Ki Longfellow

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Ki Longfellow
Ki Nymph crop.jpg
Born (1944-12-09) December 9, 1944 (age 69)
Staten Island, New York
Occupation Writer, screenwriter, playwright. theater director
Nationality American
Period 1980s to present
Genre Fiction
Subject Varied

www.kilongfellow.com

Ki Longfellow (born 'Baby Kelly', later named Pamela, December 9, 1944) is an American novelist, playwright, theatrical producer, theater director and entrepreneur. She is best known in the United States for her novel The Secret Magdalene (2005). This is among her recent works exploring the divine feminine. In England, she is likely best known as the widow of Vivian Stanshall, the late musician, singer-songwriter, author, broadcaster and wit.

Longfellow started writing seriously after Stanshall's death. Her first two novels, China Blues (1989) and Chasing Women (1993) and the recent Houdini Heart (2011)[1]are mysteries and thrillers. In April 2013, the first three titles of her Sam Russo Mysteries were published, part of a noir series set in and around New York City in the late 1940s.[2] Walks Away Woman—about a neglected Arizona housewife walking out into the Sonoran Desert to die, was completed in 2002 but not published until December 2013.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

She was born as Baby Kelly on December 9, 1944, on Staten Island, New York to Andrea Lorraine Kelly, who was barely sixteen years old. The young mother finally named the child "Pamela" when required to by the authorities, then put her baby in foster care while she worked at many jobs during the last of the war years. When the infant contracted pneumonia, she was removed from the foster home. The girl was taken in by a relative of her mother's father. She was removed from this "home" when it was discovered this relative's husband was abusive.[4] Pamela was never told about her biological father until she was 27, and then she was not told his name, only that he was Native American.

Within two years Kelly, briefly assuming care of her child, left New York to resettle in Marin County, California, near her older married sister, Rosemarie Anderson. In Marin, Anderson cared for Pamela, until she left for Samoa, then to Texas with her own child and new husband, recently returned from World War II. She turned the girl back to her mother.[5]

Kelly met and married a US Navy man named Clifford Longfellow, claiming Pamela again at the age of four. He adopted her and she took his surname. Over the next several years, the family moved frequently, as he was assigned to New York's Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hawaii's Pearl Harbor, Mare Island and Long Beach in California, and Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. Due to frequent moves, Longfellow attended a different school for each grade except the years spent on Oahu. Between duty stations, the family lived with her adopted grandfather, Lindsay Ray Longfellow, at his home in Larkspur, California. Pamela relied on him for "family," and learned to enjoy his pastime of going to horse races.[5]

Longfellow graduated from Redwood High School in Larkspur. In her junior and senior years, she attended only those classes that interested her and cut others.[5] Determined to become a writer, she spent time with painters, poets, and musicians in Sausalito, and discovered what remained of the Beat Generation in North Beach.

At nineteen, Longfellow had a dramatic experience that she now considers an occurrence of gnosis.[5] Not understanding her experience then and suffering panic attacks, she voluntarily entered the State Mental Institution at Napa, California. There she was diagnosed, without benefit of a doctor, as a "severe psycho-neurotic."[6]

Children, marriages, family and early work[edit]

On June 21, 1963, at age eighteen, Longfellow gave birth to her first child, Sydney Longfellow (who became a painter as an adult). In 1964 she acted in her only movie, Once a Thief (starring Alain Delon and directed by Ralph Nelson) in a part written for her by the film's screenwriter, Zekial Marko.[6] In 1967 she moved with her daughter to New York City, where she worked briefly as a fashion model, and then as a writer for CARE. She moved to Montana, where she lived and worked for a year on a ranch on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation as a member of VISTA. She sailed to Europe, living for a time in Nice and Paris.

Back in New York City, Longfellow worked for the promoter Bill Graham in his Millard Booking Agency. In 1972, she met Robin Gee, the manager of the English folk band Fairport Convention, and moved with him to England. They were together for five years and she became a British citizen. During this period, Longfellow wrote occasionally for English music magazines.

