I mentioned several months back that a new book was in the offing. Well, the offing has turned on. Aloha Wanderwell: The Border-Smashing, Record-Setting Life of the World’s Youngest Explorer (in-breath) was released on October 11th. Published by Goose Lane Editions, the book is a biography of a Canadian woman who led such an adventurous, swashbuckling life that, were it a novel, you would hurl it at the wall because of its sheer unbelievability: trans-continental adventures, spies, sex, murder, conspiracies, parking on the back of the Sphinx, movie stars… all in one little book. Thankfully, research backs up the story and made it fun to write. Opportunities to tell a tale like this don’t come along very often, so I count myself one lucky writer.
Since this blog is largely about writing craft, I have some blog posts coming up describing the book from a “writing of” perspective – and trust me, that itself was a madcap adventure. In the meantime, my writing partner has created a super website about all things Aloha. You can check that out at:
I was interviewed on CBC this morning. You can check that out here.
On a stormy afternoon in December 1932, a ship leaves the port of Long Beach, California and disappears into a curtain of rain and fog. The boat, a ramshackle 100 foot yacht, veers and pitches over rough seas while a small group of people gather on her port side. They hold tight to railings and listen while a man shouts through the squalls, delivering a eulogy for the dead man at their feet.
At the centre of the little group is a tall, blonde woman dressed in a military style uniform. Behind her black veil she wears an expression that is hard to read: part grief, part anger, part defiance. A few hundred yards away, men aboard another ship watch through binoculars, supposedly monitoring activities, but in fact looking at the statuesque blond whose name and face are on the front page of newspapers around the world. Despite her fame, however, no one knows much about her. How old she is, where she comes from, her relationship to the dead man. Some say she’s driven around the world and has discovered tribes in the Amazon. Others claim she’s a communist revolutionary, or a Hollywood insider, or that she crossed Africa, scaled mountains, survived jail and kidnapping, escaped civil wars and works as a spy. In fact, she is more than all of this. Her name is Aloha Wanderwell. She is one of the greatest explorers of her age.
During her twenty-odd years Aloha has tackled more change and faced more peril than all of Hollywood’s swashbucklers combined. Adventure has been her way of life, her driving passion. Even now, in the cold wet grey, she understands that a larger world is out there: Brazil’s buzzing jungles, India’s colour-sick streets, the sultry cabarets of Paris, the wild dances of African tribes, the cathedral forests of Vancouver Island. These are real places and they live inside her like friends.
Captain Farris’s voice is booming. He reads a passage from Joseph Conrad and then a bugle rings out the taps. Someone is sobbing. The flag is lifted and the sea grass coffin slides down the plank and into the dark waters. There’s a splash, a wash of bubbles, and then nothing. Just a heavy sea and a life vanished. Aloha chokes down her emotions and wonders about what’s next. She could quit, could just go home – except that she has no home. For the last decade at least, home has been the open road, the idea of what might be just over the horizon. Home as a fixed place has not existed for a very long time, perhaps not since her childhood, 1,100 miles north on Vancouver Island. It was eighteen years earlier, before she’d circled the world. Before she’d become famous. Before the US Government started tracking her. Those carefree days before another man’s death had changed her life forever…
[For more information on this story, please Contact me.]