Ki Longfellow

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Ki Longfellow
Born (1944-12-09) December 9, 1944 (age 74)
Staten Island, New York
Occupation Writer, screenwriter, playwright. theater director
Nationality American
Period 1980s to present
Genre Fiction
Subject Varied

Ki Longfellow (born 'Baby Kelly', later named Pamela, December 9, 1944) is an American novelist, playwright, theatrical producer, theater director and entrepreneur with dual citizenship in Britain. She is best known in the United States for her novel The Secret Magdalene (2005). This is among her recent works exploring the divine feminine. In England, she is likely best known as the widow of Vivian Stanshall, the late musician, lead singer of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, songwriter, author, radio broadcaster and wit.

Longfellow started writing seriously after Stanshall's death in 1995. Her first two novels, China Blues (1989) and Chasing Women (1993) and the recent Houdini Heart (2011)[1] are mysteries and thrillers. In April 2013, the first three titles of her Sam Russo Mysteries were published, part of a noir series set in and around New York City in the late 1940s.[2] Walks Away Woman, about a neglected Arizona housewife walking out into the Sonoran Desert to die, was published in December 2013.[3]

Early life and education

She was born as Baby Kelly on December 9, 1944, on Staten Island, New York to Andrea Lorraine Kelly, who was barely sixteen years old. (Born November 17, 1928) The young mother finally named the child "Pamela" when required to by the authorities [by which authority?], then put her baby in foster care while she worked at many jobs during the last of the war years. When the infant Pamela contracted pneumonia, she was removed from the foster home. The girl was taken in by a relative of her mother's father. Pamela was removed from this "home" when it was discovered this relative's husband was abusive.[4] Pamela was never told about her biological father until she was 27; she was told only that he was Native American but never learned his name.

Within two years Kelly, briefly assuming care of her child, left New York to resettle in Marin County, California, near her older married sister, Rosemarie Anderson. In Marin, Anderson cared for Pamela, until she left for Samoa, then to Texas with her own child and new husband, recently returned from World War II. She turned the girl back to her mother.[5]

Kelly met and married a US Navy man named Clifford Longfellow, claiming Pamela again at the age of four. He adopted her and she took his surname. Over the next several years, the family moved frequently, as he was assigned to New York's Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hawaii's Pearl Harbor, Mare Island and Long Beach in California, and Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. Due to frequent moves, Longfellow attended a different school for each grade except the years spent on Oahu. Between duty stations, the family lived with her adopted grandfather, Lindsay Ray Longfellow, at his home in Larkspur, California. Pamela relied on him for "family," and learned to enjoy his pastime of going to horse races.[5]

Longfellow graduated from Redwood High School in Larkspur. In her junior and senior years, she attended only those classes that interested her and cut others.[5] Determined to become a writer, she spent time with painters, poets, and musicians in Sausalito, and discovered what remained of the Beat Generation in North Beach.

At nineteen, Longfellow had a dramatic experience which she now considers an occurrence of gnosis.[5] Not understanding her experience then and suffering panic attacks, she voluntarily entered the State Mental Institution at Napa, California. There she was diagnosed, without benefit of a doctor, as a "severe psycho-neurotic."[6]

Children, marriages, family and early work

On June 21, 1963, at age eighteen, Longfellow gave birth to her first child, daughter Sydney Longfellow (who became a painter and photographer as an adult). In 1964 she acted in her only movie, Once a Thief (starring Alain Delon and directed by Ralph Nelson), in a part written for her by the film's screenwriter Zekial Marko.[6] In 1967 she moved with her daughter to New York City, where she worked briefly as a fashion model, and then as a writer for CARE. She moved to Montana, where she lived and worked for a year on a ranch on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation as a member of VISTA. She sailed to Europe, living for a time in Nice and Paris.

Back in New York City, Longfellow worked for the promoter Bill Graham in his Millard Booking Agency. In 1972, she met Robin Gee, the manager of the English folk band Fairport Convention, and moved with him to England. They were together for five years and she became a British citizen. During this period, Longfellow wrote occasionally for English music magazines.

A year before her mother died suddenly at the age of 44 from an embolism, she told Longfellow, then 27 years old, for the first time about her biological father; he was a Native American of Iroquois ancestry. Kelly had met him at art school but never told Pamela his name or that of the school. Longfellow never met him nor could she find him.[5] Longfellow returned to California in 1975 and stayed there for a time.

In 1977, she flew back to England. There she met Vivian Stanshall, frontman for the Bonzo Dog Band. In 1977, they moved into a houseboat moored on the River Thames between Chertsey and Shepperton.[7] On August 16, 1979, they had a daughter, Silky Longfellow-Stanshall, named after a favorite racehorse from Longfellow's childhood. On September 9, 1981 they married in the register office at Sunbury-on-Thames.

Music and plays

Longfellow and Stanshall wrote radio plays and songs together. In 1980, she edited Stanshall's only book, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End & Other Spots, published by Pete Townshend, of Eel Pie Publishing. She also helped Stanshall with the script for the film version of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, which starred Trevor Howard.[5]

In late 1982, Longfellow discovered the Thekla, a ship she rescued and renovated with government funding. She moored it in the port of Bristol, where she adapted it as a theater and restaurant. She hoped this would provide refuge for her hard-drinking, Valium-addicted, husband. The restaurant failed, but the theatre thrived and also built a reputation as a music venue. In early 1983, Stanshall joined her on the Old Profanity Showboat.[8]

In 1985, Stanshall and Longfellow wrote, produced, and staged their Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera aboard the Thekla. The orchestra was made up of local musicians and street buskers. The show received excellent reviews.[9] Later the popular opera was transferred to London's West End, where it was partly financed by Stephen Fry. Perhaps because the Stanshalls were not involved, it was not a financial success. In 2004, Sea Urchin Editions published the script of the original Stinkfoot, with an introduction by Longfellow.[10] In 2010, it was produced in Bristol in a concert version.

