Many people have asked why to use the name “Alystair West”? The truth is that I decided to use a pen name to distinguish my Biblical and Theological work from this endeavor. Interestingly, my best friend in High School, who already knew about the pen name, asked about its origin. You will enjoy learning the answer to the question.
C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien spoke of the “Men of the West.” In his inaugural address at Cambridge, Lewis spoke of the “Old Western Men,” who carried the shared values of the pagan West (Greek and Norse) and the Christian faith. In Lewis’ view, Western Civilization, ancient and Christian, had more in common with each other than with the industrial civilization of his day. “The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as between those who worship and those who do not.”
Lewis never specified precisely who might be called “Old Western Men,” However, he was undoubtedly speaking at least of the Inklings, Owen Barfield, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams have all influenced me as a pastor, thinker, and writer. There are similarities between what I am doing in Marshland and the work of both Lewis and Williams.
In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien refers to the men of the West, the Numinorians or Westernesse. In the Preface to his novel, That Hideous Strength, Lewis indicates that readers of his book must await the publication of the Lord of the Rings to learn more about the Men of the West.
Before going further, I do not entirely agree with Lewis and Tolkien’s condemnation of modern industrial society. However, our society is morally, spiritually, and emotionally troubled. Nevertheless, the way forward is never backward.
Some people may object to the term “Westernesse” by these esteemed writers as indicating a kind of cultural imperialism. It is helpful to recall that everything is West of somewhere. China and Japan are west of the United States to me. The term “West” is, I think, best understood as a kind of eschatological reference to the best of our civilization as enriched by other cultures. As I sometimes observe, St. Athanasius was Egyptian, St. Augustin, the greatest theological and philosophical source in the Western Roman Empire, was from Africa, and the Cappadocian church leaders (Basis and the two Gregorys) were Middle Eastern.
Now to Alystair West.
“Alystair” comes from the Greek Ἀλέξανδρος (one who repels men): ἀλέξω (repel) + ἀνήρ (man), a name for “one who defends.” Alexander the Great was Ἀλέξανδρος (Alexandros) in Greek. It is a fairly common name in Scotland, where we spent a summer, and they often use the spelling I adopted.
If I am spared to write the two additional novels I envision in this series, I intend to develop the characters of Arthur and Gwynn Stone, John Mirador, and E.J. Mueller as human beings who seek to find in their lives a kind of unity amidst the disintegrating forces of our society and what is sometimes called, “post-modernity.” However, not to put you off, I also intend to write two very absorbing murder mysteries set in some of the biggest financial scandals of our lifetime.
So, Alystair West is an average guy trying to tell a story and improve our civilization along the way.