I have noticed on the Jerusalem Dreaming Message Board that most of the messages have to do with how people came to discover Edward Whittemore's books, many with an interesting story to tell. I thought it would be a good idea to collect all these stories and first impressions on one page on this web site.

Therefore, visitors to this site are invited to record their first impressions of Edward Whittemore's books.

Please send contributions to Anne by email. They can be a Word attachment or the body of the email message. Please make the subject line "EW First impression", so that I don't mistake your message for spam and delete it.

After commenting on the Jerusalem Dreaming Message Board, Nick de Gooijer from Holland has permitted me to add his First Impression to this page:

For me, it started in 2005, when me, the Mrs. and the dog went shopping in Alkmaar .

Because of the dog I wasn't allowed in many stores (actually, we weren't allowed in any store except the pub) and while the Mrs. was in a clothing store I found myself outside a bookstore.

Outside, in a metal crate, a ton of books were thrown together all priced 1 or 2 Euro's. It was drizzling, books got wet and I saw a lot of copies of one book lying there - something called 'Sinaï Tapestry'. I picked it up, ran through it (I love reading & history) and thought well, for one Euro..

My wife got the jacket, but what I got was a lot more than I bargained for.

Lying in bed that night, I remembered leaving the book in the car. She told me to forget about it, get it tomorrow but I got out and took it to bed as a night read. Couldn't put it away, as if the writer was whispering this unbelievable story straight into my ear, unlike anything I've ever read before.

Nights after that I was looking forward of returning to Whittemore's Jerusalem, and it wasn't until I was finished - that unforgettable scene with Stern - that I found out there were three more volumes. I went back to the book store where I got the first one, everything was gone, it didn't fly they told me, try the internet & good luck.

I completed the quartet, holding them as one of my fondest reading memories and spreading out each copy that I find for birthday's, Sinterklaas and Kerstmis, telling the receiver to have a taste of this. There are more books I hold dear - a lot of them actually!- like Moby Dick, Flanagan's Goulds Book of Fish and Cees Nooteboom for instance, but Edward Whittemore, maybe because of his obscurity (ie. availability & fame, to name a few good reasons) to me is a torch.

Nick de Gooijer - February 2018

I am very pleased to add a new First Impression from Melody Lesser whose contribution is as follows:

I first became acquainted with Edward Whittemore as a high school student when my father, who was a voracious reader, gave me "Jerusalem Poker" after he'd finished it. I was immediately transported to the world Whittemore created and devoured every word in a couple of days.

Whittemore's haunting images and outrageous characters haunted me and I scoured bookstores in a semi-successful search to find other books by him. It became increasingly frustrating to me to be told by so many bookstore employees to look for "Jerusalem Poker" in the "Games" section. Didn't they know of the genius that was Whittemore? Several years later, The Strand Bookstore in New York City proved to be a Whittemore goldmine and there I purchased my second copy (hardcover!) of "Jerusalem Poker," "Sinai Tapestry" and "Quinn's Shanghai Circus."

My limited knowledge of the author and his works led me to believe - until I found your site - that this was his trilogy. (Imagine my joy to learn that I have two books yet to devour!)

Like several of the other Whittemore fans on this site, I told everyone who'd listen of the marvelous universe and wonderful characters Whittemore created. I'd loan my books to only the most trusted of friends, and continue my hunt in the hopes of buying copies for those who inhabited my immediate world. I was on a mission to introduce Edward Whittemore to everyone I knew. I still am, thirty years later.

When I learned that he had died, I cried, so sad that Whittemore's unique voice was silenced.

I cherish my four overly read and tattered Whittemore books. I will never loan them - not after one of them didn't come back to me. When I first discovered "Jerusalem Poker," I read and reread it, always discovering some new insight, turn of phrase, characterization. To read Whittemore's account of the Smyrna massacre is to be forever changed. The images he evokes are haunting and palpable and one can never, ever afterward, be blase about any war.

I was so glad to find your site. Whittemore's name came up - brought up in conversation by me - recently and I promised a friend I'd try to track down one of his books for her. Imagine my delight at learning that two of his books are new to me too. I can't wait to get my hands on them.

