had actually set out to cast suspicion upon herself in relation to her famous husband’s death, she could hardly have done a better job.
When Ernest’s apparent self-destructive impulses first manifested themselves, Mary took some efforts to protect Hemingway from himself.
But on his first night back from his last round of electroshock treatments administered at the Mayo Clinic — shock treatments approved by Mary for a man who had sustained innumerable concussions and therefore was not a prospect for such radical treatment — Mary reversed course.
Mary locked away her husband’s extensive cache of guns. But she left the key to their hiding place on a shelf above the kitchen sink. She left them there in plain sight the night of July 1, 1961 — the eve of her widowhood.
|Hemingway and Mary,|
on their ill-fated African safari.
When confronted about virtually handing her husband the means to kill himself, Mary argued nobody had a right to deprive a man “his possessions.”
Papa’s last wife was alone with her husband in their Ketchum, Idaho home that bloody morning.
By her own account, Mary didn’t immediately respond to the sound of the twin shotgun blasts — despite the fact the fatal shots were fired directly under her bedroom.
She had vaguely heard, she said, what sounded like “drawers slamming shut.” She claimed to find the carnage later in the morning.
Within a few hours of Ernest’s death, Mary was working the phones — calling friends and family…syndicated columnists. She was engaging in deft spin-doctoring decades before the term was invented.
One of those who received one of the strange, morning-of calls from the newly minted widow was Hemingway friend, William Walton. Many years after that bloody July morning, when confronted by scholar Rose Marie Burwell’s belief Mary wanted her husband dead, Walton confided, “Now that you’ve said it, I will say what I have never said before, but have known since Mary called a few hours after Ernest’s death: yes, she did.”
Mary claimed Papa’s death was a gun-cleaning accident. The physician of record advanced that story, though he also noted there was no evidence of gun-cleaning materials found at the death scene.
The widow Hemingway was also an active participant in an ad hoc committee to determine whether there should be an inquest. Mary carried the day — no official inquiry was made.
Family cleaned up the death scene; the shotgun was destroyed — either by a family friend, or the Hemingway sons — accounts vary.
In the wake of Ernest’s death, Mary became Papa’s literary executrix — revising his manuscripts, re-titling his books…designing his dust jackets and reaping huge financial rewards.
Did Mary murder Hemingway?
Could, perhaps, she have played some other role in his passing?
In Print the Legend, I supply my own theory regarding Hemingway’s death — something other than the one that history records.
THE HECTOR LASSITER SERIES: