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Author Information: Harry Stephen Keeler

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HARRY STEPHEN KEELER (1890-1967) was one of the world’s most unusual writers, whose books have been denounced by critics as unreadable and insane (and his cult following gleefully agrees). In his time, he was pigeon-holed as a mystery writer and achieved some commercial success in the ‘30s with a couple of legible and logical mystery novels. He then vanished from the literary scene’s radar, though he continued to churn out dozens of books for decades. His novels quickly drifted away from the conventional form and into a stories-within-stories structure and his fascinating “webworks”, whereby he would mold the plot around strings of implausible and illogical coincidences, all of which mesh toward a stunning conclusion. (To create a webwork, he’d randomly pick out a half dozen news articles from a file cabinet, then write plot threads that connect them all.)

His stories were full of character coincidences and random events that just "happened" to result in resolutions. Western literature generally avoids this, so Keeler is outside the usual author's m.o.

By the accounting of Francis M. Nevins, Jr., attorney and Keeler afficianado, the completed but unpublished-in-his lifetime works of Keeler amount to 1.3 million words, enough to fill about 20 average-sized mystery novels. The later works published in Spanish or Portuguese translation account for another 1.1 million, or about 16 volumes. In his later years, Keeler also published a mimeographed newsletter for a very small circle of friends. It contained biographical notes, philosophical musings, and cat lore. Keeler died in 1967.


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