A year before her mother died suddenly at the age of 44 from an embolism, she told her 27-year-old daughter, for the first time, that her biological father was a Native American of Iroquois ancestry. Kelly had met him at art school but never told Pamela his name or that of the school. Longfellow never met him nor could she find him.[5] Longfellow returned to California in 1975 and stayed there for a time.

In 1977, she flew back to England. There she met Vivian Stanshall, frontman for the Bonzo Dog Band. In 1977, they moved into a houseboat moored on the River Thames between Chertsey and Shepperton.[7] On August 16, 1979, they had a daughter, Silky Longfellow-Stanshall. On September 9, 1981 they married in the register office at Sunbury-on-Thames.

Health[edit]

In the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Longfellow was bitten by a deer tick in 1997 and consequently became infected by Lyme Disease. Since the bite, she has lived with the symptoms caused by the chronic stage of the disease.[8]

Music and plays[edit]

Longfellow and Stanshall wrote radio plays and songs together. In 1980, she edited Stanshall's only book, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End & Other Spots, published by Pete Townshend, of Eel Pie Publishing. She also helped Stanshall with the script for the film version of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, which starred Trevor Howard.[5]

Main article: The Thekla

In late 1982, Longfellow discovered the Thekla, a ship she rescued and renovated. She moored it in the port of Bristol, where she adapted it as a theater and restaurant. She hoped this would provide refuge for her hard-drinking, valium-addicted, husband. The restaurant failed, but the theater thrived and also built a reputation as a music venue. In early 1983, Stanshall joined her on the Old Profanity Showboat.[9]

In 1985, Stanshall and Longfellow wrote, produced, and staged their Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera aboard the Thekla. Their friend Peter Moss helped prepare the orchestra, made up of local musicians and street buskers. The show received excellent reviews.[10] Later the popular opera was transferred to London's West End, where it was partly financed by Stephen Fry. Perhaps because the Stanshalls were not involved, it was not a financial success. In 2004, Sea Urchin Editions published the script of the original Stinkfoot, with an introduction by Longfellow.[11]

In 1986, Longfellow and Stanshall closed the theatre and moved into the Bristol home of their friend, actor David Rappaport.

Writing career[edit]

Longfellow began writing in earnest. Her first novel was China Blues (1989), a historical thriller set in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1923. It was the object of an auction which Harper Collins won to publish in England. Doubleday, New York published an American edition in 1990. China Blues was subsequently translated into Spanish, Swedish, Hebrew, Czech, German, and optioned by Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown.[12]

Longfellow's second book Chasing Women (1993), was a comedy murder mystery set in New York City just after the Great Crash of 1929. It was also published in England by Harper Collins Grafton imprint. Later it was optioned by an Australian team of female writer/producers. The process of attempting to turn her novels into films taught Longfellow a great deal about the mainstream movie business.

From mid-1990, when she was very ill with pneumonia, until the death of her husband in March 1995, Longfellow divided her time between a small farm in Brattleboro, Vermont and Stanshall's flat in Muswell Hill, London. She and their daughter Silky hoped that Stanshall would end his destructive habits and they would once again be a family.

After Stanshall's accidental death in a fire in 1995, Longfellow stopped writing for a time. When she slowly got back to work, she found a new "voice" very different from the one she displayed in her earlier works. Since Stanshall's death, her work has grappled with that loss, her difficult childhood, and spiritual yearning. She has recognized that her experience at age 19 was gnosis.[13][14]

Since being widowed, Longfellow has published by the first name of "Ki" (pronounced as in "sky"), which Stanshall had given her from a vivid dream he'd had on the Searchlight. Based on her book, The Secret Magdalene, she was invited to contribute to Dan Burstein's non-fiction book Secrets of Mary Magdalene (2006). (CDS Books, 2006)

Her novel, The Secret Magdalene (Eio Books, 2005, Random House, 2007) has been translated into Spanish, Czech, Chinese, Icelandic, and French. It was optioned to be adapted as a feature film by director Nancy Savoca.