I will continue touting the works of Edward Whittemore to all who'll listen. This brilliant, insightful, funny, and immensely gifted writer deserves to live on eternally.

Melody Lesser - December 2007

This latest entry for First Impressions is from Rienk Tychon with his story of how he discovered Whittemore.

As a Dutch publisher of commercial fiction I thought I knew a bit about American letters, especially of the twentieth century, commercial and literary, bestsellers and cult novels. The operating word here is a bit. I had never even heard about Whittemore. I first read about him when our US scout sent me Paul Di Fillipo's article in The Washington Post. I was immediately intrigued and decided to do a background check. So I found Jerusalem Dreaming - one of the best fan sites I have ever seen - and became even more intrigued by the wealth of information on offer, the people who endorsed the books and the comparisons with authors and books that I loved. It was clear that I had to read the books. I probably could not publish them on my suspense and fantasy list, but they sounded like just the thing I love.

So I found out which literary agent represented the estate and asked their subagent to send me the books. I received all five, and immediately started on QUIN'S SHANGHAI CIRCUS. It blew me away. SINAI TAPESTRY was even better, with wonderful sentences that you want to memorize, a parade of funny and tragic characters and scenes and an ending that literally moved me to tears. It was unlike anything I had ever read and breathtakingly good.

That was when I decided that no matter what, I would publish Whittemore. Maybe the books did not fit the Luitingh list, but I vowed that I would find a way to make them fit.

So I did some thinking and decided to take a leap of faith and offer for the full Jerusalem Quartet. Although Tom Wallace believed that at least QSC was published in Holland, I have found no trace in any bibliography or at our national library, so I don't think Whittemore has ever been published in Dutch. The agent accepted my offer and we were in business. I offered for the Jerusalem Quartet because it is more topical than ever, with the Middle East being the powder keg that it is, the Israeli-Palestine conflict harder to unravel than ever and our fascination with Islam, fundamentalism, terrorism at an all time high. For understanding how the Middle East became what it is today, the books are more illuminating than a library of non-fiction. In comparison QSC is less topical, reads like a debut (a great one though) and is harder to pitch, though when the Jerusalem Quartet finds a readership, QSC can easily be published as 'the seed to the quartet'. That is the rational part of how a publisher thinks.

The irrational part is thinking about this venture at all, as my boss was quick to point out. How could I buy even one twenty-year old book that had never been a bestseller anywhere. Let alone four! And worse yet, they were genre-defying books! (Luitingh, my list, was split off from Luitingh~Sijthoff - Holland's biggest publisher of commercial fiction - mainly to publish Big Books with more success). Had I not stated that Luitingh was intended as a real genre list of suspense, thrillers, horror, fantasy and science fiction? Where did these books fit in? Was I mad? Had I not considered the huge investment of the complex and expensive four book translation? And apart from that the author had passed away, so we could not even get him over! And he was not even published by a big publisher anywhere!

All true, but to me publishing is also about dedication, about pushing the envelope and not always doing the same old thing. Even in present times, when accounting and marketing seem all powerful, it is still about idea's, about creativity and transformation. The unprecedented and totally unexpected rise of J.K. Rowling, Alice Sebold and Dan Brown in the past years were cases in point - as were the declining sales of 'brand name' authors who had become stuck in a form, people like Grisham. In the end publishing is about connecting with people, about transformation.

Which means that even though some things may seem like a puzzle or even a daunting undertaking, if you get excited and can get other people excited then a process can start and you can reach a tipping point in which books can become a success. Which is not the same as 'let the force be with you' or hope for a miracle, you have to think hard and work at it - and even then you will have your share of failures. I have not been able to find a big Dutch audience for "Cryptonomicon", and that still bugs me, because it is a great book - in the tradition of Whittemore - and it also means that we can't publish Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. So you do need a share of luck too. With Whittemore, we have gotten that share of luck..

