About the Book
In Passionate Spectator, memoirist Peter Leroy and his wife Albertine are living in Manhattan—by the skin of their teeth. Casting about for a source of income, Peter purchases a book from a homeless streetcorner peddler, Creative Self-Promotion for Taxidermists, hoping he can adapt its techniques to promote his fledgling business: Memoirs While You Wait, a writing service designed to satisfy the contemporary compulsion for confession and self-revelation.
That book opens into a beguiling journey from fiction to truth and back again, involving Peter, his childhood friend Matthew Barber (a pseudonymous restaurant reviewer who is undergoing emergency heart surgery), and Matthew’s witty, urbane alter-ego, Bertram W. Beath—an erotic opportunist and “passionate spectator” of beauty and human folly. As Peter solicits potential clients for his service, he finds that autobiography requires a measure of deception—well, lying—and that his own life depends on fictions he has created and sustained.
Eric Kraft is a novelist like no other, and his books featuring Peter Leroy create an irresistible world where poignancy and nostalgia blend with humor and unbridled invention—a world like our own, but somehow brighter, less predictable, and more fun.
|by Eric Kraft, as Peter Leroy|
|Brief Excerpts from
age, mortality, and the meaning of life: all are examined with the lightest
touch imaginable in this [ninth] in Kraft’s ongoing chronicles (Inflating
a Dog, 2002, etc.).
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2004
Barber’s existence has always posed a problem for Eric Kraft’s literary
persona, Peter Leroy. Although he appears in Little Follies as Peter’s
childhood playmate, Peter admits that he and Matthew never met until they
were in high school. Reservations Recommended is the most loosely
attached book in the Peter Leroy saga. Peter concedes that the life he
gives Matthew in this novel is entirely imaginary but, when Matthew appears
briefly in Leaving Small’s Hotel, he validates the closing scene
of Reservations. In Leaving Small’s Hotel he claims that
in this last scene he died and came back to life. Of this claim, somewhat
curiously, we hear nothing in Passionate Spectator.
This novel takes up Matthew’s story at the point where he had, after suffering a heart attack, fallen through the hospital’s automatic doors. Readers of Reservations will remember that just before Matthew loses consciousness—or dies—he catches a glimpse of Bertram W. Beath, his alter ego, getting into a taxi. In any world except that of Peter Leroy such an occurrence would be impossible since, of course, an alter ego is not a real person.
But, complicated as all this is, there is more. Peter and Albertine now live in Manhattan and thrive as little there as they did on Small’s Island. Peter is still searching for a way to make his memoirs-while-you-wait project a profitable business when he receives a summons to serve as a juror. In his thus distracted mind enter Matthew Barber and Bertram W. Beath. Peter assumes the identity of first the one and then the other. He experiences Matthew’s stay in the hospital and Beath’s philosophizing and philandering in Miami as the Passionate Spectator, a designation that he gives himself on the business cards that he bought at a quick-print shop. Each of the young women that he beds has a special intellectual or artistic preoccupation that, along with her body, she shares with Beath.
Matthew has a similar experience—but without overt sex—with a hospital nurse who collects abstruse philosophical theories on the subject of time. But he has more relevant concerns than the lovely intellectual nurse. Convinced now that he must make the most of his remaining life, he renews his attempted conquest of Effie (from Reservations.) Beath has returned from Miami to help Matthew with this. Peter, tired of the way that they have taken over his life, takes them to Madeleine’s, a nightclub where Albertine plays the piano. Here he gives them both sound advice, sound enough to banish them from his life—at least temporarily.
He has an absurd idea for the promotion of memoirs-while-you-wait. The idea works and the novel ends happily.
If you assume that the novel is riotous fun, you would be right but my account merely skims the surface and takes no notice of the wonderful minor characters or the many small details that enrich the book. In the hospital there is the Solace Lady who is in an insistent way a total pest, a grandmother from hell. The club where Albertine (a name with Proustian overtones) plays the piano is called Madeleine’s. Madeleine is also Proustian (remember that damned cake?) but it is also the name of Kraft’s wife.
Here, in short, is another perfect book by an author with few faults and whose works are almost completely unknown. It would seem that there is no appetite for books that are, among other qualities, great intellectual fun. But those readers who enjoy stretching their minds and admire dazzling craftsmanship and virtuosity from an author who writes like no other will find this and the other books by Kraft a welcome and essential addition to their libraries.
