EXCERPTS FROM THE DUELING INTRODUCTIONS TO THE MADMAN
NORMAN BERROW AS MARK HANSOM
Life itself has quite interesting moments for people, even in the realm of reading! Sometimes strange serendipitous events occur in history.
Certainly lightning struck me twice by the finding of two fantastic literary writers (authors Norman Berrow and Mark Hansom), only to discover and come to the realization, as I speculate (with reason of course!), that they most probably are the same person! And all of this on a lark! It is like discovering Libera with its haunting ethereal sound when doing a search for new choral works in the recent decade of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The situation flashed an instant reminder to me of almost getting struck twice by real lightning during my first hike in my life in the early 1980’s, a major hiking trek up to the top of the two high altitude peaks of Mount Barcroft and White Mountain, California with the resident astronomer Jim Young (James Whitney Young) of the Table Mountain Observatory (TMO) (NASA-JPL-California Institute of Technology) (near Wrightwood, California). Reaching the pinnacle of White Mountain was quite an accomplishment, and with no altitude sickness. Clear cerulean skies in all directions for at least a hundred miles, and a view into Nevada. Wow! A faint rumbling was heard well above and away in the sky, possible inter-air molecular heat lightning with no obvious flash. Wisdom was followed in taking an immediate emergency perambulation, just in case! In fact, running! Try doing that with large razor-edged boulders of granite in an environment with low oxygen.
Within 20 minutes all Hell broke loose—high gale force switching winds, overcast rapidly forming cumulonimbus clouds, heavy rain squalls, sheet rain, snow, significant hail (some of it golf-ball size), and, of course, lightning! Worst of all, I recognized mammatus clouds forming, the precursors to a few spicules of tornado development. At that altitude above the treeline, you are the target! I hit the deck twice upon feeling static electricity on my arms. Each time a thunderbolt from the much larger and mightier god Thor, that somehow managed to be my birth designation as well, found its way striking quite well within 20 feet of me. Makes you appreciate hiking boots! In fact, Life itself! Where was Young? At times out of sight. I have never seen a grown man move so quickly—like greased lightning! The Fright—The Thing—was upon us!
We certainly received a nice surprise from Mother Nature, which is usually much more benign. Clearly supernatural forces! Sorry for all the exclamatory profusions, but you would feel this way too. So much for the experience of what turned out to be the spontaneous formation of a counter-clockwise rotating weather supercell directly above at the time, literally out of nowhere. The situation was followed up with a direct side-of-the-mountain “new river” flash flood, escaping with 3 to 5 seconds!
Weather can change “in the blink of an eye”. A woolly mammoth found that out in the Arctic Siberia polar region while eating buttercup-like flowers on a green meadow. The last Ice Age then ensued. The elephant was frozen in situ in a standing position. A situation that most probably occurred in less time than the brief 20-minute changing climate folly depicted by this writer’s pen.
Why is this relevant? Well, books can also be like storms of great thought. Quite refreshing. Quite exhilarating. Even a thriller. At times, in short, even all Hell can break loose!
Solutions to unsolved mysteries, like this one involving Hansom for 70 years, sometimes come from outside parties with different fields of knowledge and, therefore, different perspectives. These views can lead to new insights which solve a long-time puzzle. Just like the recent beginning 2014 crack of the unsolved translation of the Voynich Manuscript. I should contact Professor Stephen Bax, a linguist and budding plant specialist, to let him know that he is correct in interpreting the dots on one of the pages as the Pleiades. I should tell him also that I suspect that the manuscript may be from the first Galileo Galilei, a physician, from an earlier time when that family had the Bonaiuti surname transitioning to Galilei with said medical healer. The carbon dating would match! We all know in current times the second Galileo Galilei of his telescopic fame with Jupiter and its four main moons on January 07, 1610, that spread like wildfire and shock throughout Europe in his Sidereus Nuncius during that Easter period. Or that coin enthusiast who solved an ancient comet problem. Remember, mysteries can be solved using clues and deductive reasoning, a situation the character Sherlock Holmes (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) I am sure would approve. I cherished all of Doyle’s Sherlockian stories at about age 12. I became a serious reader at age 8.
Now break in my fellow scholars and literary loons: Fender Tucker, Gavin O’Keefe, John Pelan, and Richard A. Lupoff. All are worthy gentlemen who promote the joy of reading in their activities, efforts, and respective spheres of influence. If you will, we all must be lunatics—quite mad, especially now that we and you, dear reader, can relish The Madman by Mark Hansom. The heavenly Moon can and does influence us with its silvern moonbeams. I howl at the thought! I have had some nice correspondence with all of them. I thank them too! I informed them of my Berrow speculation on April 04, 2013.