When thinking of Whittemore, I considered that he truly was ahead of his time. In Locus Gary K. Wolfe said that the 'crypto-historical novel' has now almost grown into a genre by itself and he was right. He mentioned Tim Powers, Christopher Priest and Neal Stephenson, but Ian Pearse's "Instance of the Fingerpost", Katherine Neville's "The Eight", Don DeLillo's "Underworld" and Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" also spring to mind. Quite a few of those books have been quite successful.

SINAI TAPESTRY and JERUSALEM POKER are also magical realism and though much more influenced by the 1001 Nights, they are comparable with Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "Hundred Years of Solitude" or the work of John Nichols or even Neil Gaiman, who is published by Luitingh.

And these are spy novels as well - wacky and off the wall, satirizing Whittemore's former profession - but nevertheless he has rightfully been compared with John Le Carré and Graham Greene. Both published by Luitingh~Sijthoff by the way.

So all in all there were a wealth of ways to choose on how to go about it all. Indeed, Luitingh is not a literary publisher, so just tagging it as literature was barred for us, and calling these books thrillers or even literary thrillers has been compared to the description of "Ulysses" as a walk through Dublin (thank you, Gary K. Wolfe) but when reaching for an audience, a publisher must be pragmatic and try any way he can.

So I started by calling the literary translator who is responsible for the Dutch editions of John Le Carré's books: Rob van Moppes. He promised to read and to consider taking on this job - not just SINAI TAPESTRY, but all four books, one a year. A couple of days later he told me that he loved it and would consider it an honor to work on it. While he was gearing up for Whittemore the surprise arrival of a new Le Carré, "Absolute Friends", had to take precedence, but even this was lucky because the extra time gave him the opportunity for more research and more tinkering with Whittemore's unique tone of voice, so important in a translation. During his work on SINAI TAPESTRY we were in frequent contact and he has become more enthusiastic while time has passed. He is now a convert, and considers this project his magnum opus - the most challenging but also the most interesting and invigorating books he has ever worked on.

Meanwhile, I had bought two books by an unknown American author. A young, living thriller author - don't get me wrong. One of these books had failed two years earlier and the other was not even written yet. Apart from the US publisher, only an English publisher had taken this author on, and even there it had not worked. The author was Dan Brown, and the still unwritten book was "The Da Vinci Code". By now, everyone knows about the phenomenon, and how it traveled. In Holland DVC became a big bestseller for us and that in the first year of launching a new list. A stroke of luck, plus some thinking and a lot of work.

Quite some time after my first discussion with the translator I talked to one of the designers of our edition of "The Da Vinci Code", Pete Teboskins. I gave him SINAI TAPESTRY and information on the other books and asked for a design that would also fit the other three books. He liked what he read, but had a real hard time with it. His head was spinning with images!

We had a look at all the different covers on JERUSALEM DREAMING but could not find a lead on what would work in Holland at this time. In the end I told him that I wanted the feel of the British covers of Instance of the Fingerpost and Quicksilver and that it might be an idea to look at Renaissance paintings of religious scenes, given all the biblical connotations in SINAI TAPESTRY.

Peter came up with the perfect fit: an angel delivering revelations, combined with a hand that holds a quill, with in the background a Koran cover. The lettering of the tile is influenced by the Arabic script. And after delivering this cover Peter asked if he could keep the book a little longer, as he wanted to finish it. In all the years that we work together he had never asked that! By the time he returned the book, Peter had become the third Dutch believer.
< Cover for Sinai Tapestry (click for a larger image)

The new type of brochure that we used to drive home to press and booksellers that "The Da Vinci Code" was a Very Big Book Indeed, had been so well received that we wanted a similar brochure for SINAI TAPESTRY. To complicate matters, it should have a different feel because the strategy for this book was to first generate lots of free publicity, instead of heavy advertising as with DVC. Peter's brochure was a big success with all my colleagues, who immediately became much more interested in this mad venture. The brochure had the title THE DISCOVERY OF EDWARD WHITTEMORE - a wink to a well known bestseller of Holland's leading literary lion, called "The Discovery of Heaven".