The Compulsive Reader
his [9th] novel featuring the irrepressible Peter Leroy, Kraft steers his
engaging protagonist into the thickets of freelance writing as Leroy attempts
to fund a series of unusual adventures by helping others write their memoirs.
Leroy lives in New York City, where he and his pianist wife, Albertine,
maintain a precarious existence short on money but long on compassionate
understanding. As the novel begins, Leroy is itching to slip again
into one (or several) of his elaborate fantasies (“I am a crowd . . . one
of the people one passes on a New York street who hear inner voices”).
Albertine (“I have heard her referred to as my long-suffering wife”) acts
as his enabler, gently encouraging him to indulge his flights of fancy
and experiment with alter egos. The scene switches from New York
to Boston and then to Miami as Leroy assumes the imaginary identities of
Matthew Barber, a heart patient, and Bertram Beath, a lothario who makes
a habit of sleeping with total strangers. Meanwhile, Leroy’s memoir-writing
business languishes, though he expands it to include pets. It’s not
always clear what Leroy remembers from previous forays as Barber and Beath,
and what triggers his transformations, but the reader is distracted from
any minor inconsistencies by Leroy’s endearing frankness and Albertine’s
wry, tolerant wit.
Publishers Weekly, July 12, 2004
continues the charming and mischievously intellectual adventures of the
eccentric writer Peter Leroy—last seen in Inflating a Dog (2002)—in the
newest installment in a long-running series relishable for its clever literary
allusions (from Proust to Twain), shrewd philosophical satire, and faith
in love and loyalty. Peter and his doting wife, Albertine, have left Long
Island for Manhattan, and Peter is anxious to promote his current esoteric
venture, Memoirs While You Wait. But he is distracted by two friends (or
are they merely persistent figments of his imagination?) intent on telling
him their stories: hapless Matthew Barber, who lands in a hospital cardiac
care unit, and blithe Bertram W. Beath, a “passionate spectator” who insouciantly
bluffs his way into erotic interludes with spectacular women. Meanwhile,
Peter—whose credo is “Life, of course, is just the first draft of our memoirs”—is
called to jury duty where a clerk presents his own solipsistic theories
about memory, veracity, and the nature of the self. And Kraft? He’s
as ebullient, canny, and entertaining as ever.
Donna Seaman, Booklist, July 2004
O’Connor once said that anybody who has survived childhood has enough information
about life to last him the rest of his days. Judging by the work of Eric
Kraft, she appears to have understated the case by several lifetimes.
Through nine novels, Kraft has chronicled in amusing and sometimes excruciating detail the adventures of one Peter Leroy, a winsome and (usually) engaging fellow who, indefatigable memoirist that he is, actually tells his own story. Make that stories, a seemingly endless supply of them, most often adolescent exploits conjured with an adult perspective that is knowing yet still suffused with a sense of wonder.
At his best, Kraft [displays] an uncanny ability to make something from almost nothing. Leroy’s life has been unremarkable, or at least not so remarkable as to warrant nine novels (and counting), but Kraft manages to spin one delicate yarn after another by mixing a dollop of plot with observations, asides, offbeat humor (including illustrations) and an abiding and infectious enthusiasm for this unusual project.
But Passionate Spectator is not Kraft at his best. In this latest installment, the memoirist Leroy has essentially caught up to the present, and a fairly desultory present at that. Now living in Manhattan, Leroy and his wife Albertine are having trouble making ends meet. Worse, he’s called for jury duty. These two threads are briefly intertwined as Leroy decides that his fellow jurors, not to mention court clerk Sullivan “Sully” Sullivan, may be potential clients for his new business venture, ghost-writing other people’s memoirs. This notion is further propelled when Sully turns out to be a writer himself, and a witness to an earlier erotic adventure described in At Home With the Glynns.
But this promising groundwork is soon subverted as the novel veers into Leroy’s imagination, where two characters (or perhaps just one, but that’s a long story) from previous novels, Matthew Barber and Bertram “BW” Beath, command attention. Commandeer it, actually. Matthew has had a heart attack and uses his convalescence to examine his life. Part of that examination entails imagining BW’s exploits as he becomes a “passionate spectator” of life, a sort of contemplative hedonist and, it must be said, first-class bore.
