One response to “Favorite Reads from Four Writers, Part 1”

  1. Dick Cummins


    A little more on the literary mystery of who wrote West With The Night.

    This is the unexpurgated Hemingway quote about the book ostensibly written by Beryl Markham:

    “Did you read Beryl Markham’s book, West With The Night? …She has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But this girl, ‘who is to my knowledge very unpleasant and we might even say a high-grade bitch,’ can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers… it really is a bloody wonderful book.”

    Example: “…I had always believed that the important changes in one’s life took place at some crossroad of the world where people met and built high buildings, traded the things they made, laughed and labored and clung to their whirling civilization like beads on the skirt of a dervish.”

    And this about BM from a biography by Errol Trzebinski:

    “How unpleasant could Beryl Markham be? Well — she shunned her only son so effectively that few people even knew he existed. She vandalized the cars of lovers whose attention was straying, to keep them from leaving her. She stole short stories from a South African writer who had hired her as a typist, and tried to pass them off as her own. (Some silk shirts and scarves also disappeared.) As an “irascible old stick” in South Africa, she tormented the jockeys working under her. Trzebinski also suggests that she may have achieved her phenomenal record as a trainer in Kenya by drugging her horses with an African bark extract known as seketet.”

    Okay. So, I think Schumacher probably wrote the book from notes and incidents dictated to him by BM about her life and exploits. Which brings to mind Hemingway’s comment (badly paraphrased) about it not being enough just to have a great gift for story telling, but as important is choosing something very fascinating to write about.

    Schumacher’s “something” was Beryl Markham.

    (As those of us who found Mario Puzo’s stories about the mob fascinating, seeing and hearing up close and personal the good and bad in the worst of his characters!)

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