B. Traven was the mysterious best-selling author of the novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was made into a classic film by director John Huston in the 1940s. But who was B. Traven? The mystery surrounding his identity remains fascinating to this day. There have been many theories about who he was, whether he was several people, whether he was an expatriate German or perhaps even the President of Mexico. People in the film world apparently thought they would have meetings with him, but were then informed that a representative would show up. But was the representative actually B. Traven?
When an artist hides his or her identity many theories develop. Modern figures who have cribbed from Traven’s playbook are the novelist Thomas Pynchon and the painter Banksy who really have no reasons for remaining anonymous beyond the artistic jolt that a secret identity personally gives them. It’s not the crooks that interest Batman after all – it’s the secret identity. A secret identity makes you better in every way because it turns you immediately into a work of art. All artists should be mysteries. At the very least, they should tell lots of lies.
I present this post and its excellent documentary as part of my preparations for an upcoming film. Getting the right mood.
Parts 3 – 6 after the jump.
It’s really pretty difficult and has resulting in tons of nasty emails for me. One guy worked on the puzzle for three weeks and left it on his monitor when his girlfriend came over. She apparently sat down and solved it in thirty seconds. The guy was furious and really let me know about it!
The winning continuation of the Halloween Mystery Contest story was submitted in a comment by Paper_flower. Congratulations to this fantastic writer!
Read the winning story here by scrolling down into the comment area. I have only posted the winning comment entry. Enjoy it and have a happy Halloween!
If you want to enter the mystery contest, just finish the mystery I’ve started below by entering your part of the story into a comment. The contest is open to all writers of any age and skill level. Have fun and take the story in any direction you like. None of the comments will appear until a winner is picked.
I’ll post the winner on Thursday, October 28.
The beginning of the story takes the form of a hastily written email complete with misspellings and awkward phrasing. Just finish the story by entering your text into a comment and make it as scary as you can!
Here’s how the mystery email starts:
To: jenster[email protected]
Date: 10/30/2009 12:31 pm
Subject: I’m Don’t Know What to Do – Please Call Me!
Jen, oh my god I really don’t know what to make of this or do. You must call me soon. Right away!!! I can’t believe this! Am I going crazy or is this for real? Anyway I guess I better lay it out for you as quickly and simply as I can.
Oh well… ok, so it was the other day, Wednesday I think, right after you told me on the phone that you would meet me for lunch at Mr. Pete’s and we’d go from there to the park. Remember I was in a hurry doing laundry? Well I got mad because the washer got stuck, you know how with too much in the load the spin thing goes all out of whack and wobbles until the whole thing just stops dead? That happened.
So I was all pissed and I had a pile of Jake’s whites in my arms and I was tripping over crap on the floor and his shoes and I tried to reach with my finger to push my coffee cup away from the edge of the dresser but it spilled and I got ever madder.
So I threw the clothes down and yanked his drawer open and it came all the way out of the whole dresser and made a big crack and it smashed my foot. Well after I stopped cursing and being all curled up on the floor holding my foot I tried to put the drawer back in place. But i saw a little package on the floor underneath where the drawer should be. It was wrapped in brown paper and twine. I picked it up.
This is really freaking me out, Jen. So anyway, I held the little package and then I just thought, ‘Who cares? I’m just gonna open it and if Jake gets mad well then he can do his own laundry for a while.
So I unwrapped it and it turned out to be a really old black book with a leather cover that smelled that way old leather things get in an attic you know? It was even crumbly at the edges and the spine was broken and the whole front cover was almost wiggling right off. But I opened it and it was filled with writing. Some in ink. Some in pencil that was faded.
The very first thing on page one said, ‘London is a town with much to offer me and it is with a sinking heart that I leave it, bound for Austria on the fourth, then on, several days later, to Sarajevo.’
That’s how it started, Jen. So I read that and then my finger went in the pages at the back of the book and there was this lump. I flipped to the back and some pages were all stuck together. Glued, Jen. Glued together to make a pouch. It felt like something was in there, so I tore it open and some pictures fell out. Four little photos. And then I picked them up and I looked at one which was of a woman in a black dress with a big locket on a chain around her neck. She was beautiful even though the photo was very old and hardly even there any more. I saw photos of two different houses lying on the floor. Just houses with lots of trees around them. But then I saw the fourth photo Jen. And oh god I don’t know what to do and I screamed. My body was shaking and I just let out a scream I was so scared Jen. The fourth little photo on my bedroom floor had a date written on it right on front Jen. 1897. That’s what it said.
And I picked it up to see it closer. I couldn’t breathe it was jake
can you help me now jen? I’m so scared now because it was him.
Now, continue the mystery by leaving a comment.
The author lives with her daughter at the seaside in a rambling, crumbling house full of dogs, cats, an ancient grandmother and an equally ancient retainer who all speak foreign languages.
The young girl was sleeping, her face and hair so pale under the luminous lights that the teacher held her own hand against the girl’s mouth to feel if she was still breathing.
The hospital was deathly silent with pools of light at other beds and the nurse’s station, but there were no other occupants and the nurse was fetching coffee.
“She’s okay,” a voice said and the teacher actually jumped backward in surprise, so deep had been her concentration on the girl’s face.
“Sorry,” the man apologized and extended a hand, “I’m Doctor Smith.”
“Smith?” she said, for want of anything better to say and shook his hand. He shrugged and lifted the girl’s heavily bandaged arms.
“You see?” he said, “If she were dead, the pathologists would be saying she had raised her arms against the knife in self-defense”.
“Against whom?” the teacher asked.