Matthew is no party either. As comic bit players in the mind of Leroy, Matthew and BW aren’t without their charms, but asked to carry large parts of the story alone they fall as flat as “Seinfeld” spinoffs.
In Leaving Small’s Hotel, Kraft showed that he could tell a story about the adult Leroy and have it match the best of the boyhood-only tales. But Leaving Small’s Hotel had a meaty present-day plot, and a story-within-the-story allowed Leroy to return yet again to his childhood, to good effect.
Sorely missing in Passionate Spectator is Leroy’s light touch with his younger self, in which he emerges time and again as a latter-day Tom Sawyer, albeit one far more interested in Becky Thatcher than in whitewashed fences. One need only think of the sisters who prepare Leroy for his sexual initiation by instructing him to roll peas under his fingers (At Home With the Glynns), or the town sexpot who happily role-plays with him as he investigates a theory of his own paternity (Inflating a Dog) to be reminded of all that’s missing in this latest installment.
Perhaps it’s what audio engineers call “generation loss”: In the voice of alter ego Peter Leroy, Kraft still comes through loud and clear, but when Leroy in turn delegates the storytelling to his alter egos, the tape hiss impinges on the music.
Kraft completists will find some small pleasures in clever references to previous novels, and in the Leroy story that bookends the Matthew/BW search for meaning. But for those not familiar with Kraft, any of the other works cited herein would provide a better introduction to the curiously seductive voice and worldview of Peter Leroy.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, July 11, 2004
in the middle of a novel that brims with magnificent set pieces is a description
of the Limo Fountain, a monument to consumerism that depicts a limousine
leaping from the water like a stallion, weighted though it is with a driver,
a vomiting frat boy, a pop diva and a rapper, assorted athletes, developers,
potentates, political candidates and judges, and, at the base, a likeness
of the sculptor, her bronze hands shaping rough metal into the car’s back
If you think this suggests Passionate Spectator is a send-up of contemporary narcissism, you’re right. On the other hand, how many comic novels out there aren’t a mockery of our silly present-day foibles? Readers who have gotten this far in the book will already know what the presence of the artist in her own art work suggests, which is that Eric Kraft’s new novel is not only funny and smart but also as devious as a Mobius strip, turning in on itself, doubling back through events that have already occurred, and generally subverting our Newtonian world view.
That means it’s not going to be every reader’s cup of psychedelia. The book’s first words are “I am a crowd,” a statement that will have half of the potential readership clamoring “So am I!” while the rest head off to see The Bourne Oligarchy or whatever the name of that new Matt Damon movie is. I happen to be in the first group: I like an action film as much as the next armchair spy, but while I’m waiting for the ticket line to thin out, I’m happy to jump down the rabbit hole with the novel’s narrator, Peter Leroy. I mean, Matthew Barber. Actually, Bertram W. Beath. Really, all three—“I am a crowd,” indeed.
Passionate Spectator is the ninth in a series of novels by Kraft, who lives in St. Petersburg, that purport to be the memoirs of Peter Leroy, a brainy, good-natured fellow who drifts through these pages in a state of quasiemployment, accompanied by his adoring wife Albertine, or, as she is referred to more than once, “the long-suffering Albertine.” Matthew Barber and Bertram W. Beath begin as inner voices but become actual characters as the novel progresses; if you’ve had a day recently when you haven’t felt quite like yourself, you’ve got the general idea, though Peter Leroy’s other selves are almost certainly a lot more active than yours.
Leroy is a jack of all writerly trades, and as the novel begins, he is ghosting letters to editors, chipping away at a monthly newsletter for proctologists, and drafting a history of the transcontinental railroad that, because it is for young readers, can’t use words over two syllables, which means he can’t use “transcontinental” and instead has to say “a railroad that would go all the way across the country.” Mainly, though, he’s trying to promote his new service—Memoirs While You Wait—although so few people are interested in having him write their life stories that he’s forced to concentrate on himself.
