"You have to judge people in the era in which they lived, not by today’s standards, and realize that Ernest Hemingway was an extraordinarily complicated person. He was very shy, he was a bookworm, he was a bore, he was a bully, he was the best friend you’d ever have, and not the best friend you’d ever had. But the overriding thing you come away with when you talk to people who knew Ernest, or lived with Ernest, like Valerie Hemingway, was that he was the most fascinating person you’d ever be around." Hemingway: The Bully, The Bore, And The Best Friend Keith McCafferty
The following are highlights from an interview with Keith McCafferty about his book, Cold Hearted River. To hear the full conversation, click the audio link above or subscribe to our podcast.
Sarah Aronson: How did your relationship to Hemingway change over the course of writing the book?
Keith McCafferty: You know when you start writing a novel you have to realize it’s going to take at least 8 months of your life so you better write about something that means something to you. I always try to do that. Hemingway is one of the most fascinating writers in American history and here was a story that virtually no one knew, everybody knows about the papers that Hadley lost back in the 1920’s but nobody knows about this so I thought that’s a good subject, and I think I can live with Ernest Hemingway for 8 more months.
I’m really curious because you knew about the lost fishing gear but it wasn’t until your wife Gail prodded you. Do you think sometimes it takes books or creative projects—they have to mature—they’re like eggs you have to warm up and then they hatch?
My wife, of course, wanted to do this story and so we started talking about Hemingway and she would be on book tour with me . . . and we were driving and driving and trying to come up with titles and she came up with the title “Cold Hearted River.” Of course even before that I had remembered what Jack [Hemingway] had told me and I thought, “Well that’s a good idea,” but you know you run a risk if you’re going to have a character perhaps like Hemingway in a book someone who believes they can summit his spirit as well as his pen, I think, you run the risk of making a fool of yourself. . .
One of your characters describes Hemingway in detail in this passage, and I’ll ask you a question afterward:
“Hemingway the person is among the most misunderstood, vilified, and yet the most celebrated Americans of his generation, and I would venture among the most iconic figures of the twentieth century. He defined the American male, was labeled a misogynist, yet his relationships were with strong women and he championed their accomplishments.” (Keith McCafferty)
First of all, if you were to help Hemingway be more understood, what would you say?
You mean today?
I would say you can’t judge people. You have to judge people in the era in which they lived, not by today’s standards, and realize that Ernest Hemingway was an extraordinarily complicated person. He was very shy, he was a bookworm, he was a bore, he was a bully, he was the best friend you’d ever have, and not the best friend you’d ever had. But the overriding thing you come away with when you talk to people who knew Ernest, or lived with Ernest like Valerie Hemingway, was that he was the most fascinating person you’d ever be around. You know, our heroes cannot stand close scrutiny in a way. The most interesting people, are not maybe the best people by some regards, and he had a little bit of everything floating around ...
About the Book:
In his sixth Sean Stranahan mystery, Cold Hearted River, Keith McCafferty once again crafts his signature blend of vivid natural imagery, gripping plotting, grisly violence, and wry humor that has earned him a rabidly devoted fan base, as well as great critical acclaim. The recipient of the coveted Spur Award for Crazy Mountain Kiss, his last novel, Buffalo Jump Blues, was a “must-read pick” by O, the Oprah Magazine. The poignant Preface of Cold Hearted River recalls conversations the author had with Ernest Hemingway’s sons, Patrick and Jack, the latter a fishing friend who remembered his father's despair when a steamer trunk containing all of his fly fishing gear was stolen or lost from Railway Express in 1940. This story, told on the bank of a river, is at the heart of McCafferty’s new novel.
In Cold Hearted River, Sheriff Martha Ettinger reunites with once-again lover and sometime private detective Sean Stranahan to investigate the death of a woman who was stranded in a spring snowstorm. A fly wallet is found in a saddle pannier on the woman’s horse, the leather engraved with the initials EH. Only a few days before, Patrick Willoughby, President of the Madison River Liars and Fly Tiers Club, was approached by a man selling fishing gear that he claims once belonged to Ernest Hemingway. A coincidence? Sean doesn't think so, and soon finds himself on the trail of the missing trunk rumored to contain not only the writer’s valuable fly fishing gear, but perhaps even priceless samples of his unpublished work.
The investigation will lead Sean into the salacious world of Chinese traditional medicines, and through one extraordinary chapter in Hemingway’s life after another. From a trout river in Michigan where a woman grapples with the cold in her hands and the regrets in her heart, to the ruins of Havana, and finally, to a cabin in Wyoming in the shadow of the Froze To Death Plateau, Keith McCafferty’s latest novel in the Sean Stranahan mystery series will enthrall old fans and new.
About the Author:
Keith McCafferty is the survival and outdoor skills editor of Field & Stream, and the author of The Royal Wulff Murders, The Gray Ghost Murders, Dead Man’s Fancy,Crazy Mountain Kiss, which won the 2016 Spur Award for Best Western Contemporary Novel, and Buffalo Jump Blues, a must-read pick by O, The Oprah Magazine.. Winner of the Traver Award for angling literature, he is a two-time National Magazine awards finalist. He lives with his wife, cat and, as a wild bird rescue volunteer, various feathered freinds in Bozeman, Montana.