Mark Howell was a genuine legend — even if you didn’t know it when you first met him. He had been so-proclaimed by a publication called “Paperback Fanatic.”
A Welshman by birth, he’d had a distinguished career in England in fringe publishing. He came to America with a group of young entertainers, like Tony Hendra, who went on to edit “National Lampoon.” He and one of them crossed America posing a members of a famous rock group. He told the story in a rollicking roman a clef novel titled “Like A Rolling Stone.”
Mark passed away last week. It was a fabulous career he had.
He ghostwrote Don Pendleton’s Executioner books for a division of Harlequin. Landing in Florida in the 1980s, he won 17 journalism awards as editor and senior writer for the Key West arts and politics publication, Solares Hill. Also, he co-wrote two books on the Kennedy assassination, linking the tragic event to happenings in the Florida Keys.
Mark Clifford Howell and his twin brother, Michael Graham Howell, were born in July 1945 in Cheltenham Spa in the county of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom.
Their grandfather was the mayor of Cheltenham during World War II. The earliest records of the family date back to 1760, with a David Howell and family living at Pen-y-myyndd, which was a hillside farm above Cwm Gwaun, near Llanychaer in Wales.
The Howell twins had a brother, the late David Howell, and a sister, Diana.
Howell first came to America the year after Kennedy was killed and he got his first real job in the real world as an elevator operator in New York City.
Then came three university years at Trinity College in Cambridge, a time spent largely recovering from hitchhiking trips along the hippie trails of North Africa and the Middle East. Mark’s brother, Mike, meanwhile began his long and successful career in catering and the hospitality industry.
Armed with both a BA and MA degree in literature, Mark launched into a literary career in Montreal, Canada, appointed editor of a weekly newspaper in the now notorious Midnight stable of tabloids.
Inevitably success catches up with one and Howell soon found himself senior editor of Mayflower Books, one of the multiple paperback lines of Baron Bernstein’s Granada company where he joined editors such as Nick Austin and the legendary Sonny (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) Mehta earlier in their publishing careers.
Howell finally immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and began the long journey to eventual citizenship.
While raising his two sons in Vermont with their mom and making a weekly commute to and from White River Junction, Howell joined Harcourt Brace Jovanovich on Madison Avenue in New York as senior editor of Pyramid Books.
His next step was a leap to Toronto, headquarters of Harlequin Books. The publishing queen of romance fiction had made a quantum leap herself by acquiring the rights to the duke of action adventure, Mack Bolan, hero of Don Pendleton’s series “War Against the Mafia.”
Howell’s own romantic life would blossom when he moved on from Harlequin and journeyed to the very end of the road, Key West, where he met his wife, Jan, and joined her fabulous family with his own.
It was in Key West, joining the world of Solares Hill newspaper with David Ethridge at the helm, that Howell, as senior writer and ultimately editor of that countercultural publication, would win numerous awards from the Florida Press Club. Among the winning entries was his weekly must-read column “Soundings as well as incisive interviews with world celebrities such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Gore Vidal. Howell had become, in the words of Bob Kelly’s blog, “a marvelous example of the old-school reporter, furiously scribbling notes in his small, spiral-bound notepad, interjecting questions when needed but hearing the nuances of the melody behind the beat, then rushing off for one more interview before writing to deadline.”
Mark and his wife, Jan, survived hurricanes and floods during their long years in Key West. Mark loved to tell of the time water covered their living room floor and they could see long dark shadows moving under the surface of the invading ocean. “I wish I’d had a fishing pole,” he said.
After retiring, Mark and Jan moved to New London, Connecticut, home of a major submarine base, so they could be near family.
When that younger Mark Howell traveled across America posing as a Rolling Stone, he chuckled at how easy it was to fool people, his British accent convincing pretty young women that he was a member of the “Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World.” That cross-country trip was made in search of a fabled naked girl who lived in a tree house, Mark admitted ruefully.
The vicissitudes of youth. His life was like that, the journey more interesting than the destination.
“We had a blast,” he said.