Whyte, Jack 1940- (John D. Whyte)
Whyte, Jack 1940- (John D. Whyte)
Born March 15, 1940, in Johnstone, Scotland; immigrated to Canada, 1967; son of Francis and Sarah Keenan Whyte; married Beverley Ann Mitchell, May 6, 1970; children: five. Education: Univ. de Poiltiers, diploma d'études français, 1962; attended Strawberry Hill Teacher Training College (England), 1963. Hobbies and other interests: Music, reading, golf.
Home—British Colombia, Canada.
Writer, novelist, copywriter, educator, and playwright. Taught English and French, 1963-68; professional musician, entertainer, performer, 1968-78; wrote for CBC national television; copy chief and creative director for advertising agencies, 1978-80; in corporate communications, 1980-96. Simon Fraser University, part-time instructor.
Burns Club of Calgary (past president and honorary life member).
Honorary Regimental Bard, 1975; two Gold Medals, New York International Film Festival, 1992, environmental category, for best writing and best narration; Chieftain, Order of Gallant Canadians, Calgary Highlanders Regiment, 1994.
"A DREAM OF EAGLES"/"CAMULOD CHRONICLES" SERIES; NOVELS
The Skystone, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992, Forge Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Singing Sword, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1992, Forge Books (New York, NY), 1996.
The Eagles' Brood, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994, Forge Books (New York, NY), 1997.
The Saxon Shore, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995, Forge Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The Sorcerer: Book I, The Fort at River's Bend, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997, Forge Books (New York, NY), 1999.
The Sorcerer: Book II, Metamorphosis, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997, Forge Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Uther, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Clothar the Frank, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003, published as The Lance Thrower, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Eagle, Viking Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005, Forge (New York, NY), 2007.
The Lance Thrower, Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
Knights of the Black and White, Penguin (New York, NY), 2006.
Jack Whyte: Forty Years in Canada, Heritage House (Custer, WA), 2007.
Also author of Rantin' Rovin' Robin (one-man show based on the life of Robert Burns), performed by Whyte in Canada, 1974-78, and Canada, Our Adopted Land (narrative poem), 1984.
Author's works have been translated into numerous languages.
Jack Whyte is a novelist, advertising copywriter, playwright, and educator. He has written a popular series based on the tale of King Arthur. First called "A Dream of Eagles," the series name was changed to "The Camulod Chronicles" for its U.S. editions. Whyte was born and raised in Scotland and moved to Canada in 1967. He taught high school in Canada for one year, then changed careers to become a singer, actor, musician, and entertainer. He wrote and performed in a one-man play based on the life of Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, and took the show on the road. Whyte wrote for Canadian television and embarked on another career in advertising and acted as communications director for a number of public and private companies before becoming a full-time writer in 1996.
Whyte was classically educated and has a strong interest in fifth-century history and the Roman occupation of Britain. That interest, and his preoccupation with the legend of King Arthur, led him to develop the series of books in which he places Arthur in a historical context. Whyte's books have been published in many languages.
In the debut book in the series, The Skystone, the detailed history of the final years of the Roman Empire is provided by narrator Gaius Publius Varrus, a Roman who fought under the command of his friend Caius Brittanicus until the time when they joined with King Pendragon to create a free Britain. The story begins in the year 365 A.D., before the combined attack of the Scots from Hibernia (now Ireland), the Picts from Caledonia (now Scotland), and the Saxons from Germania (now Germany), and goes forward eighty years. Whyte uses the Christian dating system (not developed for another 200 years) for the benefit of modern readers. Quill & Quire contributor Deirdre Kelly described Varrus as "a good-natured, morally upright yet naive man whose fatal flaw is acting on compulsion, particularly to vent his anger," and added that because Varrus is a professional soldier, "the concentration on military life is appropriate." Books in Canada reviewer Douglas Hill stated that in Whyte's military history, "the canvas is broad, the action is exciting." Whyte includes an appendix that explains the structure of the Roman army, Roman place names, pronunciations, and equivalents, and a map of Roman Britain.
