Forgotten Literary Geniuses: Edward Whittemore

Cover of the Avon paperback edition that I bought n 1978

Everyone is fascinated by doomed, forgotten literary geniuses.
As you surf the Internet, you might come across the name of Ed “Ted” Whittemore, whose claim to literary fame is his Jerusalem Quartet, which includes Sinai Tapestry, the best of the four.
Should you become more intrigued by his writing (granted he was not the most polished of stylists, and in fact was rather lapidary in the non Egypt novels), you might hear some possibly apocryphal story that one of America’s better uknown late 20th century novelists ended his days in penury in NYC working a menial job as a Xerox machine monkey for some ambulance chaser.

Whittemore at the Gezira Sporting Club in Zamalek circa 1970s

Others sources will tell that he actually lived his last days with one of his many girlfriends (this particular one was Ann Pasanella) in Dorset, VT, smoking cheroots while admiring the hills of Vermont as he sat on a green Adirondack chair on his grandfather’s porch, not far from where Bill Wilson of AA fame grew up.
He never finished his failed attempt at his first set-in-America novel (all the action of his published novels takes place overseas, and the big four in the Middle East.)
You might want to read the work of this Yale graduate who became a CIA agent for a spell, hung out in places like the Gezira Club in Egypt in the 1970s, drank too much, wrote a lot, before stopping drinking: which seems to mark the end of his creativity.
For a deeper insight in his life and work, you might want to consult the scholarly snooze fest provided below.
And don’t forget to actually read his books, in particular the Sinai Tapestry and Nile Shadows.


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