On September 25, 2015, a great forgotten writer will be remembered in Holland at this historic mansion in Doorn, in the province of Utrecht. Maarten Maartens, alias Jozua van der Poorten Schwartz, who between 1889 and 1912 published 13 novels and four volumes of short stories, authoring them directly in English even though he was a born Dutchman, died 100 years ago, in 1915, just after his whole oeuvre was reissued by Constable & Co. in London in 2014, an honor few authors befalls.
Flying to Amsterdam from Washington Dulles last night, I saw a British-American 2015 movie, Far From the Madding Crowd, based on the 1874 novel by the British author Thomas Harding. Thomas Harding and Maarten Maartens were friends. Both were honored in 1905 at the same time with honorary doctorates bestowed on them by Aberdeen University. I was struck by how well Harding’s novel was adapted and acted out. A gripping movie. Go see it and you will agree.
At the same time I thought how well some of Maarten Maartens novels could be worth a movie. In particular his novel Dorothea, about a pristine young woman, whose mother died giving her birth. She leaves Dorothea most of her substantial estate and money because her husband Captain Sandring is a gambling soldier and womanizer. The Captain leaves Dorothea in the hands of two strict Protestant aunts0, who immerse her in Bible texts. When she reaches the age of twenty, her estranged father commands her to join him Paris. He exposes her to the decadent world of Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo in the hope to marry her out for money so he can gamble with hers. This does not work out the way he planned and the ensuing story, especially Dorothea’s wretched marriage, is most engaging.
Another novel good for a movie is The Price of Lis Doris, about a gifted painter like Van Gogh, whose work is stolen by his drawing master Odo Pareys. Odo threatens to do harm to Yetta, Otto’s wife and Lis’s protector in their early youth. If Lis ever tells anybody it was not Odo but Lis who painted these masterworks, Yetta will suffer. The whole plot is worth a thrilling movie.
I felt lucky that the Higher Powers pushed me to make summarizations of his novels, often long in the style of the nineteenth-century, to lift his work out of oblivion, so that people studying 19th century authors, or even my own off-spring and their future generations, could enjoy his original stories and taste his fluent writing style and sharp dialogues. After reading his novels, I began to understand his deserved acclaim in the USA, UK and Germany at his time.
His first book was a detective story, The Black-box Murder, written anonymously by “The Man Who Discovered the Murder.” He wrote and self-published it after he read a then popular detective story while sojourning in Paris, The Mystery of a Hanson Cab, just to show he could write as well as anybody else. And he proved right. The Black-box Murder is still sold by Print On Demand companies through among others Abebooks.com. It is a lightly written mystery thriller, and several of his next books retain a mystery murder twist as in The Sin of Joost Avelingh and God’s Fool.
Maarten Maartens Rediscovered – The Most Popular Dutch Author Abroad was published in August 2015.
Kirkus Reviews gave it a commendable critique which was published in the Kirkus Magazine of September of the same year, something that only happens to less than 10 % of their reviews.
Part II, The Short Stories, which are summarizations of his four volumes of collected short stories, will appear in November/December of 2015.
A great writer not to be forgotten!