Here’s a conversation with Patrick from 24 March 2017 in which he talks about a novel called Dr. Weightnovel he would never finish. He did, however, get the cover artwork made, I think by Phil Shepherd.
Patrick: Let’s see… Why did I start looking at it online? When I first heard about him, [Dr. Weightnovel] I was interested and you could go to the newspapers in those days, but now you can search through the newspaper electronically.
Patrick: That’d be easier, but then I just had this one article from Nelda Clemens, telling what she had learned about this guy, which was not much. He was convicted of an abortion in which the young lady died., so he’s put into jail for life at hard labor. That’s how much I had in the beginning.
Patrick: Then, let’s see, I started looking him up to see what would be on-line when I finally got to that. He did exist. He was tried, and he was poisoned while he was in jail.
JP: This is Dr. Weightnovel.
Patrick: Yeah. So, let’s see, I know he worked with another Russian, Peter Demens.
JP: Want me to get the book out again?
Patrick: No. The one next to it, called Full Steam Ahead. It’s over here.
JP: Full Steam Ahead. Ok.
Patrick: So this is the guy that he worked with.
JP: Peter Demens.
Patrick: Yeah. Demens. They both were from Russia of course, and… what the hell is that? Osceola County?
JP: Historical Society?
Patrick: Yeah. Something about Weightnovel for sure.
Patrick: Anyway, so Weightnovel escaped from Russia and ended up in Florida, passing through New York and Philadelphia. Philadelphia is where a lot of investors in Florida, especially one Hamilton Disston….
Patrick: It’s really hard to summarize the thing, because Dr. Weightnovel, nobody knows much about what work he did. But I suspect that with Demenski, who was building a railroad from the east coast of Florida to St. Petersburg. He named it St. Petersburg because that’s where he was from, in Russia.
JP: Ah Ok.
Patrick: So it was called… something short line. Anyway, you can find on the internet a lot of stuff about that railroad. Which he sold to Harvey Plant. Who was one of the big land barons.
JP: As in Plant City.
Patrick: Plant City! Yeah, so I started looking into the big families of the time, so that when Weightnovel became an official doctor in Tampa, I knew who he would be, who lived there that could be characters in this book. One of them was a guy who had a meat-packing company. I met his granddaughter, I put Venetian blinds in her house.
JP: oh ok.
Patrick: And, what was his name? I have it all in my notes. Anyway, it started during the Spanish-American war, he sent canned meat to the troop and a lot of them died from food poisoning.
Patrick: Because these were bad batches. A lot more of them died from food poisoning than they did from Cuban bullets.
JP: That’s right. Yeah.
Patrick: And of course Weightnovel would’ve know about that. He would have.
Patrick: So that family’s still there actually, the Plant family still exists. And so did the meat packing family…. I can’t remember…
JP: Not Hormel or one of those guys?
Patrick: I can’t remember. Anyway, so there were two families that were involved and Weightnovel knew a lot about all these families because he was the physician.
JP: Mhmm. [6:11]
Patrick: So, [groan] who had a motive to kill Weightnovel, to poison him? There was a reporter who interviewed him, so I’ve extended the interviews backwards so that all of the time he was alive and in jail, this guy was doing interviews and learning more stuff and so on.
Patrick: And, so all of the bigwigs in town, would not want this information published, that’s for sure. Ahhh…. I can’t concentrate.
JP: Do you want to…?
Patrick: Anyway he starts as a Russian immigrant, he works on the Russian railroad in Florida, then he works for the guy from Philadelphia, Hamilton Disston, who bought four million acres of land from the state of Florida, because the state of Florida was going bankrupt.
JP: Ah, okay.
Patrick: So he had all of this land, and his plan was to go coast to coast, with canals big enough, starting in Kissimmee, Lake Kissimmee and you can still see when you go across that road–I think it’s highway 50–you can still see the remains of some of the work that was done, but he never finished it.
Patrick: Hamilton Disston also invested in all of this land he had, putting in sugarcane.
Patrick: But then these other guys who didn’t want… didn’t want [groan] Hamilton in the show, they would… Let’s see… First they’d tax… they put a big tariff on Cuban sugar.
Patrick: And then when Disston had a lot of land already planted, and packing, what do you call it? Where they make it?
JP: Sugar processing? [refining?]
Patrick: Yeah. When he had a lot of money invested in that, then Plant and his buddies, they dropped the tariff so the sugar was cheaper for them than for him.
[door buzzer sounds]
Woman: Hola. Como esta?
Patrick: Si. Buenos Dias
Woman: Buenos Dias.
Patrick: Anyway, that’s…. You can get out…
JP: Hola. Roughly what was the timeline…
Patrick: Roughly 1883, he died in 1906.
Patrick: He was jailed in 1902.
Patrick: And the Spanish-American war was 1898.
Patrick: So the Grand Hotel… I don’t know if you’ve seen that? Big… the university? With onion domes?
JP: I’m not sure if I have…
Patrick: The Grand Hotel.
JP: Oh Okay.
Patrick: Now it’s the university. Anyway that was built by Plant, I think it was opened in 1901. It was a pretty modern thing. The ballroom floor for instance could be slid back, and there was a swimming pool. And Sarah Bernhart came there and John Phillip Souza was there, and lots of famous people went there. Sarah Bernhart came in one of the Pullman coaches, with beds. As usual she traveled in a coffin. She always slept in a coffin.
JP: Oh really? I didn’t know that.
Patrick: So, there’s just so much stuff that could be be really fitted up together. I’ve written a lot of scenes. There was a malaria attack on this Russian railroad. Those guys working on that started getting malaria from the mosquitoes and so on, and the medicine didn’t arrive. My thesis is that it didn’t arrive because Plant, who had the railroad line down to that point, wouldn’t let it be shipped.
Patrick: So Weightnovel, in my version, at that point goes to the Winter Park Hotel–Seminole Hotel, not Winter Park–where the President of the United States at the time visited.
JP: That’d be Roosevelt, no, McKinley. Unless McKinley had been assassinated by then?
Patrick: Yeah well, he was assassinated in 1891. So…
JP:So it would be Roosevelt who inherited the…
Patrick: A lot of the rich guys from the big families would hang out there. Anyway, I have Weightnovel go there and accuse those guys…
JP: Oh killing the…
Patrick: Trying to get the–what would you say–the medicines delivered.
Patrick: It’s all still kinda mixed up in my head but, I have whole scenes written. I’ll never finish that one, that’s for sure. It’s been a good project to think about it.
Patrick: I’ve sorta known this guy…
JP: Well, maybe with this recorder, you can record a bit more, at least…
Patrick: If I can just get the time line right. I have lots of outlines and lots of scenes, and I don’t have a lot of energy.
Patrick: So we’ll leave Weightnovel and his … what do you call it?
JP: We will wait for his novel.
Patrick: Don’t know where he got that name, but when you come into America, or did in those days on Ellis Island, if it was a weird name, they would suggest names.
JP: They would get close, yeah.