Draggerman's Loot: The Book that Wasn't
With time on his hands and an endless supply of memories to share, Ellery's typing skill served him well. Over the years of his life "on the beach" in Mystic, first in an apartment over a store on West Main Street, later in a house at Fort Rachel, he typed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pages of recollections, salted with wry philosophical observations and not a few references, often oblique, to the women of his past.
Visitors to Fort Rachel were sometimes taken aback by the disarray of typed pages lying about on all available surfaces, many of them drafts of Draggerman's Loot, the projected third volume of an autobiographical trilogy. His recollections and anecdotes were almost always rewritten, often rewritten again, and it would have been daunting for anyone with editorial ability (and plenty of time) to assemble the material into a publishable manuscript. Nevertheless, through all those typescripts his gift for picturesque narrative was as distinctive as ever.
One way to imagine what Draggerman's Loot might have looked like is to read the several introductions and chapter lists Ellery drafted. Four of these from the Thompson-Krepcio Collection follow. They are pure Ellery: imaginative, entertaining, tantalizing, some of it a trifle hoky for today's sensibilities. Already he is feeling overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of text, the inevitable result of his ability to call up detailed memories of just about everything he ever did or that happened to him -- and to say it in a dozen different ways.
A great deal of Draggerman's Loot was actually written in carefully typed chapters with clever titles, telling his story yet again from the perspective of his advancing years. But Draggerman's Loot was not to be. Ellery's story had already been told in two books of his own and by journalists drawn to this colorful character who just seemed to go on and on, writing columns for newspapers and historical societies, sending letters to editors, always ready to talk to anyone who would listen, and whom he trusted.
Below: In 1965, seven years after he published Come Aboard the Draggers, Ellery sought advice from his friend "Cal" in the editorial department of Life Magazine's International Editions. This may have been about the manuscript that would take shape later as Draggerman's Loot.