Michael Redhill's secret identity
Michael Redhill has a secret identity. Or at least he did until July 27th, when he unmasked himself in one of the most public venues possible: The Globe & Mail. He reveals that he is the true mastermind behind the work of female mystery novelist Inger Ash Wolfe.
I can take up to a decade to write a novel, but Inger wrote three good ones in five years. I was rather amazed. She was more widely read than I, and she was earning more money than I did. She was going to have her own life and her own fate and I was very pleased.
What I was expecting from this confession was a discussion of high and low culture, and the need to develop a separate pseudonym for his mystery novels in order to preserve his standing in the literary world. The fact that Inger was more materially successful than Michael is certainly interesting, but If this thought influenced his decision, he doesn't let on in his essay.
Instead, Michael talks a great deal about the thrill of assuming a secret identity, much like a crime-fighting superhero: "there was something satisfying about becoming a character, about being inside another mind that you had to create out of yourself." So why did he unmask himself? It seems the internet made him do it. In a world of social media marketing, Inger cannot continue to sell books without a real physical presence. I wonder if the Nancy Drew series of my youth, famously written by a factory of writers under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, would have been so pervasive if it was borne of this era. It's enormously exciting to get to know a writer through more than just their published work, but I share with Michael a sense of longing, I suppose, for what we've lost in the process.
If you'd like to get to know Michael Redhill a little better through his writing, you can read his stunning personal essay about his garden, and the many ways that we are sustained, in the TNQ Extra.