When that brochure came in from the printers I was away, to visit London ahead of the London Book Fair, which I did not attend because of my daughter's first birthday. I had talked to a couple of English editors about Whittemore and had shared some copies of SINAI TAPESTRY with them, hoping they would take to it as I had - because I am convinced that it can get a different reception now than before, especially in the UK. My colleagues gave these people the brochure during the fair, so hopefully something will come of it.

By then our sales reps had received part of the translation (it still is not completely ready) and they loved what they read, which made them really confident in their talks with the bookshops who of course had to order the book. They tell me it was an easy sell, because when the bookshops saw the brochure they said: 'Oh, this is for the Dan Brown audience? Give me the same amount then.' Of course Whittemore is just for part of the Dan Brown audience, the part that is into conspiracies, religious truths and fallacies and interesting historical, political tidbits. But if we can reach even a tenth part of that audience I will be a happy man.

This week, the English thriller writer Mo Hayder was in Holland to promote her great new thriller Tokyo, which among other things is about the rape of Nanking. Of course I gave her a copy of QSC and when I saw her the next day she was hooked. And thrilled to have discovered such a great writer. As am I. As I hope many people in Holland will be. We publish in July 2004. Wish me luck!

Rienk Tychon - April 2004

With this rave, Brandy Leigh inspired The Atlantic Online Forum Virtual Reading Group to choose Sinai Tapestry as their book for July 2003 . Thank you Brandy for allowing me to reproduce it here.

I've got to leap in here at the mention of Edward Whittemore, whose erudition and perversity, passion and compassion and sheer idiosyncrasy left their stamp on me twenty years ago. The novels Sinai Tapestry and Jerusalem Poker are particularly brilliant and strange. I think they entered my bloodstream at the time I read them and nourished my personality for years thereafter, since they simultaneously enlarged and darkened my sense of the world. There are instances scattered throughout the novels of moments that made my eyes tear up and my hair stand on end, both at once. There is so much magic and pleasure to be gotten out of those books, such dark humor and grief for the human condition. Oh, and let us not forget pure deadpan weirdness. Good heavens, I'm raving. It's partly because no one I know has ever mentioned or even heard of Edward Whittemore before. He is so underappreciated that I can hardly bear to think about it, and the fact that this is the lot of most authors in their own lifetimes (and after) doesn't help. There is also the impressionableness of youth to take into account; I was very open to influence when I first encountered his books, far more so than now. Phew. Nothing like fanning the flame of an old love to set me dancing on tabletops, brandishing the torch. In public, no less.
Brandy Leigh, July 2003

Thanks to Jonathan Briggs for the following contribution:

On his discussion board at Night Shade Books, Jeff VanderMeer put together a list of 60 essential works of fantasy (including three Whittemore titles). I sampled a couple of Jeff's essentials and found them to be excellent reads, so I've spent the past month or so trying to track these books down. Unfortunately, a handful of them have gone out of print, so I decided to try my luck at a used bookstore. I was searching through great piles of unorganized books with a printout of Jeff's list in my hands. I didn't have any success, but the owner noticed me and came over to see whether she could help. She scanned my list and spotted the Whittemore titles. "Wow," she said, "Ed Whittemore. He was good. Almost too good. Those've been out of print forever." "No, they're back," I said. "A small press put all of em back into print." I told her I was halfway through "Quin's Shanghai Circus," and how much I was enjoying my first taste of Whittemore. And as we were talking, this guy wandered over from the next row of bookshelves: "Excuse me, are you talking about the guy who wrote 'Sinai Tapestry' and 'Jerusalem Poker.' I loved those books and heard there were two more, but I could never find them. Did he ever finish the series?" So I pointed them both in the right direction to revisit Whittemore and hopefully helped sell a couple more books for the Old Earth folks.

Jonathan Briggs, 8 April 2003

A contribution from Mike Simanoff

I came across Edward Whittemore the prosaic way--a recommendation from one of my favorite writers. I read Jeff VanderMeer's essay "In Pursuit of the Imagination: 9 Elusive Books" and couldn't resist:

"The four books which make up The Jerusalem Quartet are among the richest and most profound in imaginative literature...and also among the most obscure, out of print for more than ten years."