Make that “selves”: falling asleep one night, Peter Leroy morphs into Matthew Barber, who is—let’s see—undergoing emergency heart surgery, in the course of which he, Matthew, either remembers or dreams that he uses a length of rebar to go after a cab driver who has tried to humiliate him, which is the event that triggers his heart failure. Before long, though, Matthew Barber becomes Bertram W. Beath, who, in his version of the story, is out walking with Matthew one evening when the latter begins to wheeze and so takes him to the hospital (there’s no bloodied cab driver in Beath’s account) before hopping on a plane to Miami, where he’ll participate in the unveiling of the Limo Fountain and have other adventures, many of them erotic, before becoming Matthew Barber again, who’ll go back to being Peter Leroy before the novel ends.
This three-layered account of one man’s (or two or three men’s) life is like a book that Peter Leroy admires called Oysters and All About Them by John R. Philpots, originally a slim but apparently deeply flawed volume. When his critics point out its many errors, Philpots reprints the first edition complete with a new preface describing his book’s reception as well as extensive appendices which correct most, but not all, of his mistakes, because the critics pounce again, prompting Philpots to produce a third edition, and then a fourth, with even more prefaces and appendices, each like a layer of nacre added to the irritating grain of sand that is the original text, until the whole becomes a 1,300-page pearl of misinformation that its author seems powerless to correct.
So it is with Passionate Spectator, though the novel’s subject is not bivalves but our contemporary obsession with self-exposure. Because he is a master of both bitter satire and narrative playfulness, I see Eric Kraft as the love child of Evelyn Waugh and John Barth. But since these two writers are, no doubt, too quirky to coexist peacefully for very long, I imagine them ramming their roadsters together and the newly orphaned Kraft then being raised by a third novelist, the underrated Peter De Vries, the comic master who never achieved the status of Waugh and Barth yet whose prose moves much faster than either of theirs.
Kraft’s novels are likely to leave no reader indifferent. You’ll either love them or hate them because either you feel that you are in on a very complicated joke or, like Matthew Barber being humiliated (or not) by the cab driver, not. But even if you’re outside of the joke, you’re still reacting to it, so either way, reader, you’re part of the story. Reading Passionate Spectator, don’t be surprised if you feel as though you’re dissolving into its pages, as though the sculptor of the Limo Fountain is yet another character in Peter Leroy’s busy mind, and one of the passengers in the limo itself is you.
Leroy is a struggling freelance writer who lives with his gracious, patient
wife, Albertine, in New York City, attempting to eke out an existence as
a memoirist. Seeking inspiration during his daily trek to the diner
for his Big Coffee, Peter impulsively purchases a tattered book on self-promotion
from a street peddler—only to discover later that it’s targeted to taxidermists.
Nevertheless, the book and a jury-duty summons trigger a personal journey
that is mundane in detail yet mythic in scope.
Bored during jury selection, Peter imagines episodes in the lives of his childhood friend, Matthew Barber, and Matthew’s anagrammatical alter ego, Bertram W. Beath. Both are drawn from Kraft’s earlier novel Reservations Recommended, but here they represent aspects of Peter’s own personality: Matthew embodies Peter’s caution and timidity; BW, his boundless curiosity and unbridled id.
The tip of an extensive literary iceberg, Passionate Spectator is the eighth in a series of novels devoted to Peter. (As with Philip Roth’s Zuckerman novels, each installment can be savored independently.) Less a narrative than a gamboling reflection on the ways in which memory shapes supposedly objective history, the novel playfully riffs on Proust and the Nabokov of Pale Fire, and its denouement touches on The Odyssey and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” That the book also manages to entertain the neophyte is a credit to Kraft’s colorful, incisive prose and off-kilter wit.
Steve Smith, Time Out New York, July 8-15, 2004
he does as a novelist, Eric Kraft will always have my gratitude for one
thing: creating what may be the happiest and least neurotic sex in American
literature. Let us pause for a moment to consider this feat. Sex in Kraft’s
books is not a weapon, not a sickness, not a failing. It does not destroy
homes or turn people into addicts and predators. It is neither to be feared
nor demonized. Kraft writes about sex for people who will spend their lives
happily wedded to (and bedded by) one person, yet will supplement that
union guiltlessly with a blissful and calisthenic fantasy life.