Varrus leaves soldiering because of an injured leg and takes up his grandfather's profession, swordmaking. The stone of the title refers to meteorites, which provide the most long-lasting material from which to craft swords, and these are the stones Varrus seeks out to create his masterpieces. In evaluating the book for younger readers in Kliatt, Jerome V. Reel, Jr. noted that it does contain some sex and violence, but added that "the strength of the story, with its curious twists that lead the reader towards Arthur's Britain, makes this a worthwhile book." A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that while Whyte's interpretation of the legend of Arthur is presented in its "least mystical form, his finely wrought background makes the tale more dazzling than any fantastic setting possibly could."
A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that in The Singing Sword Whyte "focuses even more strongly on a sense of place … making this series more realistic and believable than nearly any other Arthurian epic." Varrus and Britannicus, who are the grandfathers of Arthur, fight for their adopted land Camulod (Camelot), the thriving colony populated by Romans and Britons in southwestern England that will become the base in fighting the barbarians from the north. In this book Caius Merlyn Britannicus, soon to be known as Merlin the magician, is born, the beginnings of the Round Table developed, and the sword Excalibur forged. In a Quill & Quire review, Michelle Sagara commented that the book lacks "the sense of legend, of myth, of greatness, that has always accompanied Arthurian legend," but went on to say that Whyte has "added a distinct twist and interpretation to what has become familiar ground." A contributor in Virginia Quarterly Review called this second book in the series "story-telling on a grand scale."
In The Eagles' Brood the narrator is Merlyn, typically portrayed as the sorcerer, but, noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "sanitized here to the most high-minded of soldiers who survives wars, betrayal, and a tragic love affair." Merlyn is commander of Camulod and rules with his cousin, Uther Pendragon, a warrior with a terrible temper. Reel noted that "while few of the major characters are historical, the background is full of documentable folk such as Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and Germanus of Auxerre. The story is replete with the intrigues of a decaying culture and with major issues such as the Pelagian controversy."
The bond of friendship and blood is broken when Merlyn suspects that Uther has beaten the deaf-and-dumb girl Merlyn later named Cassandra, after she resisted Uther's sexual advances. After she is healed, Cassandra becomes Merlyn's wife, but ultimately dies a horrible death. The struggle to establish a Christian church and explanations regarding Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake appear in this third book, which Eric Robbins described in Booklist as being "chock-full of sexual dalliances and bloody battlefield conflicts." At the end Uther and King Lot die, and Merlyn holds the orphaned baby Arthur, the bastard son of Uther and Lot's wife, Ygraine, now also dead. He looks into the baby's golden eyes and sees him as king, wielding Excalibur. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "this isn't the usual Arthurian tale with a fantasy gloss; in graphic realism lies its fascination, and its power."
Merlyn, now in his thirties, narrates The Saxon Shore. Frances Reiher wrote in School Library Journal: "Much that is new and intriguing brightens a legend that in many forms has always been enchanting." Merlyn is now responsible for the protection of his young cousin, Arthur, born of Roman and Hibernian and Celtic royal blood, and now heir to Camulod. The guardian must prepare the young man for the unification of the clans and the guardianship of the sword crafted by his great uncle Publius Varrus. Merlyn develops a relationship with Connor, son of the High King of the Scots of Eire, who takes the baby Arthur with him to Eireland. With the help of the Scots and their war horses, Merlyn returns to England to continue building the fortressed community with plans of sheltering Arthur until he is ready to reign over Camulod. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "Whyte's descriptions, astonishingly vivid, of this ancient and mystical area ring true, as do his characters, who include a number of strong women."
