This is to announce that my novel Some Women I Have Known will soon be available on Amazon.com. Paperback and hardcover will follow shortly. See the cover below:
Some Women I Have Known is a coming-of-age tale in which John van Dorn searches for his true love and meets some playful, perilous, and wonderful women along the way. He rides a pony with soon-to-be film star Audrey Hepburn, senses his first fondness of female attention at elementary school, experiences tender moments with his cello-playing sweetheart while at boarding school, loses his virginity in a risky adventure, then savors several dangerous and unfortunate loves in Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva and the Swiss Alps, learning that life is full of losses and ephemeral relationships. After rescuing a woman in the middle of Africa and a narrow escape of life and death, he finally finds peace of mind with a warm and beautiful Caribbean goddess in the United States.
The novel is based on the nine short stories that were published under the same overarching title on Amazon before–and listed on this blog– but was rewritten into a self-standing novel to which has been added the story Joy to the World which tells who John van Dorn finally marries (not previously published). Some of the individual short stories were adapted and modified to fit into the one story-line.
Pre-launch critiques are positive:
“Paying homage to his great uncle, an ex–World Bank professional makes his debut with a memoir featuring the series of women he encountered in his youth. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (or Maarten Maartens as he was called in publishing circles) scored the jackpot…
A wistful memory…” Kirkus Review.
The cover design is by Melanie Stephens, Willow Manor Publishing, Fredericksburg, VA, based on a photograph taken by a close family friend, Irma Pahud de Mortanges, baroness Snouckaert van Schauburg, at the author’s home in Holland, in 1955. Audrey Hepburn’s picture on the piano is an original taken by Noel Mayne, Baron Studios, London, 1950, when she was still modeling and not yet “discovered.” It was a gift to me from her mother, Ella Baroness van Heemstra. The original is now in Audrey’s archive, kept by her sons Sean and Luca.
A new website of ENCHANTÉ is under construction by Danielle Koehler (www.dalitopia.com). All very exciting!
Time for a little advertising in between blogs!
ENCHANTÉ has issued 6 Short stories so far, all represented on the right, under the banner “Some Women I Have Known.” I borrowed this title from my Great Uncle Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915), who wrote some 17 books in the English language, mostly in the nineteenth century, and his “Some Women”, though more “Victorian” in concept than the ones I met, is still a good read.
I – The Audrey story is a Memoir of how 13-year old Audrey Hepburn entered my life when I was seven. I had wanted to write this story for a long time and finally did. Her son Sean Hepburn Ferrer found it “sweet” and sweet it is. She had an indelible impact on my life, as I could never have guessed she would become so famous and well liked the world over.
II – The Two Anns memorize first loves, seen from a young male’s adventurous POV (point of view). There are many women I have met and forgotten, but you never forget your first loves. It would have been interesting to know how these first loves remember me and if they ever wrote that on paper.
III – Lucy The Cello Girl got me hooked for life with her bow, phrasing heavenly music from her instrument, when I met her in the basement of my boarding school. A lover of classical music, I fell for her instantly, but young love has its tragic moments of inexperience, immaturity and doubts, and it took many years to come to fruition.
IV – Tisja The Village Beauty is the naughty story about how Peter loses his virginity. I guess nobody forgets that moment in their life. It’s worth remembering and I had a good laugh writing it up.
V – Geneviève The Adorable Pianist pictures the classical Love in Paris. Many loves in Paris populate books and movies, but each one is different and this one is no exception. Even today, soaps return to the Eifel Tower, Trocadero, the river the Seine and the Ile de France. For all its picturesque flavor, Paris remains a pitfall for amour. This one got started while playing quatre mains at the piano at the famous Ecole normale de musique, “mains” that got closer and closer and… well, you read the rest.
VI – Irene Femme Fatale is the eternal refrain of young libido gone haywire and ending in predictable disaster. Women are smarter than man, because they got that superior gift of nature to lure the male into the dangerous act of procreation and… you better watch out.
VII – Lady D is a Memoir of the quintessential grandmother. Some people are greater than others, and she is one of those rare people. Yes, at one stage they pass away and go to heaven, but they live on never to be forgotten, staying at your side throughout life.
