Here is a cautionary note from my author, mysteriously edited out of the book about me.
Could be important. You be the judge.
(And, if you’ve already read The Secret Viking, bear with me.)
“Defying logic and advice and possibly good sense as well, let us interrupt this book before it begins. A few prefatory words are in order.
“Though my name appears on the cover of this volume and I am described as its author, I cannot, in all conscience, take credit for what you are about to read. Truth to tell, I did not write the tales that follow. They are the work of Seth Whittle, a former colleague, with whom I taught in the Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1968 and 1969.
“As both teachers and writers, Seth and I had a great deal in common. During my two years at Hopkins, we often shared notes, becoming friendly in the process. After I left, Whittle also moved on and I lost track of him. No one seemed to know where he’d gone or what had become of him. The university records were no help. Whittle appeared to have dropped off the map. Though I tried repeatedly, I was unable to locate him. That might have been the end of it, but for two things that happened more than twenty years later. First, I received a manuscript mailed from Mumbai, with the stories that appear here. There was no accompanying letter of explanation, only a yellow post-it on the cover page that read, “When we taught at Hopkins, you reacted positively to some of my shorter pieces. I thought you might like these, as well. I have no plans to publish them. I am currently writing screenplays for Indian films.” There was no signature.
“Rather cryptic, I thought. I didn’t know what to make of it. Still, I read the stories, enjoyed them, put them in a file and forgot about them.
“Then, about five years ago, the media suddenly went berserk over the discovery by a University of Toronto English professor of a 1300-year-old Viking, Thorsten the Rood, who had stopped aging at 44 and was still secretly living in our midst. He had hidden himself behind a series of identities over his long life. And one of those identities, I was startled to learn, was my old colleague, Seth Whittle.
“I immediately tried to contact Whittle, or Thorsten as he was now revealed to be, but without any success. He did not respond to my messages or acknowledge me in any way.
“In any case, there I was with a stack of unpublished stories by the long-lived Viking in my possession. At that point, I felt I had to take advantage of the media phenomenon generated by the disclosure of the long-lived Viking and to publish his stories crediting him as the author.
“When I knew Thorsten as Seth Whittle, he used to call these pieces short novels. I can understand why. In some ways, they feel like short stories that want to be expanded into longer works. Still, you will be the final arbiter and I hope you enjoy reading them. But if you don’t, we’ll all be able to lay the blame on a 1300-year-old Viking who, once again, is nowhere to be seen.”
So, what does all of this mean?
You may well wonder.
But I couldn’t possibly comment.
Perhaps The Secret Viking will offer more clues.