WYATT JAMES
( a.k.a. GROBIUS SHORTLING )
January 3, 1944 - January 12, 2006

 [Wyatt James]

Thinking of Wyatt six years on...

...Vicky and Chris

Wyatt E. F. James

 

 [Wyatt on the S.S. Rotterdam]

Wyatt Edgar Frederic James was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and raised in New York, Tucson, Evanston and London, England.

He received a BA in English from the University of the South, Sewanee TN, (Phi Beta Kappa) and an MA in English from Princeton (Woodrow Wilson Fellow). In 1969, he moved back to New York City, working first as a copy editor in publishing, and also co-editing The Expatriate Review (1971-74), a semi-annual literary magazine. After taking computing classes, Wyatt joined Metropolitan Life in 1973, rising to the level of senior systems engineer/systems analyst.

With the advent of the Internet, Wyatt found an added outlet for his creative talents. Under the ‘Grobius Shortling of Brooklyn’ banner, he created a multitude of web domains, currently accessible via the Grobius Control Panel. His most popular site, britcastles.com, explores the Castles and Ancient Monuments of Great Britain, while his own imaginary castle creations reside here. Wyatt was an avid reader throughout his life, and had a particular affinity for gritty mysteries, regularly posting book reviews on his own Mystery List website.

Last October, Wyatt and his wife, Susan, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.

 [Photo of Wyatt by Roger Gaess taken Sept 2005]

 

From Wyatt’s brother, Chris…

 

Wyatt was a know-it-all. That’s what big brothers seem like, anyway. They take the lead in everything. They’re walking while you’re still crawling. Talking while you’re still grunting. And making cool things with clay while you’re still finger painting. Wyatt was my mentor - three years older and a whole lot smarter. His nick-name when we were growing up in Tucson was ‘Hey-Daddy-How-Come-James', because he was constantly asking our father how this thing or that thing worked. Once he found out, he’d tell me. He taught me how to make rockets out of match heads and coat hanger tubes. He showed me how to draw space ships on the shiny Bronco toilet paper English people used in the late 50s to wipe their asses (it was far better used as tracing paper).

In the seventies, before the advent of Dungeons and Dragons, Wyatt took the lead in devising a multiple board game called Gerousle which took the two of us six months to create. The first, and last, game of Gerousle took us six days to play. With the advent of the Internet, Wyatt had the perfect platform on which to display his prodigious talents for writing, invention, literary criticism and wry humor. Working alone and until all hours of the night, he was his own editor and boss. I think his wife, Susan, soon gave up trying to make Wyatt keep normal hours.

Always an anglophile, Wyatt was left marooned in the U.S. when the rest of us were granted residency status in the U.K. in 1968. Because he was over 21 at the time and not a minor, he wasn’t considered by The Home Office to be part of the family any more. Thereafter, he still spent 90% of his annual vacation time in Britain, and most of the content of his British Castles website was compiled during these trips. Wyatt was also a voracious reader, having been taught by our mother several years before starting school. I would not even hazard a guess as to the total number of books he read in his life.

Wyatt always struck me as being disillusioned. People of his intellect rarely aren’t. They know, and feel, too much. He may have seemed reticent to many, but inside, he was as sensitive and sentimental as they come. I remember the pained e-mails he wrote when, first, George Harrison died and then, Johnny Carson went. ‘While I never watched his late night show religiously,’ he wrote on January 23, 2005, ‘Johnny Carson was one of those fixtures in one's life and his death is a saddening thing.’ Two months later, Wyatt was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

It’s difficult to gather all my memories of Wyatt all at once into a readable form and I reserve the right to add to this page from time to time. I encourage others who knew him to do the same (just click on the link at the bottom of this page).

 

Letter from Wyatt’s sister, Vicky, read at his funeral.

 

Dear Wyatt

Although I cannot be at your goodbye party in person, I am certainly there in spirit. I just wanted to tell you how much I loved you throughout my entire life and how much so many other people have loved you. I pretty much idolised you and was always in awe of your intelligence amongst other things.

