Matt Weinstock, Oct. 8, 1959
October 8, 2009 | 4:00 pm
Eugene Vale, author of "The Thirteenth Apostle," lives and works a few blocks from Sunset and Laurel Canyon Blvds., rendezvous of actors, entertainers, agents and horse players, and fountainhead of glib, superficial wisecracks about Hollywood.
Yet out of this setting has come a book which critics are comparing with "The Magic Mountain," "Pilgrim's Progress" and "Green Mansions."
Vale, born in Switzerland, has been writing all his life, books, plays, short stories, poems. He came to Los Angeles in 1946. The idea for "The Thirteenth Apostle" began germinating 20 years ago, and three years ago Vale isolated himself and began writing. He spent two and a half years at it and his first completed draft was 20,000 pages, which he cut to 515 for the finished manuscript.
DURING THIS TIME, he recalls, he was hounded by his agent, who had jobs waiting for him. He was tempted, for he had the usual writer's qualms that the book would not come off, but he resisted.
The book is now in its fourth printing, and two film studios are interested in it. Its acceptance is gratifying to Vale because it is an indication that people have not gone over entirely to violence and "escape." A gentle, hopeful, youthful man, Vale refuses to accept the premise that cynicism and defeat are inevitable in today's world.
He has a wry recollection of some interviews he had recently in New York. People there could not believe that anyone from Los Angeles could write such a meaningful, significant book. When he told them he lived here they expressed shocked disbelief. Somehow the notion persists that this is an intellectual wasteland.
On the surface, the book is a kind of mystery adventure. Donald Webb, staid American consul in the Central American town of Puerto Carribas, sets out into the mountainous jungle to investigate the unexplained death of Franz Crispian , shabby, fugitive, obsessed, American artist who had stopped briefly at the port. But the journey becomes more than routine duty. Webb, who "considered order the supreme law of the universe, and consequently the highest goal of man," feels a strange compulsion to find Crispian's secret. Before long he is himself obsessed with the need for finding truth and the meaning of life.
The book is an experience no reader will ever forget.
Well, it was snapped up by 56 Las Vegas businessmen for a high sealed bid of $5,600. That's a $100 per man, a bargain. After all, the lighthouse, located on a tiny island off Oregon, cost the government $2,250,000 to build and maintain in the 77 years it was in use -- 1880 to 1957. On the other hand, the lighthouse is one of the most inaccessible on the coast and is often lashed by stormy sees which break over its 135-foot-high lantern.
The Las Vegans, including M.M. Sweeney of Pioneer of Nevada, subsidiary of Title Insurance here, haven't said how they plan to use the place. Probably just a bunch of guys fascinated by the idea of owning a lighthouse.