"I Killed Hemingway"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark JUN 18, 1999)
This past week I was looking at the entries under alt.book.reviews and there was an intriguing question about books that people have purchased based on the title alone especially those books in which the title was even more appropriate after the book was read. I would have to say that I Killed Hemingway is the perfect example for this exercise. The title for this book works on at least three levels, two of which are obvious and the last you have to finish the book to understand.
Our narrator, Elliot McGuire, is about to turn forty and has been supporting himself through writing biographies. Twenty years earlier, McGuire was expected to be the new authoritative biographer of Hemingway's life. But after only one book, he destroys any chance of ever having respect by the "HA-HA" society (Hemingway Association) again. Of course the reason he was driven to write about Hemingway is his own childhood belief that he killed Hemingway since Hemingway committed suicide three days after receiving scalding correspondence from him.
From writing biographies, McGuire has developed this (overly) intellectual new age kind of theory of "LifeForms" and how people can learn to see them and change their own to live a longer, happier life. (Of course, McGuire can't get his own LifeForm in shape.) Meanwhile, Elliot is hired by his friend Craig, who's in the publishing business, to check out a guy named Eric Markham in Key West who claims to have killed Ernest Hemingway and has written a book about himself and Hemingway in Paris in the 1920s. Elliot accepts the job because he needs to pay rent and believes this will give LifeForms a better chance at the publisher. So he goes to Key West to meet Eric "Pappy" Markham and quickly finds out that there is no transcript and is sucked into ghostwriting for this Key West crazy.
I Killed Hemingway hits at the fear of growing old, if not death itself, as well as a good poke at how Americans will jump at any sordid form of entertainment including biographies and day time talk shows. All in all this is an inventive and humorously provocative tale.
- Amazon reader rating: from 3 reviews
Chapter One excerpt of I Killed Hemingway at the author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Running Your Rock Band: Rehearsing, Financing, Touring, Succeeding (1996)
- I, Elvis: Confessions of a Counterfeit King (1997)
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- Official website for William McCranor Henderson
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About the Author:
William McCranor Henderson worked as a filmmaker, a rock musician, a radio producer, a freelance journalist, and a screenwriter before he turned to fiction. He was born in Charlotte, raised in Chapel Hill, and is a graduate of Chapel Hill High School and Oberlin College in Ohio. He returned to Chapel Hill in 1989 to teach fiction writing at the University of North Carolina. He now teaches at N.C. State University. He is married to writer Carol Henderson and has two daughters, Olivia and Colette.
Along with Clyde Edgerton and Susan Ketchin, he is a member of the Tarwater Band.At 52, accepting a challenge from his editor, Henderson made himself into a plausible Elvis impersonator and wrote of his experience in his book I,Elvis.