You know how every once in a while you come across someone whose life sounds like something out of an over-the-top movie? Have you ever heard of the novelist F. van Wyck Mason?
Born into an old patrician Boston family, Mason grew up in Berlin and Paris, where his grandfather was in the Foreign Service. At the age of 16, he ran away from home to fight in World War I, somehow managing to enlist in the French Army, where he distinguished himself so well he rose to become an officer and earned the French Legion of Honor. He then went home to prep school (one has to wonder how that worked out) and, while earning his BS from Harvard, was arrested for murder (it was a mistake). He then started an import business and spent years traveling the world, trekking through Russia, Asia, Africa, and the West Indies; he even spent nine weeks on a caravan in the Sahara and rode across South America on a horse. And then, at the ripe old age of 26, he decided he wanted to be a writer.
While I probably wouldn't like it if I were to encounter it for the first time today (talk about politically incorrect!), there is no denying that Rivers of Glory is one of those books that had a tremendous impact upon my development as a writer. Out of curiosity, I intend to track down some of those old Hugh North books. What's amazing to me is how completely Van Wyck Mason is forgotten today, given how successful he was in his time--probably because Hollywood never translated any of his works to the silver screen. Have you ever heard of him?