My book genre of interest is generally natural science, especially astronomy, and science fiction. Maybe you too will become a happy bibliophile, hopefully not like that in Don Quixote where your “friends” or “relatives” try to cure you with book disposal. “A book is a journey” as the colorful ship vessel through a portal bookplate of my father (Edward Vincent Dockweiler, Jr.) declared. I truly agree, and they are also treasures. Just like people are, rather than the opposite our leaders try to fearfully push upon us (although you do have to be vigilantly careful once in a while). Perhaps I am now suffering the next stage of bibliophilia, I really do not know. I have never counted my books. But I at least will admit it is probably a few thousand. Certainly I can be grateful that I do not possess and am burdened with the alleged collection of over one million volumes that my great grandfather (Isidore B. Dockweiler) had which eventually served as the base foundation for two law school libraries. His library was supposedly the largest law library west of the Mississippi River, an exploration ground to many scholars from around the world mythed to be housed in the lower level of two buildings in downtown Los Angeles at the time. And, no, I am not rich. People died in irregular sequences. If any, it was Uncle Sam’d and cousined away. Yes, that is right, I am just like you—a working pauper at large in the world, a modern Oliver Twist.
You would be well to develop a library of works from Ramble House and related. The selection is marvelous and all public libraries should be encouraged to have these works.
THE LAST MYSTERY OF MARK HANSOM
Well, here we are—the penultimate Mark Hansom title.
I have to utter a big “Whoops!”, since I told everyone in the introduction to our edition of Master of Souls that it was to be our final Mark Hansom title. Obviously, this is not the case. So allow me a moment’s indulgence while I explain how these two extra books came about.
I did write that statement about Master of Souls completely in good faith based on the following. I’d been looking for a copy of The Madman for some thirty-plus years, and, without meaning to sound arrogant, with my contacts in the bookselling field, if a book I want doesn’t turn up when I’m beating the bushes for it for three decades, it simply doesn’t want to be found.
The other problem title was The Wizard of Berner’s Abbey—again, three decades of searching for it. I had never seen anything but the abridged Mellifont Press edition being offered for sale. Well, we did publish the text of the Mellifont edition which was (a little) better than nothing. Also, we could always rationalize skipping over The Madman on the grounds that it was non-supernatural.
But wait, you say: a lot of DTP books are not supernatural. Well, I didn’t say it was a good rationalization. However, thanks to a pair of what I would not hesitate to call miracles, neither of these weak excuses would be required of us.
Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice? Within a couple of weeks of each other, my colleague James Doig, supernatural literature scholar supreme, turned up with the text to the first edition of Wizard and one of our favorite customers, Thor Dockweiler, turned up with a copy of The Madman that he was willing to let us use for scanning. So there’s still one more Mark Hansom volume to come: the new edition of The Wizard of Berner’s Abbey. I’m sure that we’ll be offering some sort of special pricing to customers that purchased the inferior volume that we released earlier, as to what that might be, I haven’t a clue, pricing and discounts is not my department.
The only Hansom title not available from Ramble House would then be The Beasts of Brahm, which was published by Midnight House in 2001. However, don’t worry about missing out: as a special to Ramble House customers, I’m offering copies of the hardcover edition of The Beasts of Brahm for just thirty bucks postpaid. Just PayPal the dough to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get a copy right out to you, the copies will be signed by the editor/publisher unless you specifically tell me not to sign your copy. I know that 99.999% of the people realize that an author/editor/publisher /artist signature adds value to a book, but I did meet a fan at a convention who was horrified that people were getting their books “defaced” by having “someone” (the author) “scribble” in them (no judgments, I just report).
As far as the title on hand goes, while not Hansom’s best work, it certainly isn’t a bad book by any means. I do think that with a few minor tweaks he could have gone the supernatural route with the story, but what we have here is a damn fine mystery which in and of itself leads to a couple of more mysteries: as always, focusing on the real identity of the man who wrote as Mark Hansom.
I thought we had finally put that issue to bed with a big question mark still remaining, but my theories seeming more and more plausible the closer we look.
There are a lot of angles to the literary detection game, used most frequently to establish precedence or as in this case to establish identity. When establishing the identity behind a pseudonym, the first rule is “follow the money.” Who was paid for the work? If it was an agency, who were the clients that may have written the work. The next thing is the famous “motive and opportunity”; I say this partly in jest, but there’s a serious side to it. Who has reason to use a pseudonym and do events coincide with the motive? Here are a couple of reasonably innocuous explanations. The motive is generally to milk an additional sale that might not take place without the work being published under a pseudonym, perhaps the primary publisher’s marketing plans are based on releasing a new book from the author every eighteen months. What if the author is writing at a pace that results in a new novel every six months? What does the author do with the extra books? Pile the manuscripts in the corner so that the cat has something to sit on? No, he’s going to want to sell them and he has to sell to another publisher.