In 1986, Longfellow and Stanshall closed the theatre and moved into the Bristol home of their friend, actor David Rappaport.

Writing career

Longfellow began writing in earnest. Her first novel was China Blues (1989), a historical thriller set in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1923. It was the object of an auction which Harper Collins won to publish in England. Doubleday, New York published an American edition in 1990. China Blues was subsequently translated into Spanish, Swedish, Hebrew, Czech, German, and optioned by Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown.[11]

Longfellow's second book Chasing Women (1993) was a comedy murder mystery set in New York City just after the Great Crash of 1929. It was also published in England by Harper Collins Grafton imprint. Later it was optioned by an Australian team of female writer/producers. The process of attempting to adapt her novels as films taught Longfellow a great deal about the mainstream movie business.

From mid-1990, when she was very ill with pneumonia, until the death of her husband in March 1995, Longfellow divided her time between a small farm in Brattleboro, Vermont and Stanshall's flat in Muswell Hill, London. She and their daughter Silky hoped that Stanshall would end his destructive habits and they could reunite as a family.

After Stanshall's accidental death in a fire in 1995, Longfellow stopped writing for a time. When she slowly got back to work, she found a new "voice" very different from the one expressed in her earlier works. As a widow, her work has grappled with loss of her husband, her difficult childhood, and spiritual yearning. She has recognized that her experience at age 19 was an event of gnosis.[12][13]

Since being widowed, Longfellow has published by the first name of "Ki" (pronounced as in "sky"), a name which Stanshall had given her from a vivid dream he'd had while living on the Searchlight. Based on her novel, The Secret Magdalene, she was invited to contribute to Dan Burstein's non-fiction book Secrets of Mary Magdalene (2006).

Her novel, The Secret Magdalene (2005) has been translated into Spanish, Czech, Chinese, Icelandic, and French. It was optioned in 2014 to be adapted as a feature film by director Nancy Savoca.[14]

Longfellow's novel, Flow Down Like Silver, (Hypatia of Alexandria) (2009), is about the 4th/5th-century mathematician and philosopher who lived in Egypt.[15] It is the second volume in her trilogy on the Divine Feminine or Shakti.

She rewrote the script for Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera, to be staged in Bristol, England, cutting it to two hours. Peter Moss served as musical director. (At the same time she was working on her first nonfiction, a memoir of her married life called, The Last Showboat, an Illustrated Memoir of Vivian Stanshall, the Old Profanity Showboat, & Stinkfoot, a Comic Opera.[16])

A Stinkfoot Showcase played the Thekla in Bristol on July 20, 21, 22nd and 24, 2010. This was a concert showcase of Stinkfoot's songs backed by a full band and selected cast members (including Nikki Lamborn and Vivian and Ki's daughter Silky Longfellow-Stanshall) plus Tony Slattery as narrator and singer. It attracted the attention of major press (The Word magazine, Mojo magazine, BBC London & BBC Bristol), and theatres such as the Bristol Old Vic. She is seeking funding to restage the original work.[17]

The concert was to be adapted as a film, entitled The Last Showboat, (in pre-production as of 2013) based on the history of the Old Profanity Showboat and the Stanshalls. (As of 2014 this has not been completed.)

Longfellow published Houdini Heart (2011), a horror/psychological thriller.[18] In 2012 the Horror Writers Association announced that Houdini Heart was on the shortlist for the Bram Stoker Award for "Outstanding Achievement in a Novel", 2011.[19]

In February 2012, Eio Books redesigned and reissued Longfellow's first published novel, China Blues.[20] It was optioned in the fall of 2013 as either a television series or a mini-series.[citation needed]

In early April 2013, Longfellow published her first three titles in a series of murder mysteries featuring Sam Russo, a Private Eye in 1940s Staten Island, New York. These are in the noir tradition.[21][22]

In December 2013, Longfellow published Walks Away Woman, a novel she had written in 2002 when she was living in Tucson, Arizona.[23] It explores a middle-aged woman who walks into the desert, having given up on her life.





  1. Comments on Houdini Heart
  2. "Sam Russo Mysteries". Retrieved 2013-08-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Walks Away Woman". Retrieved 2013-12-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Ki Longfellow", The Bristolian, May 1988
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 "Interview with Ki Longfellow", Discovery, Radio Two (England), n.d. 1990
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Interview with Ki Longfellow"], Woman's Hour, English radio show, 1993
  7. The Stanshalls on the Thames
  8. The BBC produced a documentary program about it, aired in September 1983 as The Bristol Showboat Saga.
  9. [1]
  10. Stinkfoot script
  11. Longfellow's first two novels
  12. Longfellow's change of direction
  13. Recognition of gnosis
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Director Nancy Savoca a cowgirl in cinema's Wild West",[dead link]
  15. Ki Longfellow, Flow Down Like Silver (Hypatia of Alexandria) (9780975925591), Eio Books, 2009, Amazon
  16. "Interview with Longfellow", Barnes and Noble reading, San Francisco, November 2008, no publisher
  17. Stinkfoot concert on the Thekla
  18. Houdini Heart
  19. "Horror Writers Association Blog |". Retrieved 2013-08-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 20.6 "Eio Books". Eio Books. Retrieved 2013-08-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Sam Russo Mysteries
  22. Third Sam Russo
  23. Walks Away Woman
  24. Stark House Press

External links