Trevanian commented. 'One of the problems of keeping a low profile was that it was possible for people to pretend, and to convince their friends and creditors, that they were Trevanian. Some did this as a lark, others for larcenous reasons, yet others because they were desperately hungry for praise and recognition. This poor fellow was one of these. He hovered out there for more than a quarter of a century, and managing to take his deception as far as the New York Times.'
Trevanian sold his first book The Eiger Sanction at 40. After much unpleasantness from the publishing world, and three best sellers under his belt, Trevanian paused.
In his own words
I decided I would stop writing until I figured out what to do with this many-minded monster (Trevanian) I had been obliged to create. My plans for having many personae were in ruins. And anyway, I was sick — not of writing, which I have always loved, but of being obliged to deal with the sorts of people one meets in Major League American publishing.
Some years passed, while I did other things. But every day I wrote for a few hours, and the number of novels and short stories simmering away on the back of the stove built up. After having spent so much of my life wandering from place to place, I now made the difficult decision to settle permanently in Europe. This was not easy, because I have a great fondness for many things American, particularly the geography of the country. But political and cultural climates in America made me decide to spend the rest of my life elsewhere. I could feel the growth of anti-intellectual fundamentalism of the kind we thought we'd killed off with the Dayton Monkey Trial; and I saw evidence all around me of the compassion-fatigue that gave rise to the "I've-got-mine-and-to-hell-with-you" mentality of Reaganism, with its trickle-up poverty. CNN was in charge of "the truth." American films were becoming a blend of comic strips and video games. And American publishing? Well, we are the world's principal villains, and principal victims, of the soul-crushing Consumer Mentality. (Only Americans "shop till they drop.") So I suppose it's only natural that American publishers should take the lead in viewing books as "product," and in seeing lit-biz as a matter of buying pulp paper cheaply, distributing patterns of ink over it, then packaging the product snappily and selling it at an outrageous markup.
So I settled permanently in the Basque mountains, where I concentrated on short fiction under a variety of names and in a variety of styles.
Question: At different times rumors have run through the publishing establishment attributing the Trevanian pseudonym to Robert Kennedy, Robert Ludlam, Henry Kissinger, Ian Flemming, and later Tom Clancy and Tom Wolfe. It is also said that you dodged many press attempts to figure out your true identity with creative tricks like asking friends to be Trevanian at parties or sending fake Trevanians on interviews. Is there any truth to this?
It is true that for some years a friend of mine in Texas, a man I had met in occupied Japan, substituted for me at meetings with publishers and, on two occasions, gave newspaper interviews on my behalf...interviews in which he displayed a lively imagination, for he had not read the novels involved. Fortunately, neither of the journalists had either. My friend managed to convince both of these journalists (as well as some of his colleagues) that he was both a full-time university professor and the author of the Trevanian books. For twenty-five years he drew the fire of attention, and I was free to live and work in the nourishing calm of the Basque valleys and mountains, all my communications with the outside world passing through him, and later through the email postbox he maintained for me. This arrangement served both of us because he had a bit of a taste for celebrity, and I had none at all. He loved conning people and putting them on, and he often played the game pretty close to the edge.
Our arrangement ended with some acrimony (I suppose it was bound to), and for a long time we didn't exchange a word, but I'm pleased to say we made up our differences shortly before his recent death.
Oh, and back there towards the beginning...there was a nutty impostor from Washington DC who managed to convince his friends that he was Trevanian, and who went around doing book-signings on my behalf and dining out on his fame. The New York Times fell for it, but if they had stopped to think, they would have realized that the only thing known about Trevanian's identity is that he won't reveal it, so anyone who claims to be Trevanian obviously is not.
As for my sending fake Trevanians to parties, no. That's lore that has grown up in the gap created by my non-appearance, like jungle growth invading a clearing. What I didn't know when I chose not to do publicity is that if you don't do it yourself, others will simply fabricate it for you. I've become widely-known as the writer who avoids being widely-known. Fate loves her bit of irony.