I have to admit that Whittemore's obscurity appealed to me almost as much as the recommendation. I've always loved tracking down hard-to-find books. I found Sinai Tapestry and Jerusalem Poker online and waited patiently for the Old Earth Books reprints, which I bought at Gotham Book Mart in New York City, to complete my collection.

I read Whittemore breathlessly, and I was transformed.

As someone who grew up in three different countries, Whittemore's obsession with rootlessness and exile appeal to me personally. So does the art of his precise prose and cunning plots. His characters are descended from Turgenev's Bazarov and from other literary superfluous men and nihilists, filtered through Nanking, Smyrna, and the whole dirty history of modernity.

The books, I discovered, could hardly be more relevant. Whittemore's warm-hearted iconoclasts and rogues are linked to things real and unreal, to each other, and to all of us.

Mike Simanoff, February 2003

A contribution from Carlos Cordeiro

A change in routine last night, caused me to wait for my ride home at the local county public library. As I rummaged in the discarded "for sale" books on display there, I came across the unknown Mr Whittemore's 1979 Avon Books paperback edition of "Jerusalem Poker." A quick reading of the back cover had me hooked! And, for only 50 Us cents I became the proud owner of what I now know to be a precious find. I started reading it this morning on the bus on the way to work. I was struck by the Pynchon-meets-Powers writing style: a bit familiar yet somehow different. Needless to say, I became "bewitched" by Mr Whittemore's wordsmithing... Inevitably, I had to search the Net for more information on this author and his work. And now, my appetite whetted, I must embark on the hunt for his other works.

Carlos Cordeiro, 11 October 2002

David Cozy describes his first encounter with Whittemore's books

Of course one wants to have located one's first Whittemore novel in a venue appropriately exotic-a North-African souk, say, or barring that in a dusty corner of a used-book store run by an appropriately crusty proprietor and cat. It's been years, however, since I've traveled in North Africa, and I live an ocean away from appropriately independent used-book mongers, so my recent first encounter with Whittemore and his work came about in a fashion much more mundane perhaps. I discovered Whittemore in that modern-day souk, the one which contains, if one can only locate them somewhere in its labyrinthine lanes, the largest collection of used books in the world. I refer, of course, to the Internet. But just as it is all too easy to get oneself so lost in the souk in Fez that the stall where one saw, only the day before, the perfect djellabah, rug, or English novel is no longer where one was certain it had been, so it will be all but impossible for me to retrace exactly the route I took to Whittemore. There are, however, a landmark or two encountered along the way which remain lodged in my all too random access memory.

Just as in used-book stores one discovers books which, until they are discovered, one didn't know one wanted-needed-, and just as these moments of serendipity are, in fact, the greatest pleasure these bookstores can offer, so it is with the Internet. With this in mind, finding myself one day with time and a computer I began entering phrases like "forgotten authors" and "neglected writers" into my search-engine much as I might once have dug through forgotten piles of neglected volumes in used-book shops. I wanted to see what would turn up.

I recall passing through The Lost Club Journal, a site which bills itself as a "Journal of Literary Archeology" and which, according to the home page, "focuses principally on the unheralded and unsung, any authors and books which lack bestseller status, and take readers' fancy." There are articles at the site about several unsung scribblers but, alas, Whittemore is not among them. (He should be; perhaps someone feels like writing an essay and submitting it to them?) For those interested in becoming acquainted with such authors, many of whom are even less known than Whittemore, the Lost Club Journal is located at:

I may have also wandered past the page that contains a nice article by Rick Kleffel called "Midday in Jerusalem: Weird Serial Fiction With Middle Eastern Settings" and contains a perceptive few paragraphs on Whittemore. Kleffel does a nice job of placing Whittemore's books in a context which also includes works such as Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet. I can't swear that this was the page that first made me aware of Whittemore, but it might have been. Kleffel's article is at:

On the other hand, maybe not. Rather, I think I somehow drifted into a site containing well-known author and (I now realize) Whittemore enthusiast Jeff VanderMeer's piece "In Pursuit of the Imagination: An Overview of Nine Elusive Books." Whittemore's were among these elusive books, and it was in reading about them that, I am nearly certain, I first heard of Whittemore and his oeuvre. (The article-actually just the first half of it-is at: And once I'd become intrigued with Whittemore it wasn't long, of course, before I washed up at this site, and then moved on to various used-book emporiums where I attempted to acquire copies of the texts. (I've still only managed to find the first three of the five at congenial prices, so I'm eagerly awaiting the republication of Whittemore's complete works.)

