The Gypsy Storyteller
Thomas William Simpson
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The Gypsy Storyteller
(Originally Published by Warner Books March 1993)
Friendship. Love. Lust. Betrayal. Freedom. An often excruciating cycle we all must pass through at least once in our lives…
Thomas William Simpson, the acclaimed author of This Way Madness Lies, follows his impressive debut novel with an extraordinary work of pure storytelling magic. The Gypsy Storyteller tells the tale of two young men whose lives, from the time of their births, are fatefully linked. It is also the story of a devastating lovers’ triangle spinning wildly out of control.
Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, Matthew Chandler and Daniel Hawthorn have much in common. But they are, in fact, polar opposites, emotionally and psychologically. Matthew descends from solid English stock, pure white Angle Saxon Protestant stuff right down to his core. Daniel’s mother, a direct descendent of Nathaniel Hawthorne, has managed to cast off her Puritan cloak, marrying a full-blooded Eastern European Gypsy whose family was annihilated during the Holocaust.
Matthew is preternaturally cautious. Daniel is relentlessly daring. Matthew plays by the rules, Daniel breaks them with gusto. Through a boyhood of wild, uproarious adventures that include jumping boxcars, a fatal stabbing, and an eye-opening but terrifying trip to Czechoslovakia in the company of Daniel’s father, the boys’ unlikely friendship endures.
Until Matthew, herded off to boarding school by his uptight parents, meets the beautiful and mysterious Rachel Ann Fredericks. Almost immediately, the straight line that has held Matthew and Daniel together for so many years transforms itself into a triangle.
Gifted, free-spirited, and wildly independent, Rachel forces a whole new dimension upon the young men’s lives, forcing them to confront the reality they can be enemies as well as allies.
In The Gypsy Storyteller Simpson deftly explores the connections between friendship, love, and betrayal. And through the sheer power of his prose he makes us believe that freedom, even the dream of freedom, is what ultimately holds our lives in the balance.
Full of the spirit of adventure—physical, spiritual, and sexual—this constantly surprising novel pushes back the horizons of contemporary fiction. The Gypsy Storyteller pulses with flesh and blood vitality, humor, and above all, with a keen sensitivity for the painful struggles of the human heart.
In the best tradition of Mark Twain, John Fowles, and John Irving, this fine and generous novel takes us places we have not visited before.
The inside skinny on The Gypsy Storyteller is this: the three main characters—Daniel, Matthew, and Rachel—who form the triangle that holds the narrative together, are, in fact, all drawn from distinct facets of my own psyche and personality.
When I sat down to begin my second novel I had in mind an adventure story, a Huck Finn kind of thing with overtones of A Separate Peace. I hashed out my two primary characters, Matthew and Daniel, alike in many ways, but also strikingly different.
The plot went well. I had little trouble filling the pages. My own youth, after all, had been full of adventures, both real and imagined, so I had few problems conjuring up the grist of boyhood. But whereas This Way Madness Lies had a cast of a dozen or more characters, The Gypsy Storyteller had but a few. This meant, I soon realized, that I needed to understand those characters better and dig deeper to find out who they were and what motivated their actions.
It became my first great exploration of self. I was in my early thirties at the time. I was a big, strong, athletic guy. I came from a family that had some dough. I had traveled a lot. I wasn’t afraid of much. Nothing, other than a broken heart or two and a couple of broken bones, had ever hurt me. I pretty much had the world by the short hairs.
But I had this novel to write. And my editor, Jamie Raab at Warner Books, really liked the beginning but she was pushing me to develop Matthew and Daniel beyond stereotypes of suburban American white boys. So I started to dig. And I soon had to admit I was a far more complex and angst-driven guy than I’d ever dreamed. I was Matthew Chandler, the conformist, uptight white kid from the affluent suburbs with all the advantages. But I was also Daniel Hawthorn, the kid full of wanderlust and rebellion who spoke his mind and would not be suppressed.
All good. I embraced it. I was developing as a writer and as a man.
But then Rachel arrived on the scene. And I had to dig still deeper for Rachel was an artist and a free spirit and I quickly realized I probably had a greater affinity for Ms. Fredericks than for either Matthew or Daniel.
The years have proven this insight out. Without question my artistic side, my relentless desire to indulge my imagination and explore my creativity even in the midst of a life in crisis, has been the greatest driving force in my life.
The Gypsy Storyteller is easily the most autobiographical of my novels. But more than that it’s a great adventure story. And maybe even a better love story.