The fifth and sixth books of the series are linked. In the former, an attempt is made on Arthur's life, and Merlyn takes him, with three young companions, to an abandoned Roman fort where he continues to train the young king. Merlyn's absence from Camulod renders it vulnerable to those who would take it, including Peter Ironhair and his friend, Carthac, and Merlyn must decide whether to risk returning, and in doing so also risking the life of his charge. This book contains a great deal on the military skills Arthur must master, as well as the process of rebuilding the old fort. A Publishers Weekly reviewer deemed young Arthur "less absorbing a character than many of the others presented … but readers will revel in the impressively researched facts and in how Whyte makes the period come alive." Whyte "has a grand time bolting his story together," stated a Kirkus Reviews contributor. "Not as bloody as some of its predecessors in this series, Whyte's latest continues to bring the myth convincingly to life," wrote Melanie Duncan in Booklist.
Arthur becomes a man in The Sorcerer: Book II, Metamorphosis. Merlyn has Tressa, a new love, and his black horse, Germanicus, but life is not all bliss. Tressa dies, and Merlyn must face Ironhair and Carthac, and makes the decision to have Arthur take his place as king of Camulod. Merlyn takes two years to recover from a brush with death, and Arthur faces their enemies in battle, carrying a sword that is, unknown to him, a substitute for Excalibur. Arthur draws the real Excalibur from an altar stone at the end, in time to meet a new onslaught of enemies. A Kirkus Reviews writer noted that "the slow pace is necessary in creating the dense experience Whyte intends. Jump in here, now that Arthur's in motion, and you can always go back to earlier volumes if this look at the legend's subtext grabs you." Library Journal reviewer Jackie Cassada wrote that this installment is "compellingly told."
With Uther, Whyte provides a broader perspective on the life of Arthur's father. In this telling, the affair of Uther and Ygraine is actually a conspiracy in which they plan to overthrow Ygraine's husband Lot and unite Britain under Uther. Quill & Quire reviewer Meredith Renwick felt "those who prefer sorcery over swordplay will be disappointed. But history buffs should enjoy the richly detailed descriptions of military strategy, weaponry, political intrigues, and the day-to-day life of post-Roman Britain." Cassada commented, Uther is "able to stand on its own merits as a tale of a life lived boldly and with passion." Booklist reviewer Brad Hooper concluded: "As Whyte waves off the fog of fantasy and legend surrounding the Arthurian story, he renders characters and events real and plausible."
In Clothar the Frank (also published as The Lance Thrower), Whyte focuses on the story of Clothar, who will later be known as Lancelot, and his role in the founding and evolution of Arthur's magnificent reign. The son of a Frankish lord, Clothar is sent as a young man to one of the few remaining schools in Britain, where he is educated in logic and rhetoric as well as the military arts. Barbarism is rampant throughout the lands of ancient Britain, and those with the sharpest swords and most vicious attitudes dominate. The few remaining elements of organized civilization are threatened by the crumbling of order throughout the land. As Clothar matures, he becomes dedicated to the concepts of righteousness and justice. When his family is brutally killed, his resolve is tested and revenge is large in his mind. Instead, however, his mentor convinces him to join forces with the young Arthur Pendragon. There, Lancelot swears fealty to Arthur and helps forge the legend of Camelot and the Round Table. The bond of oath and friendship will be tested, however, through the love he and Arthur share for Queen Guinevere.
The final book of the "Camulod Chronicles" series is The Eagle. Narrated by Clothar (Lancelot), the story covers Arthur's attempts to unite Britain in the face of fighting local rulers and Saxon invaders. Two local kings, however, have different ideas. Symmachus and Connlyn join forces to thwart Arthur's noble goals. In the shadow of the main story, Clothar also tells about his affair with a woman engaged to another man. He details the paternity of Arthur's inadvertent son Mordred, the product of an unintentional liaison with his half-sister, Morgana. He also relates a seven-year mission in Gaul to train a cavalry force and to save his cousin's kingdom from the Huns. When he returns to Britain, he finds that danger looms everywhere, and a final confrontation between Camulod and its many enemies is inevitable, and approaching quickly. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "fans of Whyte's exhaustive retelling of the Camelot legend will welcome this final chapter." Library Journal reviewer Jackie Cassada called the novel "a welcome addition to the many retellings of a classic tale."
