Alan Conrad is me, though Alan Conrad is not my original name.
During my last years investigating accidents and personal injury claims, when I was about to publish The Birdcatcher in 2006, a book that reveals some of the dark side of the personal injury business, I had to use a pen name to keep a lower profile in that industry. I worked then only on temporary contracts and I needed the money from each of them.
But I’m retired now, so you might think I would abandon Alan Conrad and write under my ‘real’ name.
Well, in the same way that Eric Blair grew to like being George Orwell, I’ve begun to like being Alan Conrad.
Why Conrad? When I read Joseph Conrad’s short novel Youth in high school, that enchanting story of young first mate Marlow on his first journey to the Far East, I not only wanted to travel across the world like Marlow, but I realized for the first time that I wanted to write like Conrad.
I read all Conrad’s books, including the famous Heart of Darkness, inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now. Conrad showed me that my own very different perspective on this world was authentic.
But Conrad didn’t only do that. I learned to see through his eyes. He taught me how to write. From the start, even with the SF stories I began writing in 1969. he was always there, looking over my shoulder. Through the years he was my guide, my inspiration, my constant companion and advisor.
He too, by the way, wrote under a pen name. His birth name was Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski. His decades as a sailor, ending when he was a ship captain, were conducted under that name.
One day when it occurred to me that the books of Alan Conrad might sit side by side with those of Joseph Conrad on the shelves of public libraries if I changed my name, that clinched it. I was Alan Conrad.
Sadly, we are still not together in libraries, where the books of indie writers are rarely allowed in, but we are sometimes together on Amazon and other online book sources.
PS – My birth name is Ken Enston. Because there are so few Enstons in the world (I believe the count is currently 50-60 – about half in the UK, the rest in Australia, Canada, Sweden, Finland and Russia) and because a remarkable number of them are indie authors like me, I do feel a little guilt about abandoning the family this way. But when I was a boy and I first learned that almost all the girls I went to school with would one day be asked to give up their surnames and take their husband’s, it was one of the first signs to me that the society I was born into was fundamentally unfair and false. To me I was just as much Ken Bird (my mother’s surname) as Ken Enston. Because of that, I sometimes think of my new name, Conrad, as a welcome compromise.