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Former purser spins dark comedies

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Duncan Whitehead, a former purser on M/Y Boadicea and M/Y Princess Mariana, is not always what he seems. And neither are the characters in his recent novels.

 

During business hours Whitehead is a logic-based, technical office guy with a laptop and some notebooks. He works as assistant designated person ashore (DPA) at Water’s Edge Consulting in Ft. Lauderdale ensuring yacht regulation compliance.

But off-duty, Whitehead writes dark, comedic works. He recently published “The Reluctant Jesus” and last year published an award-winning novel and a short story. He also writes online satirical news articles.

With deep eyes, heavy eyebrows and an often grave expression, Whitehead said people think he’s straight-laced as a DPA.

“No one finds me funny at this job because I can’t be; this is very serious,” Whitehead said. “And no one knows I write.”

His captain on the 70m Amels M/Y Boadicea said Whitehead seemed quite serious when he joined the yacht in 2001.

“He was not like other crew,” Capt. Bob Peel said. “He came from Navy and I think he had what they call latent anger. He was trained to kill and people sensed it.”

But Peel said the crew quickly found Whitehead’s humor and creativity and embraced him.

“He was one of the most popular because he kept everyone entertained,” Peel said. “Plus, he controlled the money. I had never had a purser before and was I ever glad to have him. We had 27 crew on Boadicea, but believe me, we were flat out.”

Whitehead’s sinister and funny side melded while working on Boadicea. He helped the yacht owner’s wife research her novels and began writing his own short stories. She offered guidance and encouraged him to write more.

He did and the stories flowed, about 5,000 words every couple of hours.

“It was boredom,” he said. “We would be at anchor for three months. I go into a trance typing about 80 words per minute. The characters are all in my head. I have so many ideas and summaries, I could write a book every three months.”

The short stories coalesced into a novel when M/Y Boadicea landed in Savannah, Ga. There, he met the woman who would become his first wife. They moved into a home in Gordonston, a historic neighborhood near Savannah close to Thunderbolt Marine.

People lived in the big, older homes, but Whitehead said he rarely saw anyone during his walks through the central park, dense with overhanging trees. The mysterious atmosphere of the seemingly vacant neighborhood caused his imagination to churn.

“I would think up these stories of who they were and that’s where ‘The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club’ came from,” Whitehead said of his first published novel. Winner of the 2013 Reader’s Favorite International Book Award in the humor genre, the story captures the deep secrets, deadly deceit and comedy of people in a southern town. No one is who they appear to be and the ending is a great twist, Whitehead said.

Seth Miller is also more than first seems apparent. Miller is the protagonist in “The Reluctant Jesus”. The fictional bachelor architect is an unremarkable man whose life takes a humorous and heavy turn when he learns he is the youngest son of God.


The 47-year-old Whitehead said he finds irreverent humor in just about anything, especially current events. His parodies are on The Onion and The Spoof and include headlines such as “Jesus Christ will not heal anyone with a pre-existing condition – God”, “Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau steps down after latest kidnapping scandal – thanks to #s and Twitter” and “Can’t we focus on all the people who didn’t die from smoking? Beg tobacco companies”.

Whitehead has written the sequel to “The Gordonston Ladies Dog Walking Club” and expects to pen a third in the series. But its presented a bit of a challenge.

“I’ve been living with this for eight years,” he said. “Usually, I really like the characters. It’s hard to have to kill people off.”

 

Duncan Whitehead’s novels can be found on major book Web sites, and his satirical articles are available on www.theonion.com and www.thespoof.com (search dpwhitehead). “An Actor’s Life — A Short Story” can be downloaded free from www.amazon.com.

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