A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet: Author’s Notes

The cover of A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet

A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet is best read as an eBook for two reasons. First, you’ll own a book comprised of four novels (written to be read as one work) obtained for the cost of a single eBook ($9.99). Second, via your device you’ll have ready access to something engaging to read when you’ve time to kill (think subway or doctor’s waiting room), when you feel the need to escape 2022!

For a synopsis and to order the Kindle edition, click this link: A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet.

Author’s Notes from A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet:

Annie Proulx has characterized her work, the 736-page Barkskins, as “kind of an old-fashioned book … It’s long; it has a lot of characters … It’s different, but I think people probably miss those books that were written some time ago – the big book that was written with care.” My non-scientific sample of one concurs with the notion that there are people who miss those big books written with care because I am one of those people.

The author at the age when I discovered
Joseph Conrad

It was in 1956 at the age of 9 when I discovered novels, the first of which were Stevenson’s Treasure Island and DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe, the copies that I read having been given to my father when he was a boy. At 11, during my first exploration of a high school library left behind at a newly configured junior high school, I encountered Conrad’s The Shadow-line, which cemented my lifelong devotion to the genre: the longer and more intricate the telling the better! Anyone reading this tome who is familiar with the three aforementioned titles will recognize the homage A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet pays to 19th and early 20th Century novelists and to exotic settings.

Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Henry Fielding (The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling remains my favorite novel), Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoevsky were among my favorite novelists during high school and college, and I still return to their works when I become bored with the minimalism and/or too prevalent fantastical settings of today’s popular novelists.

Karl Myers in 1956

Unless one’s name is as recognizable as Annie Proulx, the conventional (and accurate) wisdom of the moment is that a 350,000-word manuscript is likely never to be seen by the eyes of literary reps – but if, like me, one is a gentleman writer (analogous to a gentleman farmer), there is nothing to stop one from getting straight to the writing of a very long, old-fashioned book, filled with lots of characters. A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet is one of those books.

The Quartet is comprised of four novels in the Myers/Benton Chronicles that were written to be read as one work. I have endeavored to write as accurately as possible the physical settings, historical contexts, social conditions, and manners of the 1950s and 1960s, and I have included mention of a few actual persons and events from the mid-20th century, which allows me to place the novels in the M/B Chronicles in the genre of Historical Fiction.

William “Billy” Benton

I would like readers to understand that in the early 21st century, one of the difficult things about writing historical fiction set in the 1950s and 1960s is knowing that the portrayal of some behaviors and language common to the time will be offensive to contemporary readers. For example, the use of “Indian,” “boy,” “Jap,” “colored,” and “nigger,” are pejorative and offensive designations that may accompany behaviors that reflect the too prevalent prejudices of that time. Readers will also encounter analogous comments and actions that reflect misogyny.

Alas, the inclusion of such things in A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet is essential if I am to portray characters that reflect those times as accurately as I can. The 1950s and 1960s were not the golden decades many older Americans seem to long for; rather, behind the guises of Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best, most Americans lived and perpetuated without discomfiture behaviors born of the toxic, white male domination to which our country had been subject—and sadly, remains so—since before its inception.

Brittany “Bambi” Macey

Readers who are offended by what contemporary censors would identify as “adult” language and situations should read no further than the period at the end of this sentence because you will find such things in A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet. I have recorded several incidents of physical intimacy that are germane to the telling of the saga, but readers will discover that the telling is not explicit; rather, what transpires is implicit because I believe that a mature reader’s imagination will do a much better job of filling in the blanks than could any author. While this is not a book for children or for still-impressionable adolescents, in this day and age there are mature adolescents who will identify with William Benton’s and Brittany “Bambi” Macey’s joys and tribulations.

I have created characters, including Karl Myers, Bill Benton, Reginald and Mirabelle Rhodes, Bambi Macey, and Mahana Tetuanui who may not fit justifiable stereotypes of people who led “lives of quiet desperation” during the 1950s and 1960s. Research and personal experience support my conviction that during those decades there were many men and women among us upon whom these characters might have been based, men and women who possessed laudable qualities of courage and tolerance, souls who also loved recklessly and passionately. I am thankful that my formative years in the 1950s and early 1960s have provided me with an understanding of the period in time in which my work is set.

Mahana Tetuanui

Sadly, writing the novels that comprise A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet in the glare of contemporary America has illuminated the reality of there being too many Americans today whose deleterious prejudices remain as toxic as they were during the decades when I was growing up. I hope the use of offensive language and behaviors mentioned above will enrich and not detract from your enjoyment of A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet, and I hope each character you meet will become as meaningful and real to you as each of them is to me.

A final clarification regarding the title of this book, which acknowledges it is the work of a “gentleman writer,” and my parenthetical reference above that such a writer is analogous to a “gentleman farmer” (a landowner who farms for the sheer joy of it rather than for profit): please know that I have cultivated that foundation of joy to write this old-fashioned book.

For a synopsis and to order the Kindle edition, click this link: A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet.

Click on the image above to learn more about the author

The featured image and images of Jeff Lee are the property of the author and may not be used without the expressed permission of Jeffrey Lee Byrem. The images representing fictional characters in A Gentleman Writer’s Quartet are copyright-free images from Pixabay.

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