Hemingway’s Widow: About The Author

I first read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast when I was twenty-one years old and studying French in Aix-en-Provence. Ernest’s recollection of his days in Paris when he was a young man, trying to become a writer, spoke to me directly because I too was writing in French cafés hoping the muse would visit. I became intrigued by Ernest and wondered about the connection between his personal life and his literature.

I went on to study history and law and graduated as a Commonwealth Scholar from King’s College, Cambridge. I spent much of my career as a law professor and dean at the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta, a chief federal negotiator resolving treaty claims with Indigenous people, and a labor arbitrator and mediator. I wrote about the law but maintained an ongoing interest in Hemingway–reading his novels, short stories, the biographies about him, and books about his wives. When I turned to biography writing, I found my legal experience invaluable because I had learned how to question witnesses and review documents and correspondence to ascertain the likely truth.

Ten years ago, I stepped aside from my demanding law practice to devote myself to writing. My wife, Kathryn Dykstra, gave up her law practice to become an abstract artist. We live in a Mediterranean microclimate on Vancouver Island’s beautiful Saanich Inlet. Sometimes I moor our boat in the cove in front of our home and watch the golden-orange sunset shimmer across the water.

Before Hemingway’s Widow, I published two non-legal pieces. The first, “We Gave Our Boys and We Gave Ourselves”, is an account of my seven great uncles and great grandfather who served in WWI (Engraved: Canadian Stories of World War One, Seraphim Editions, 2014). The renowned Hemingway scholar, H.R. Stoneback, said of this piece:

ABOUT “We Gave Our Boys . . .” A remarkable piece,….What a record of the War through one family! History enough for a Faulknerian Trilogy! I admire your navigation of the treacherous waters of family history…. Your paternal Great Grandfather Rice–some character, I would like to have known him. The story of your Grandpa’s wounding. Your great uncle Sid, the one you were lucky to know. The family puzzles. And so many wounds, so much loss, so much endurance. You speak of the ‘unreachable, unchangeable past’. In this piece, you reach it. And the only way we can change the past is through an act of memory or remembrance which is another name for love.

H.R. (Stoney) Stoneback

Distinguished Professor of English, State University of New York, President of the Hemingway Society

“Across the Seine from Notre Dame: Finding Aline Mosby” is a creative nonfiction account of the life of Aline Mosby, the first female journalist allowed to report from Khrushchev’s U.S.S.R. (Brought to Light: More Stories of Forgotten Women, Seraphim Editions, 2015). I was happy to discover an interview Aline Mosby did with Mary Welsh Hemingway.

Gerard Loughran, a retired foreign correspondent and bureau chief for United Press International in Paris, and friend of Aline Mosby said:

A most imaginative take on her life and career. What a fine piece about someone you never met. Your research turned up someone very, very close to the woman I knew.
I think you have got into Aline’s psyche, weaving the highlights of her career into an imagined reconstruction of her motivations and outlook on important things in one’s life.
The idea of a meal with a close sister, allowing Aline to recap and answer questions (without the author having to smuggle them in), is a neat one and I liked the ending when the sister sleeps and she is left alone as always in her beautiful flat.

Gerard Loughran

Bureau Chief, United Press International (Retired)

Both pieces are based on significant archival research. They were each published in Seraphim Editions collections of stories edited by Bernadette Rule.

I bring my experience in storytelling and fact-finding to Hemingway’s Widow. I traveled so I could authentically describe the places where Mary and Ernest lived or visited: London, Paris, Pamplona, Madrid, St. Jean de Luz, Biarritz, Venice, Torcello, Fossalto de Piave, Cortina, Key West, Havana, Finca Vigia, Cojimar, Ketchum, Walker, and Bemidji.

I studied the Hemingway papers, including Mary’s diaries, journals, and correspondence at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston, the files of Alfred Rice at the New York Public Library, and the materials held at the Ketchum Comunity Library. I interviewed Professor H.R. Stoneback about his memories of Mary,  Valerie Hemingway, about her experiences as Ernest’s secretary, and as Mary’s assistant after Ernest’s death. Patrick Hemingway shared valuable insights into Mary’s story, and Susan Buckley helped me understand Mary’s life in New York.

I found my law background helpful as I examined several legal issues: the investigation to determine if Hemingway should be court-martialed; the marriage, divorce, and estate laws in Cuba at the time of Mary’s wedding; the signing of Ernest’s will and the letter of instructions; and Mary’s efforts to stop the publication of Hotchner’s Papa Hemingway. I consider these issues straightforwardly to make them understandable to the lay-person.

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