I look forward to reading the last two books of the quartet.

All the Best,

David Cozy
Chigasaki, Japan 2002

Jeff Topham describes his first meeting with Edward Whittemore

I first met Edward Whittemore in a bar. It was 1993, and I was in the third year of an increasingly aimless pursuit of a master's degree at the University of Illinois. Books were my life then, and I look back with great fondness on a time when I was surrounded by a group of people who believed that books and words and ideas were important. That they mattered. So there I was, sometime after midnight, chain-smoking and discussing books with the impassioned earnestness reserved for those who are either full-time students or who have had too much to drink. I was, I recall, enthusing to a friend about Thomas Pynchon's V., which I had just finished reading. My colleague, however, was unimpressed. "Fuck Pynchon," he slurred. "Edward Whittemore."

Edward Whittemore? Who the hell was Edward Whittemore?

In my mailbox a few days later appeared a battered hardcover copy of Quin's Shanghai Circus. I read it, put it aside for a few days, then read it again. It was astounding. I tracked down Sinai Tapestry and devoured it, amazed to find it was an even more accomplished novel than the first. I simply could not believe that here, in these dog-eared books then 20 years old, I had evidence of a masterful writer who had, for all intents and purposes, vanished from literary memory. His obscurity was unfathomable. This was genius-I was certain of it-but with a few exceptions, no one I talked to had even heard of him.

I continued to cherish Whittemore and his novels for the next nine years, taking every opportunity to recommend his work to anyone I thought would appreciate it. The difficulty, of course, was in getting them the books-the physical evidence to prove that my mad tale of a forgotten genius languishing in obscurity was not just unjustified hyperbole.

I had, in fact, begun to wonder about it myself until I saw Jeff VanderMeer's column on Whittemore in Fantasy & Science Fiction last year. Most of Whittemore's books had long since vanished from the library stacks, but I did find ragged copies of both Quin's Shanghai Circus and Sinai Tapestry -the first two Whittemore novels I ever read. Reading them again, I was delighted to find that they remained as complex, as powerful, and as weirdly beautiful as I remembered. I came to Whittemore by way of Pynchon, and as I reread these novels, I was struck by some points of similarity: the narrative complexity, the easy mingling of the sacred and the profane, an uncanny ability to mesh tragedy and farce. The comparisons, however, obscure as much as they reveal, and Whittemore's work remains sui generis. His novels might not possess the scope of Pynchon's, but they are both more controlled and more finely crafted. At his best, Whittemore is as good as they come. He is, in my opinion, one of the finest American writers of the last 50 years. His work is a treasure, and he has not been forgotten.

Jeff Topham - 6 September 2002

A contribution from Jeff VanderMeer

I discovered Edward Whittemore's fiction as a sophomore in high school in Gainesville, Florida. I had a habit in those days of reading the spine of every book of fiction in every used bookstore. I trawled for books. Usually, this completist approach yielded little in the way of exotica, but one day, in the oldest used bookstore in town, I came across a battered paperback with the title JERUSALEM POKER. If not for that title, I might have passed it by. But something about the title JERUSALEM POKER held my attention. To my teenage imagination, it meant something--something important. Something exotic. Something rich. I pulled the book out and the cover intrigued me enough to read the description on the back cover. A 20-year poker game for control of the holy city. A man who might or might not be 7,000 years old. I knew I had found something amazing. I was reading books like Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus at the time and I knew eccentric and good when I saw it.

I bought the book, took it home, devoured it, and was never the same again. Some books change you so you are no longer who you were before. I knew I wasn't even close to being able to write fiction like that--the audacity of the way Whittemore played with time and place!--but it sent literal chills down my spine to realize that such a thing could be accomplished in fiction.