Whyte inaugurates a new trilogy with Knights of Black and White, a novel about the history of the embattled Knights Templar. Hugh de Payens is a young knight in the year 1088, and when he is initiated into a secret organization called the Order of the Rebirth of Sion, he becomes an adversary of the Christian Church. Among the Order's beliefs are the conviction that the truth about Jesus and the founding of Christianity is secreted beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Soon, Sir Hugh finds himself part of a group summoned by Pope Urban to undertake a Holy Crusade against the Muslims in order to liberate Jerusalem from their control. Sir Hugh's experiences during the bloody and violent First Crusade are so traumatic that he decides to retire from warfare and spend the rest of his life in religious observance. However, his goals are derailed after the fall of Jerusalem when he becomes the founder of a new order of battle-trained monks and the search intensifies for the treasure alleged to be buried under the Temple Mount. Whyte draws the reader into the story of Sir Hugh and the early Templars "with his usual deft combination of historical drama and old-fashioned adventure," commented David Pitt, writing in Booklist.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1997, Eric Robbins, review of The Eagles' Brood, p. 61; June 1, 1998, Grace Lee, review of The Saxon Shore, p. 1722; April 1, 1999, Melanie Duncan, review of The Fort at River's Bend, p. 1391; April 1, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of Uther, p. 1454; July 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Knights of the Black and White, p. 34; December 15, 2006, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Eagle, p. 24.
Books in Canada, December, 1992, Douglas Hill, "First Novels: Difficult Loves," p. 55.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1998, Carol U. Merriam, review of The Fort at River's Bend and The Sorcerer: Book II, Metamorphosis, p. 202.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1997, review of The Eagles' Brood, p. 1152; May 1, 1998, review of The Saxon Shore, p. 617; February 15, 1999, review of The Fort at River's Bend, p. 256; May 15, 1999, review of The Sorcerer: Book II, Metamorphosis, p. 755.
Kliatt, March, 1997, Jerome V. Reel, Jr., review of The Skystone, p. 14; September, 1998, Jerome V. Reel, Jr., review of The Eagles' Brood, p. 24.
Library Journal, December, 1995, Jackie Cassada, review of The Skystone, p. 163; July, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of The Sorcerer: Book II, Metamorphosis, p. 143; April 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Uther, p. 135; December 1, 2006, Jackie Cassada, review of The Eagle, p. 115.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October, 1997, Robert K.J. Killheffer, review of The Eagles' Brood, p. 44.
Publishers Weekly, January 29, 1996, review of The Skystone, p. 88; September 23, 1996, review of The Singing Sword, p. 61; August 4, 1997, review of The Eagles' Brood, p. 67; May 25, 1998, review of The Saxon Shore, p. 66; March 8, 1999, review of The Fort at River's Bend, p. 52; March 19, 2001, review of Uther, p. 78; May 8, 2006, review of Knights of the Black and White, p. 46; September 11, 2006, review of The Eagle, p. 32.
Quill & Quire, November, 1992, Deirdre Kelly, review of The Skystone, p. 24; June, 1993, Michelle Sagara, review of The Singing Sword, p. 27; December, 2000, Meredith Renwick, review of Uther, pp. 25-26.
School Library Journal, April, 1999, Frances Reiher, review of The Saxon Shore, p. 162.
Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 1997, review of The Singing Sword, p. 57.
BookBrowser,http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (May 16, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Uther.
Jack Whyte Home Page,http://www.camulod.com (May 16, 2007).
Twisted Kingdom Web log,http://twisted-kingdom.blogspot.com/ (May 16, 2007).