Would the real Hemingway please stand up?

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Resembling Hemingway - author of The Old Man and the Sea and other classics of American literature - is one thing, but having his blood in your veins is much more impressive. Or so believes Richard Steel from Davison, Michigan, who claims to be the author's fourth son - he recently changed his name to Richard Steel Hemingway.

"I've known since the age of five that I was supposed to come to Sloppy Joe's in Key West and find a picture of my father," Mr Steel Hemingway said, after revealing himself to festival-goers at the weekend. Sloppy Joe's was the writer's favourite bar during the time that he lived in Key West, during the 1930s.

Mr Steel Hemingway was introduced on stage as the writer's fourth child. The introduction was made by the author's granddaughter Lorian Hemingway. "I know Richard is completely sincere and guileless in his quest for his father, and I do believe his father is Ernest Hemingway," she said. "Richard is so determined to have an answer that he is having DNA testing, and a male member of our family is going to give blood for the testing."

The newly discovered son says he learnt the identity of his real father only a year ago. It was his mother who revealed the truth, he says, shortly before she died. She told him he had been born five days before the death of Hemingway, who committed suicide in 1961.

The annual Hemingway festival is timed to celebrate the birthday of the author on 21 July 1899. It brings crowds of tourists and fans to Key West, at the southern tip of the Florida Keys.

Explaining his genealogy, Mr Steel Hemingway said his mother had been a longtime Key West resident and a former friend of the playwright Tennessee Williams. He added that his father had secretly married his mother on the island of Cuba, where he lived and wrote for 20 years. At the time of their marriage, he may have still been married to his fourth wife, Mary, back in the United States.

The only advice his mother was able to pass on from his father, he said, was not to study the great writers of literature, lest to do so would impede any writing style he might have of his own. Mr Steel Hemingway, a machinist and amateur inventor, admitted that - had he known his parentage earlier - he might have taken writing a bit more seriously.

The winner of the lookalike contest, meanwhile, was Bob Doughty, a 61-year-old postman from Florida, making his 13th attempt to win the competition.