If this sounds like a trivial accomplishment, ask yourself how many times you’ve seen it done. Especially in the guise of comic novels, which Kraft’s most assuredly and joyously are. For the past two decades, Kraft has charted the “personal history, adventures, experiences and observations” of a fictional alter ego named Peter Leroy, a figure who came to the author in a daydream as a boy on a boat dock. Around Peter, Kraft has constructed a mythology as elaborate as that of his literary model, Proust. It encompasses amorous twins, radio shows, various fake but exacting scientific manuals, and a fictional Long Island town called Babbington. No matter how arcane the subject or the piece of post-World War II pop-culture flotsam, Kraft revels in its deadpan absurdity, in the grand passions that people pour into loony obsessions—the junk mail of the cosmos.
By this point Peter is grown, married, and in Kraft’s new novel Passionate Spectator, facing middle age and the first glimmers of mortality. Not that the book ever resembles anything so glum and prosaic as that description. Now a clientless “professional memoirist” who touts his ability to spice up people’s autobiographies, Peter picks up what he thinks is a self-help book about effective promotion. And it is—for taxidermists. A less adventurous man would be discouraged by this purchase. Not Peter, who sees evidence of life’s grand design even in the drone of a jury-instruction manual. He finds that the principles of the memoirist are not so different from those of a guy who stuffs raccoons.
“For the memoirist who invents as much as he records, living life is only half the fun,” Peter marvels. “Life is a rough draft. The mind remakes it, revises it, reshapes it, unwittingly through memory, deliberately through the imagination.” Passionate Spectator gives Peter the chance to revise his own life. The bulk of the novel is given over to Peter’s hyperactive imagination, stirred to a boil by his lack of success and the surprise insights of his taxidermist counselor. To free himself momentarily from his worries—and from his wife Albertine, who indulges his whims with skeptical tolerance—Peter daydreams a pair of pseudonymous alternate lives, one within the other.
One allows him to explore a world of erotic opportunities, each paired with a new obsession: a lithe “rebel angel” from a cult of alien worshippers, a real-estate marketer trying to pitch the perfect planned community, a jaded single who likens the search for love to the pursuit of the perfect crab cake, with the proper balance of substance to filling. The other life permits him to experience, vicariously, his own near death. Kraft’s method, like the magician’s, is to divert the reader with joke set-ups and enough meandering tangents to stock a kennel with shaggy-dog stories, while carefully spinning his own grand design.
Peter’s fantasy life is literally the center of Passionate Spectator, which forms a kind of literary M&M with a hard but sweet shell surrounding a confectionary heart. The analogy isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Peter helpfully provides us with a spherical diagram of the book, with his experiences as the outer ring and the imagined adventures of his own alter egos as the core. (If you’re thinking Tristram Shandy, with its narrative graphs and recombinant digressions, you’re on to the author’s game.) A reader thus moves through Kraft’s book as if tunneling into the earth, passing through deeper and darker realms of imagination.
Once Kraft enters that core, all the previous themes, tangents and characters that seemed funny but inessential start to collide and connect with dizzying speed. In an earlier book, Where Do You Stop? (Crown, 1992), Peter wonders at which point a person’s molecules end, keeping him distinct from everything else in the world. Here he wonders where the moment ends and memory begins, and his conclusion is the same: It never really does. The same fictional impulse that leads the memoirist to make his life bigger and juicier helps make sense of the world’s flood of raw data, connecting dots of experience—a sensation Kraft evokes, with typical comic élan, at the moment Peter suddenly notices all the blobs of gum on a New York sidewalk.
Passionate Spectator comes off a bit arch at times, a side effect of funneling so many voices through the filter of a single imagined consciousness. The characters tend to talk alike when they’re elaborating Kraft’s themes, even between mouthfuls of cunnilingus. I’m grateful whenever supporting players barge in with welcome brusqueness, like a surly bailiff out of a Preston Sturges stock company. But at its center this is the bleakest of the Peter Leroy books, the one most openly despairing about a culture that encourages consumption without joy and life without introspection.
And yet it’s a measure of his generosity and good-heartedness as a creator that Eric Kraft at his bleakest still manages such capacity for delight. Those who’ve been following Kraft since his wondrous 1988 novel Herb ’n’ Lorna—a hilarious epic romance about Peter’s suburban grandparents, who lead secret lives as artisans of “animated erotic jewelry”—long for the time we never again have to explain who Peter Leroy is. He should be part of a reader’s lexicon. Each Peter Leroy novel can stand alone as a book, but they’re best enjoyed as a whole, as a kind of running counterpart to our own lives, a Christmas newsletter that unfolds to reveal an entire universe in origami. Every few years he’ll check in, and we’ll add his experiences to our treasure trove of memory, where they’ll inevitably blur into our own remembrance of things past.