After that, I grimly tracked down Whittemore's other fiction. I say grimly because it was already apparent to me then that he was not a popular author. And given the brilliance of what I had read, my amplified teenage sense of justice said: This is not fair. Not fair at all.

When I'd read all of his books, I went on a one-man salvage mission. Everywhere I went, in every used bookstore, I sought out his books. I bought every single copy I could find, usually for a couple of dollars, even the hardcovers. I redistributed them. I sent them to friends, to relatives. Anyone who I thought would care as much as I cared about these books. I thought doing so protected them, by delivering them into libraries where they would be appreciated, where they would be looked after.

I'm still doing that today, although copies are harder to find. It makes me very sad sometimes to think of such an amazing writer being so difficult to track down. This is one reason I am so happy about the reprints. Because it simply isn't fair that such a talent isn't widely available to everyone.

Jeff VanderMeer 2002

How I came to discover Edward Whittemore

I first discovered the writings of Edward Whittemore in 1979. The book was Sinai Tapestry, which I fell in love with and read with amazement and delight. I'd picked it up in a small basement book shop, which I had the habit of frequenting because they had a good collection of fiction and also got their new books earlier than any of the other bookstores I regularly visited. The book was the British paperback version; the cover was rather uninspiring and had some ridiculous reference to "The Lord of the Rings," so it was the blurb on the back cover that drew me to the book. The blurb said "An epic hashish dream…cosmic …fabulous…droll and moving". Just my cup of tea. I eagerly awaited the appearance of Jerusalem Poker and snatched it off the shelf as soon it was released in 1980, again in a British paperback. I was certainly not disappointed in this second foray into the mind of Edward Whittemore. What I loved about the books were the quirky characters, the Middle East setting , the rhythms of the prose and the overall craziness of the story. I found out that Quin's Shanghai Circus was still in print at that time so I managed to acquire the book in a hard cover edition. Also at this time a fellow worker found the first two Jerusalem novels in hardcover on a remaindered books table and purchased them for me for $2.00 each. They remain treasured possessions, along with the letter I received from Whittemore in 1981.

An extra effort was needed to find the last two books of the Quartet, as they were never released in Britain, which was where most Australian booksellers acquired their stock. However, it was always possible to order American novels from specialist bookshops of which there were a few and so I eventually owned the full Quartet in hard cover.

Twenty or so years later as it now is, I still love the books as much as ever and have re-read them many times with as much enjoyment as the first time. In fact the books strike me as still being amazingly relevant in the 21st Century with the Middle East being a global hot spot again, as it was twenty years ago.

Now that all five of Whittemore's books will be back print in the near future, it is encouraging to think that they will be read by more people, a whole new generation, and that Edward Whittemore will be finally valued for the writing genuis he undoubtedly was.

Anne Sydenham 2002

The first contribution comes from Vladimir from Russia -

5 years ago I was in Israel and lived at my friend's house. There was a small charity shop, where you could buy any book for 1 shekel (25 cents). At that time their bookshelf was very short. So I could look through every book. And I bought several ones. And Jerusalem Poker as well. I liked it very much.
I have some experiense as a translator (I published my translation of Go To the Widowmaker
by James Jones). And I decided to translate Whittemore 2 years ago. But I couldn't published it in Russia. And at that time I couldn't find anything about the author and licensor. It's you who helped me very much.

As a matter of fact I'd lost any hope. Now my Israeli friends found small publishing house. And they want to publish it in small edition. So I wrote to Israel that I can't find licenser, so there's no hope to publish my translation. I sent a fax and switch on Internet's Altavista. Your site was 3rd or 4th. Yesterday I had a happy day. I sent e-mail to Israel, and now I should wait. How much? Who knows? I think it would depend on the price of a licence.

I sent Wallace's e-mail to my friends. It's a publishing house who should negotiate with the licensor. Now my friends in Germany will buy for me through Internet another 3 books. I'll translate them independently of publishing of Jerusalem Poker. Just for myself, my family and my friends. That's the whole history. Quite in spirit of Jerusalem Poker. I'm sure.

Vladimir Zaika 2002


©Anne Sydenham 2001-2016