Longfellow's novel Flow Down Like Silver, (Hypatia of Alexandria) (Eio Books, 2009) is about the 4th/5th century mathematician and philosopher who lived in Egypt.[15] It is the second volume in her trilogy on the Divine Feminine or Shakti.

She rewrote the script for Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera, to be staged in Britain, cutting it to two hours. Peter Moss will again serve as musical director. (At the same time she was working on her first nonfiction, a memoir of her married life called, The Last Showboat, an Illustrated Memoir of Vivian Stanshall, the Old Profanity Showboat, & Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera.[16])

A Stinkfoot Showcase played the Thekla in Bristol, England on July 20, 21, 22nd and 24, 2010. This was a showcase of Stinkfoot's songs backed by a full band and selected cast members (including Nikki Lamborn and Vivian and Ki's daughter Silky Longfellow-Stanshall) plus Tony Slattery as narrator and singer. It attracted the attention of major press (The Word magazine, Mojo magazine, BBC London & BBC Bristol), and theatres like the Bristol Old Vic. She is seeking funding to restage the original work.[17]

The concert has been adapted as a film, entitled The Last Showboat, (in pre-production as of 2013) based on the history of the Old Profanity Showboat and the Stanshalls.

Longfellow published a horror/psychological thriller, Houdini Heart (2011).[18] In 2012 the Horror Writers Association announced that Houdini Heart was on the shortlist for the Bram Stoker Award for "Outstanding Achievement in a Novel", 2011.[19][20]

In February 2012, Eio Books redesigned and reissued Longfellow's first published novel, China Blues[21] which was optioned in the fall of 2013 as either a television series or a mini-series.

In early April 2013, Longfellow published her first three titles in a series of murder mysteries featuring Sam Russo, 1940s Staten Island, New York Private Eye. These are in the noir tradition.[22][23]

In December 2013, Longfellow published Walks Away Woman, a book she had written in 2002 when she was living in Tucson, Arizona.[24]

Books[edit]

Movies[edit]

Theater[edit]

  • Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera, staged in Bristol, England and London, England, (currently in pre-production for an upcoming revival)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Comments on Houdini Heart
  2. ^ "Sam Russo Mysteries". Eiobooks.com. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  3. ^ "Walks Away Woman". Eiobooks.com. Retrieved 2013-12-07. 
  4. ^ "Ki Longfellow", The Bristolian, May 1988
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Interview with Ki Longfellow", Discovery, Radio Two (England), 1990
  6. ^ a b "Interview with Ki Longfellow"], Woman's Hour, English radio show, 1993
  7. ^ The Stanshalls on the Thames
  8. ^ Ki Longfellow and Lyme Disease
  9. ^ The BBC produced a documentary program about it, aired in September 1983 as The Bristol Showboat Saga.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Stinkfoot script
  12. ^ Longfellow's first two novels
  13. ^ Longfellow's change of direction
  14. ^ Recognition of gnosis
  15. ^ Amazon.com: Flow Down Like Silver (Hypatia of Alexandria) (9780975925591): Ki Longfellow: Books
  16. ^ "Interview with Longfellow", Barnes and Noble reading, San Francisco, November 2008, no publisher
  17. ^ Stinkfoot concert on the Thekla
  18. ^ Amazon.com: Houdini Heart
  19. ^ "Horror Writers Association Blog |". Horror.org. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  20. ^ Longfellow's take on Bram Stoker Award
  21. ^ a b c d e f "Eio Books". Eio Books. Retrieved 2013-08-02. 
  22. ^ Sam Russo Mysteries
  23. ^ Third Sam Russo
  24. ^ Walks Away Woman
  25. ^ Nancy Savoca's next film

External links[edit]