or: The Secret Life of Walter (Witty)*
Contribute your own thoughts or read what others have said.
Walter led a life as adventurous and often mysterious as his books. We welcome your comments on both here.
Be sure to click through the links at right to read the extraordinary memories and deep appreciation that his many friends and fans have posted to date.
* Thanks to Jean Heller for sharing this brilliant headline to her article describing Walter’s “Trailer Trash” book tour.
Today’s (February 28, 2020) BHM Post is dedicated to my mystery writer schoolmate friend, Walter John Satterthwait (March 23, 1946 – February 26, 2020).
During the last year or so of his life, Walter lived what seemed to me to be an amazing adventure that took him from Florida to Greece, to Belgium, to Florida, to Washington state where he died this week. The episode began with his grand plan to write his last book at a place in Greece where he had written one or more books in the past. Although he did not in the end get his book written, he certain inspired me to get down to serious work on a book of my own – one that I intend to dedicate to Walter.
It was my great good fortune to speak often with Walter as he made his way from the US to Greece to Belgium and back to the US. To my delight, Walter fell in love with my great great grandmother, Percy Adams, as I told him her life story. Walter constantly encouraged or perhaps urged me to get on with writing the book.
Another ‘everything’ moment came the day Walter called to discuss with me a profile I had written about another classmate. Anyone listening to our phone call would not have guessed that I have never written a book. Walter had read the profile with a writer’s eye, prepared comments, and patiently and painstakingly went through them with me. I was fascinated because I remembered clearly choosing the specific words I used. Walter let me know he would have made different choices but did not suggest that his choice was better than mine. Best of all, Walter found merit in the craftsmanship of piece. That inspires me.
I will miss Walter but understand that, as he explained in telling me about his “small satori”, he is following his given path.
Farewell, God speed, God bless.
I love this beginning to Sarah Caudwell’s introduction to “The gold of Mayani: The African stories of Walter Satterthwait” (1995).
“The usual address is Poste Restante though seldom for long in the same city or continent. Noting the latest change in overworked address-books, friends of Walter Satterthwait tend to think of him as not merely a man on the move but on the run, keeping, only by constant vigilance and amazing agility, one step ahead of pursuit. By whom or what — disappointed creditors? chagrined lovers? or merely hostile weather conditions? — we are never sure; but we imagine him always as departing suddenly from places, in the early hours of the morning, without luggage save for his faithful word processor.”
Walter slipped off again in the early hours, but what a journey he had!
Here’s how I became acquainted with Walter (I would say “met,” but we never actually met in real life). When my second husband died, he who introduced me to so many books while we were still together, his son very graciously boxed up his library and delivered it to my door. Repackaged it took up nearly one hundred bankers boxes. One day I was going through a box and came across a book called “At Ease with the Dead” by some guy called Walter Satterthwait. It was, of course, Walter’s first Joshua Croft novel. I read it and then read all the rest of his work. Along the way, after reading a particularly felicitous turn of phrase, I searched the internet until I found an email address and promptly emailed him saying, “You used the subjunctive tense! Nobody ever uses the subjunctive tense!” Or words to that effect.
Much to my surprise, Walter wrote back and after months of emailing we finally moved on to phone calls. We knew all the same history, we’d read all the same books and seen all the same movies. Thus a beautiful friendship was born.
Although we never met, we emailed frequently and spent hours on the phone. Walter always said he hated email because he couldn’t be as charming and witty as he could on the phone. Tru dat, but he did pretty well, anyhow. (He also said he hated theater, which I love, because there weren’t any close-ups. I tried to explain that’s what opera glasses were for, but no sale.) Over our brief, twelve-year friendship, we traded books and movies endlessly, always with the words, “Oh, you MUST see/read that!” And he gave me Buddhism. More than anything else, he gave me Buddhism, and so changed my life. What a gift. See? Sometime tense really, really matters.
A year ago I was having a discussion about the unlikelihood of consciousness. It was late, in a bar, and the irony of the subject was certainly lost on me. “Oh yeah, my brother wrote a mystery novel where he mentions ‘matter becoming conscious’.” And then the lights started flickering. I don’t remember if we made last call, but the next day I did remember the conversation and went off in search of the quote. I thought it had been in his first Croft book, Wall of Glass, and I thumbed through it to no avail. Frustrated, in desperation, I Googled ‘Walter Satterthwait matter becomes conscious’. Whoa! Modern technology! It opens up on the page! …in At Ease With The Dead. It’s a great line, on a great page, and I dug out my dusty old copy and reread it. It’s a great book.
What a great memory. Of course, now I’ll have to read it again. Right now.