Meet the Writer

 

Stephen Altman was born in New York City.  At the age of 21 he fell for the poet John Keats.  Decades later, Altman still believes that beauty is truth, truth beauty.  He lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Behind Blues for the Muse
 

Several years back, says Altman, "I'd finally gotten to Italy and was feeling my way around up north.  After awhile, excited as a kid, I took the train down through Florence to Rome, and when I arrived in Rome I made straight for the grave of John Keats.  It felt as if the muse were there to greet me.  I got the idea for a novel that would contain an assortment of things that don't ordinarily make their way into the same book--from Keats's life and his gorgeous poetry to an old Hollywood character seduced by a glamorous Italian woman he meets at Keats's grave and who, as it happens, is the dissatisfied wife of an Italian mobster who, as it also happens, would prefer not to kill him because he'd rather have him make a movie here in Rome, starring--of course--the gangster's lovely wife."

"I worked on the thing for a year," Altman says.  "It just lay there.  The story was great but it needed a shot of something.  Keats himself, after all, was how I'd gotten into this.  It needed to rhyme.  I started over.  Unsurprisingly, it doesn't read at all like Keats.  It reads like someone like me talking to someone like you, but breezily, and in verse.  Tell me if it worked."