Two more stories are in the pipeline: September: Ingrid The Magnificent Viking, about a goddess met on the ski slopes in the Swiss Alps at a moment of great distress that turns into even greater distress; and October: Nyira, The Tutsi Queen, reliving the harrowing memory of a narrow escape from tribal persecution and hatred in the central African region of Rwanda and Burundi.
The short stories are published for Amazon.com by Willow Manor Publishing in Fredericksburg in Virginia, and the cover designs are the product of Melanie Stephens of the same company.
They are available on Amazon.com for Kindle reading at the ridiculous price of 99 dollar cents or there about depending where you are. Get them for an easy read during Labor Day Weekend! If you do, give a review, if you can, by clicking on the story’s review link on Amazon.com. It’s simple and won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time.
Lastly, my romantic novel “Enchanting The Swan” is in the final stage and may be published in the not too distant future.
Men know women and women know men, but some are worth writing about more than others. This blog is to launch ten short stories about women I have known. The first short story is about how, as a boy in Holland, I met Audrey Hepburn, who developed from a young Dutch girl wrecked by World War II to one of the most beloved and enchanting film stars ever. And how I met her again in Switzerland. A story I can’t forget and would like to share with you and which her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, found “a sweet story” when I asked him to have a look at it.
Some of the “short story women” left a lasting impression on me (such as Audrey Hepburn and my grandmother, “Lady D”) and some shared part of my life. Some are left out because writing about them would be too painful.
Meeting women of different plumage seems to have been my star-enforced fate. I always felt that astrology had something to do with it. One astrologer told me that it was because I was born at 1:00 o’clock in the night when the moon stood at a particular angle to Mother Earth in the Scorpion month. My stars pointed to eternal adjustment (euphemism for continual trouble), and that included women.
My grand uncle-author, Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (pen name “Maarten Maartens”, see my blog of October 18, 2013) wrote books one hundred years ago, widely read in America, England, and Germany, and one of his books was a collection of short stories entitled Some Women I have known. After reading these often humorous short stories, written in the Victorian age, I decided to write my own Some Women, though content and style are of course totally different from the great-uncle.
Apart from his eloquence as an author, which I surely do not pretend to match, his Some Women is more a blend of satire and psychological realism of female characters in his time, and a reflection on marriage as it evolved in the upper-class in his days. His characters are fiction, likely painted from people he met. The stories are approached from an objective angle – probably the reason why he wrote them in the third person despite the title – although his stories do contain autobiographical elements. My stories are based on real characters I met – mostly in romantic relationships – and they are written in the first person because of the autobiographical elements. A few stories are “memoir”-type such as “Audrey” and “Lady D”. As a consequence, I borrowed my uncle’s title as a hull for my own stories, while their content and approach are different and from a personal angle.
In several stories names and places were changed, where needed, to avoid complaining phone calls or knocks on my front door. Maarten Maartens was accused by people who thought his characters resembled them! Here is where non-fiction, memoir and autobiographical fiction must draw a fine line.
The short stories will appear on a monthly basis, probably in the second half of each month.
Coming soon. Stay on the look out.
Once upon a time….there was a blooming beer brewery, Thew Crowned Falcon, employing hundreds of employees at the Hoogte Kadijk in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It started in the early part of the 18th century. As described in “Geloof in de Brouwerij” by Rolf van der Woude (“Faith in the Brewery”, 2009, an excellent book on which much of this material is based, but unfortunately only available in Dutch), Jan Messchert van Vollenhoven, a businessman from Rotterdam origin and a known literary personality and poet, bought the small brewery in 1791. Together with his wife, the wealthy Elisabeth van der Poorten from Amsterdam, they were eminent ancestors in my family. The brewery became “Van Vollenhoven’s Beer”, and The Crowned Falcon became its trademark.
Though brewing beer proved a tough business with small margins, The Crowned Falcon survived competition and heavy taxation. In the second half of the 19th century, following consolidation in the industry and more favorable tax liabilities,Van Vollenhoven’s Beer turned more profitable.
