Chasing down the story of a man of implausible paradoxes
“Few writers know the backwoods and customs of rural Maine better than Jeffrey Ryan, who brings his deep knowledge of the outdoors to this well-wrought tale and proves to be an adept hand at suspense and pacing.”Everett Potter, Contributor, Forbes.com
In 1895, a mysterious man arrived in the rural Maine town of Monson by rail. With him was a woman he introduced as his wife. The couple bought 30 acres of land high on a ridge overlooking the rail line through Bodfish Valley. One year later, Dora Whyte left town for good, leaving her husband, Jim Whyte behind.
A few months later, another woman moved in with Whyte. Tessa stayed for twenty years, but in 1916, she left, too. Neither woman ever shared what they knew about Jim Whyte (at least publicly), but the local gossip and stories left behind helped make up for that.
World traveler settles down
Jim Whyte ran away from his New York City home at age 16. He joined the German Navy for a spell, then spent another fifteen years exploring the world, a venture that took him to China, Peru, Spain and dozens of countries in between. Before he came to settle in Maine for good, he spent two years panning for gold in the newly formed state of Idaho.
Whyte was fabulously wealthy. He bought the first car owned north of Portland, Maine’s largest city. He was a Renaissance man who owned more than one hundred guns, fine linens, a library of over 300 books, sterling silver place settings, emeralds, diamonds and more.
His cabin had gun ports in the shutters, something the locals knew weren’t simply for protecting his wealth. No, Jim Whyte was hiding a secret—one that made the FBI come up from New York to question him twice.
What was it?
For the past few years, I’ve been on the search to find out. And what I’ve found was a story so compelling that it had to become a book.
The North Woods are filled with quirky characters and wonderful stories. Jeffrey Ryan’s tale of Jim Whyte embodies so much of what makes these characters so appealing—the mysterious signals in the night, the hundreds of books lining the walls of his hideaway, the game of hide and seek with the law. Ryan has crafted a story that you won’t want to put down.Mills Kelly, Professor of History, George Mason University
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