‘This is a biography of a living person’, wrote Philip José Farmer in the Foreword to his book Tarzan Alive – A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke, originally published in 1972.
That being the case, an actual walk to a place that plays a crucial part in that biography may prove instructive. In Tarzan Alive and its companion volume Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life Farmer revealed how the landing of a meteorite near Wold Newton in the East Riding of Yorkshire at 3.00pm on 13 December 1795 had a significant effect on the occupants of two coaches passing at that moment.
The bright light and heat and thunderous roar of the meteorite blinded and terrified the passengers, coachmen, and horses. But they recovered quickly, thanking God that they were unharmed by the near-hit. They never guessed, being ignorant of ionization, that the fallen star had affected them and their unborn. (Tarzan Alive, p236)
The ‘ionisation’ from the meteorite caused beneficial mutations to occur, influencing the lives a vast interconnected family of people who have become well known through fictionalised accounts of their exploits. All sorts of heroes and villains are included (see below), as well as people featured in more literary works: Dean Moriarty as descendant of Professor Moriarty; Leopold Bloom related to Queequeg.
Farmer’s books had a similar transforming effect on me, introducing me to the works of William Burroughs, William Blake, Henry Miller and opening me to the possibilities of writing as a way of remaking the world. So a pilgrimage seems to be in order.
I live in the North West of England; Wold Newton is around 130 miles away in the North East. I plan to walk in consecutive sections, get to Wold Newton in a couple of years, and strike on to the east coast after I get there.
The Wold Newton Event
A recent BBC interview with author Win Scott Eckert, who has done much to continue Farmer’s parascholasrhip, provides a handy summary of the occupants of the coaches, and the connections with fictionalised accounts of their lives of those of their descendants:
Coach Passengers (14)
• John Clayton, 3rd Duke of Greystoke, and his wife, Alicia Rutherford – Tarzan
• Sir Percy Blakeney, and his (second) wife, Alice Clarke Raffles – The Scarlet Pimpernel
• Fitzwilliam Darcy, and his wife, Elizabeth Bennett – Pride and Prejudice
• George Edward Rutherford (the 11th Baron Tennington), and his wife, Elizabeth Cavendish – The Lost World
• Honoré Delagardie, and his wife, Philippa Drummond – Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond
• Dr. Siger Holmes, and his wife, Violet Clarke – Sherlock Holmes
• Sir Hugh Drummond and his wife, Lady Georgia Dewhurst – Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond
• Louis Lupin – Arsène Lupin
• Albert Lecoq – Monsieur Lecoq
• Albert Blake – Sexton Blake
• 1 unidentified by Farmer
In addition to Tarzan and Doc Savage, Farmer concluded that influential characters from popular literature were part of the “Wold Newton Family,” including Solomon Kane (a pre-meteor strike ancestor); Captain Blood (a pre-meteor strike ancestor); The Scarlet Pimpernel (present at meteor strike); Harry Flashman; Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Professor Moriarty (aka Captain Nemo); Phileas Fogg; The Time Traveler; Allan Quatermain; A.J. Raffles; Professor Challenger; Arsène Lupin; Richard Hannay; Bulldog Drummond; the evil Fu Manchu and his adversary, Sir Denis Nayland Smith; G-8; The Shadow; Sam Spade; The Spider; Nero Wolfe; Mr. Moto; The Avenger; Philip Marlowe; James Bond; Lew Archer; Travis McGee; and many more.
And so I am making Wold Newton a place of pilgrimage. I will be walking in consecutive sections from where I live, in the North West of England, to Wold Newton in the North East and then on to as-yet-undecided locations.