Fiction, like sex, is a spice of life. At stake in Passionate Spectator, and the Peter Leroy books as a whole, is nothing less than an assessment of each person’s place in the universe—not just as a memoirist or taxidermist, equally prone to embellishing a preserved and idealized memory, but as a spectator who gives shape to life simply by watching and remembering. “We memoirists know that we do not make life’s journey to get somewhere,” Peter concludes; “we make the journey so we can tell the tale. We assist as passionate spectators at the little drama of our lives.” Eric Kraft is our passionate spectator, and the world is his crab cake.
are few contemporary American works of fiction as humorously erudite or
eccentrically ambitious as Eric Kraft’s cycle of novels, “The Personal
History, Adventures, Experiences and Observations of Peter Leroy.” (Little
Follies, nine novellas introducing readers to Peter’s world, remains
the best place to start.)
In these convoluted tall tales, Kraft evokes Peter’s experience of growing up innocent, curious and horny in Babbington, Long Island, “Clam Capital of America.” Each installment is tricked out with Glen Baxter-like illustrations, a cornucopia of allusions to Western literature and a host of narrative acrobatics, including prefaces explaining what really happened to Peter and why the details had to be changed to make the story more true.
Occasionally, however, the risks Kraft takes fall flat. That’s the case, alas, with Passionate Spectator, a trick-box of a novel that, instead of having a strong narrative backbone festooned with digressions (Kraft’s usual modus operandi), is more than 60 percent digression, with a tenuous connecting thread that reveals itself only in the last 10 pages, too late to grab the reader’s interest.
That’s a shame, because the novel’s premise is terrific. An aging, cash-poor Peter, living in Manhattan with his devoted wife, Albertine, is trying to cook up a scheme to bring in some income. What he hits on is “Memoirs While You Wait,” a service to help ordinary souls get their lives down on paper in a readable manner.
So far, so good. One can imagine a situation where the sensibilities and memories of memoir-subjects and ghost-writer get tangled and confused, creating comic angst and cosmic mind-exchange.
But Kraft doesn’t take the book in that direction. Instead, the narrating voices crowding out Peter’s belong to Matthew Barber, the restaurant-critic protagonist from Kraft’s 1990 novel, Reservations Recommended, and B.W. Beath, the pseudonym Matthew uses while on the job. When Matthew is hospitalized with heart trouble, Passionate Spectator loses sight of Peter and his memoir scheme for more than 140 pages.
Money (or the lack of it) and mortality (impending) are on Kraft’s mind here — rich subjects for any novelist. But his three-voiced approach feels cluttered, and the viability of Matthew and B.W. as narrators depends too much on the readers’ familiarity with Reservations Recommended (not Kraft’s best novel). I’m sure there’s a powerful personal reason why Kraft wants to write about heart-attack scares and angioplasty — but the way they’re treated here, they feel as though they belong in a different book.
Passionate Spectator also comes weighed down with a lot of carping about the dismal state of American culture and humanity in general in the 21st century — all true enough but phrased without much sting or distinction. Maybe the gentle absurdities of Babbington, Long Island, are a pipe dream at this point. Certainly it’s clear that Kraft wants to move on from Peter’s boyhood and adolescence. Still, I can’t be the only Kraft fan hankering after another visit to the charms of the “Clam Capital of America.”
Seattle Times, Sunday, September 5, 2004
PASSIONATE SPECTATOR | CONTENTS
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Copyright © 2004 by Eric Kraft
Passionate Spectator is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
St. Martin’s Press will publish Passionate Spectator in the summer of 2004.
For information about publication rights outside the U. S. A., audio rights, serial rights, screen rights, and so on, e-mail Kraft’s indefatigable agent, Alec “Nick” Rafter.
The illustration at the top of the page is an adaptation of an illustration by Stewart Rouse that first appeared on the cover of the August 1931 issue of Modern Mechanics and Inventions. The boy at the controls of the aerocycle doesn’t particularly resemble Peter Leroy—except, perhaps, for the smile.