Your cynical exterior was partly a front as you were so very sentimental on the inside and I have always known that. You are and always will be one of the most treasured people in my life and I am so grateful to have had you as my big brother. I shall miss you whilst I am still alive, but will meet up with you at a later date.

My only consolation today is that you are no longer in pain and that you are probably having a long awaited conversation with Daddy and your other friends.

Love Little Sis

 

The following dedication to Wyatt appeared at the conclusion of an article on P.M. Hubbard by Tom Jenkins and was placed on the Mystery File website by Steve Lewis.

 

This series of articles and the subsequent bibliography previously appeared in Mystery*File 47, February 2005, and is dedicated by Tom Jenkins and myself to the memory of Wyatt James, who died on January 12, 2006.  His website A Guide to Classic Mystery Novels and Detective Stories will be maintained, as I understand it, and it is well worth your attention.  There were few readers more passionate about The Golden Age of Detection than Wyatt, and he will most certainly be missed.  (The annotated bibliography of Hubbard’s novels is slightly revised from its appearance on Wyatt’s website.)

The full article on Hubbard can be read here. March 11, 2007

I knew Wyatt from a little bar in Brooklyn called 12th Street Bar and Grill. He was often there with his wife Sue. I started to go there in 1994 and I can say without shame that I, like many other patrons, spent way too much time in this bar.

I remember how kind and gentle Wyatt was to me whenever we spoke together. Also, his amazing intellect, and particularly his knowledge of computers, astounded me. I was a young lad in my 20's at the time, and it was a very vibrant bar scene full of many characters, but Wyatt struck me as an individual with great insight and poise. He had the demeanor of a man who was somehow resigned to having great knowledge of people and places without any corresponding woes or fears like I had, and that struck a chord in me. He was so sharp and on point. I wanted to be like that.

I eventually moved to the United Kingdom in 1997, got married, bought a house, had a son and navigated through a few educational and professional minefields toward becoming a practicing psychotherapist and a teacher. Every so often I would think back to the 12th Street days and I even visited once back in July 2001, but the scene had changed and I could not find anyone I knew from four years earlier. After September 11th, I recall getting in touch with Wyatt and sharing some correspondence with him in regard to those tragic events. It was at this time that I became familiar with his Grobius persona. He would write long and passionate expositions about his views relating to the Twin Towers events, and with the most wondrous accompanying photos.

I remember how guilty I felt for not being there when the two towers fell, but equally I remember how strongly Wyatt's views and portrayals of that tragedy made me feel closer to home and in touch with the hardship and confusion that many people were facing. Wyatt gave me solace from a distance. I will always remember him for the powerful and passionate man that he was. I only learned of his death two weeks ago after by chance speaking to an old time friend from 12th Street Bar who I ran into in New York on my last visit. Rest in Peace, Wyatt. You are not forgotten!!!

- James Theard

 

March 18, 2007

I knew Wyatt James only as Grobius Shortling, as I was a frequent and enthusiastic visitor to his website. He has guided me to some wonderful reading in the field of classic mysteries. I am so sorry to hear of his passing, but I think it is fitting and wonderful that his site will be maintained. I am a librarian, and I have recommended his site to many fellow lovers of crime fiction.

With greatest respect,

- Roberta Rood

July 16, 2007

I worked with Wyatt at MetLife in the 1970s. There were a number of us, young and living in NYC and we all hung out together - the Gloc, Munk's Park, Edgar Cayce lectures..... The name of the Project was Project 13.10 and it was a wonderful group of people. I remember Wyatt's sense of humor (gently sardonic) and his delight in writing computer code that was incomprehensible to most of the rest of us - he particularly enjoyed 3-dimensional tables with negative subscripts, if I recall. He was a special person and I'm very sorry to read of his passing.

- Linda Monformoso

 

PHOTO GALLERY

 [*****] Click on the pic to go to the Photo Gallery

 

Add your reminiscences of Wyatt here. Photos would also be welcome.