JOHN KEEL: NOT AN AUTHORITY ON ANYTHING

November 20, 2009

Keel Calling Cards (4)

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Just in case you wondered what Mothman himself thought of the whole business…

November 14, 2009

“Riot on Rashid Street!”

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“Riot on Rashid Street!” appeared in Men’s Digest, Vol. 1, No. 4, in 1957.  It was typical of the short stories he was writing back then: an adventurous yarn rooted in the local color he was soaking up in his travels.  The cover promoted it as “Adventurer John A. Keel’s true story of a man’s hunger, a woman’s desire, and a mob’s aimless violence in the no-man’s land of Baghdad.”

The author’s bio gives a taste of how he was promoted in those days: “John A. Keel cannot write unless he is climbing mountains, cutting through jungles, or meeting exciting females.  At 28, he has known many more countries, more sights, more women, than ordinary men would know in a millennium.  And the stories he then tells are insistent, demanding, as his life constantly is.  It is the raw, elemental life of a Hemingway, but told with the rich style of a Homer.  His new book, JADOO, attests to Keel’s rare genius for finding truth that is stranger than fiction.  Here then is a story for men, by a man worthy of the name.  Published for the first time anywhere, John A. Keel’s true ‘Riot on Rashid Street!’”

And here is the opening, just to give you a taste of the Keel style in its 1957 vintage:

“On the heat glazed streets of Baghdad, beyond the sunflaked walls of the old hotel, the shouting had turned to shooting.  Machine guns stuttered brisk warnings against the tepid morning air and the angry murmur of the crowds rose and fell with each burst.

“In the dark bathroom of his ‘suite’ on the third floor of the hotel, Charles R. Underwood was trying to drag a razor over his weatherbeaten face and concentrate on the tormenting memory of the tall, slender blonde he’d seen in the hotel bar the night before when he’d checked in.  He hadn’t been near a woman for six weeks and the ache was on him.  Six weeks of nothing but sun and sand and smelly Arabs waiting for him to turn his back so they could feed their khanjers in his flesh.  They called him ‘the big effendi with the hard rock fists’ because he had his own way of handing out discipline on the pipeline.  He hated the nickname but it meant survival.  Now he wanted nothing more than to scrape off the dirt and beard of the desert and relax and be human until it was his turn to go out again.

“Suddenly the weak light blinked out altogether and the sharp crash of breaking glass rang through the building, followed by a roar of approval from the mob.”

Keel Calling Cards (3)

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“John A. Keel: he writes.”  That’s all you needed to know.

November 6, 2009

A Geographical Challenge

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Given the strange subjects that John covered, it’s not surprising that he was often challenged on his facts.  In this exchange from the letters column of Saga (May 1967), he defends himself from the unusual charge of inventing small towns.

SAGAMAY67A

SAGAMAY67B

Keel Calling Cards (2)

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I’m not sure what “specialized research” is; but I have no doubt that John specialized in it with his usual flair.

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