Jan Messchert and Elisabeth had six children. One of those children, Antoni, had a daughter, also called Elisabeth,who married Hendrik Hovy. Their son, Willem Hovy, starting as an apprentice in the family brewery at the age of 18, became one of the prominent directors of The Crowned Falcon in the 19th century, establishing social benefits, including pension, and fixed wages for the brewery’s employees, which was rather innovative for that period. A man of strong Christian conviction, he ran the brewery in an atmosphere of managers and employees forming one family working for its common good.
Another daughter of Antoni, Cornelia, married Carl A.F. Schwartz, a prominent reverend of the Free Scottish Church in Amsterdam and the great grandfather of the Schwartz family. One of their sons, John Schwartz (my grand father), became co-director with Willem Hovy, thus keeping management fully in family hands. His other son, Joshua van der Poorten Schwartz, became a member of the board, but left this position to devote himself to writing (under the pseudonym of “Maarten Maartens”, 1858-1915, authoring some 30 books in English – see my blog “A Prolific Ancestor”), successfully applying the talents he had inherited from his great-grandfather Jan Messchert.
The Crowned Falcon started the production of Van Vollenhoven’s Stout, a dark beer that was promoted, among others in France (“Bière brune du Faucon”), as a “healthy, highly nutritious beer with curative elements, recommended by doctors”. In French hospitals, it was admitted “by decision of The Public Assistance” (“Consult your doctor”!). An article about the famous stout was published in “Moniteur Illustré”, issued at the World Exposition in Paris in 1889, for which the Eiffel Tower was built. As you can imagine, sales shot up. Think of seeing an ad like this on today’s TV!
In 1891, to attract capital for renovation, modernization and expansion, The Crowned Falcon became a public company, a decision that turned out a fatal mistake, as the brewery exposed itself to growing robber-competitors such as neighboring Heineken and Amstel, who were out to take over or destroy competition in the industry, as they wanted to be the only chiefs in town. But in the latter part of the 19th century, The Crowned Falcon was the largest beer brewery in The Netherlands.
Composition of Tiles of Van Vollenhoven’s Beer by Distel Cy., Dutch Tile Museum, The Netherlands.
As a result of World War I (1914-18), and the great depression of the 1930s, The Crowned Falcon – and many other family breweries in Holland – began to face economic hardship because of sluggish demand. In 1908, some 380 breweries populated The Netherlands and by 1930 this number was reduced to 63, employing on average about 85 workers (source: “Faith in the Brewery”, 2009). Consolidation of breweries became unavoidable due to falling market shares and bankruptcies. In one bankruptcy of a small brewery, Heineken and The Crowned Falcon shared the booty, but that’s the only time they worked together.
Modernization followed, but operating costs, including wages, continued to soar and forced The Crowned Falcon to greater expenses.
Production stagnated and competition from Amstel, which produced a cheaper Stout, reduced the Falcon’s market share. Marketing too many labels proved also uneconomic. During the 1930s, Heineken and Amstel grew rapidly, among others by producing “cheaper” beer (that is, of lesser quality by shortening the period of fermentation that determines the beer’s good taste, in order to get quicker turn around in sales), leaving The Crowned Falcon behind. It struggled to regain its leading position, especially maintaining its lead in the export market to South-Asia, the Far-East and the Middle-East that Director Ferdinand Schwartz (my father) had developed. Many movies and pictures evidence this achievement.
An effort to seek collaboration with Heineken failed. The Falcon was forced to obtain loans from Amsterdam Bank, which demanded a seat at the brewery’s board. This brought in The Troyan Horse. Heineken, Amstel and The Falcon started discussions over a possible take-over, with Amsterdam Bank luring eagerly in the back. Heineken was particularly interested in The Falcon’s export market. Sneakingly, Heineken set up director Van Reede, recruited earlier from another brewery, against Ferdinand Schwartz, the last Van Vollenhoven’s family member, by offering Van Reede a position at Heineken’s if The Falcon would go under in its financial quagmire. Heineken clearly wanted the last Mohican of the Van Vollenhoven/Hovy/Schwartz family “out”.
