An Epic Life
The basic drama with Errol Flynn was that he had everything – looks, charm, talent, intelligence, and a huge following of devoted fans and willing women. He was the classic image of a swashbuckling hero and romantic lover. That which other men merely fantasized about, Flynn did with style and dash, living in a way which surpassed any film he ever made. But somewhere on the road to movie immortality he embarked on a destructive lifestyle that wrecked his career and ultimately killed him. Why did it happen? What were the forces at work in this complex individual whose own father regarded him as an “enigma”? Kevin McAleer is not the first author to wend his way through the maze of myth and falsehood that comprises Flynn’s legend, but no one has yet attempted an epic narrative of his life in verse. Flynn’s ghostwriter for his memoir My Wicked, Wicked Ways called him “one of the most poetic men I have ever met,” and McAleer holds the view that biographies and other accounts of Flynn have failed to capture his verve and essential spirit, which had greater affinity to an age of high-flown lyricism than to our own prosaic times. Flynn himself was fond of claiming that he’d been born into the wrong century, so McAleer is taking him at his word and recounting his saga in the same way as did English balladeers the tale of Robin Hood – Flynn’s most memorable screen incarnation.
In detailing Flynn’s life, McAleer draws inspiration from Lord Byron’s playful and jocose Don Juan, whose stanza form he employs. Flynn was not only the embodiment of Byronic romanticism but one of the twentieth century’s great libertines, having also assumed the title role in the 1948 Hollywood film Adventures of Don Juan, so it is only fitting that the roguish ottava rima stanza be used in recounting his life.
This is poetry for people who think they don’t like poetry and for all those who enjoy dishy movie-star bios and a gusto-filled romp.
With a foreword by novelist Carey Harrison:
I find it hard to overestimate the cunning of McAleer’s decision to give Flynn a Byronic costume, not only in the charisma Flynn shared with his Lordship, but in Byron’s own verse panache. McAleer’s wit and verbal deftness are the vessel on which his glorious project is launched, and they swell the sails of his splendid, hilarious and touching book. It’s a heartfelt tribute not only to Flynn but to Byron himself and all the fearless ones who have seized the stage of life and demanded the spotlight.
Rex Reed, film critic:
A pleasant and unusual surprise . . . . a daring adventure in biographical refurbishment[:]
Wonderful nostalgia, rash and brash
And far from the usual fan-mag trash.
Fiona MacCarthy, author of BYRON: LIFE AND LEGEND:
The correlation between Flynn and Byron is certainly convincing. What a story . . . . a wonderfully entertaining work.
Praise for Kevin McAleer’s acclaimed historical monograph DUELING: THE CULT OF HONOR IN FIN-DE-SIÈCLE GERMANY:
McAleer’s portrait of Germany’s dueling classes is vivid and appalling. It fully illustrates the book’s wonderful epigraph, taken from W. Somerset Maugham: “Man has always found it easier to sacrifice his life than to learn the multiplication table."
- The Wall Street Journal