World War II (1940-45) became the final blow. Though the brewery was allowed to continue after Nazi invasion (Hitler would have said that “beer must stay”), its revenues did not match costs, while it carried a substantial loan liability with Amsterdam Bank. Through stock manipulations, the origin of which was never uncovered, Heineken and Amstel strengthened their grip on The Crowned Falcon through the appointment of board members sympathetic to their views. Differences over national industry production agreements in Holland soured the relations further. Quarrels in the board between Heineken appointed members and The Falcon’s Executive Officers (Ferdinand Schwartz and Van Reede) about the brewery’s management were at the order of the day.
The Crowned Falcon began to operate notably better after the war during 1945-46, among others by increased export deals secured by Ferdinand Schwartz, but Heineken remained utter negative about the brewery’s future. Then fate struck. Ferdinand died in a car accident in January 1946, when a truck hit him while biking to the brewery, as he had done many years due to the lack of transport during the war. Van Reede died mysteriously a year later. Were these murders or was it just coincidence?
Mr. Körner, son of The Falcon’s master brewer, replaced Ferdinand Schwartz, but despite his heroic efforts to keep the brewery going, he was stabbed in the back by Heineken and Amstel, with help from Amsterdam Bank. The trio grabbed their chance, took over, and finally closed the brewery in 1949, rendering some 400 employees unemployed and cutting three Schwartz kids (14, 12 and 10) loose from a long-held family tradition. The matter was raised in parliament but to no avail. The kids wouldn’t touch Heineken beer with a long pole. I drink Samuel Adams in the USA, which I think is closest to the unmatched Falcon taste.
A grandson of Willem Hovy had The Falcon lifted from its column at the entrance of the brewery and took it as a souvenir to Johannesburg in South Africa, where he moved, leaving a naked column standing at the Hoogte Kadijk. End of story for the glorious Falcon, once renowned over the world. Amsterdam Municipality was planning to remove the column in a reconstruction of the brewery’s neighborhood.
But some inventive people living on Hoogte Kadijk remembered.
Next issue: The Return of the Falcon.
Why I am writing?
To join a masterful Great-Uncle, Joseph M.W. van der Poorten-Schwartz (1858-1915), a Dutchman who wrote bestsellers in the English language one hundred years ago, most of them under the pseudonym “Maarten Maartens.”
His 20 odd books are all stored in the Library of Congress (see picture below) and were widely read in the USA, England and Germany.
Even though born in Amsterdam, Joseph wrote in English because he spent his early youth in London where his father, Carl August Ferdinand Schwartz – my great-grandfather – was appointed reverend of the Free Church of Scotland. English became Joseph’s second language.
Maarten Maartens’s novels were popular in the USA and England because they dealt with “the psychological and moral questions of conscience…as at the time there was a growing tendency to devote attention to the psychological problem play and novel” (quoted from Hendrik Breuls in his Doctoral Thesis “Author in Double Exile, The Literary Appreciation of Maarten Maartens” – 1985, later completed as his 2005 Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Dresden, Germany, entitled “A comparative Evaluation of Selected Prose by Maarten Maartens”). Maarten Maartens is especially known for his sharp characterizations and caricatures of certain professions.
Hendrik Breuls starts his 1985 thesis with one of many worthy Maarten Maartens quotes, which are as good a perception of the needed writing skill as we find in today’s essays on good writing: “If you want to be heard by your own generation” (and that is his, one hundred years ago) “never say in three words what you can say in six, and if you want to be listened to by all future generations, never say in six words what you can say in three.”
Uncle Joe made tons of money from his books and built a huge mansion for himself, his wife and one daughter in a wooded area near Utrecht, not far from Amsterdam, baptized “De Zonheuvel” (The Sunny Hill). A nephew of mine, Michiel Kranendonk, a currently renowned Dutch painter in Holland whose mother is Marie Kranendonk-Schwartz, created a mural painting of the “Maarten Maartens House” in the hall (see partial picture below). At the back of the house featured a meticulously maintained “French Garden” with remembrances of the Chateau “Versailles”. The house is currently a Foundation and occupied by the Institute “Slotemaker de Bruine Institute” (SBI).
In 2015, Maarten Maartens’ one hundred year anniversary will be remembered to revive interest in the works of this forgotten prolific author.
More on this – and on painter Michiel Kranendonk – in a future Blog.