What won't we do for our readers? We will travel the world, venture into dangerous lands literally. For the first time ever, we bring you a Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe Exclusive. The life of Joe Carstairs (nee Marion Barbara Carstairs), was . . . well the words unusual and remarkable don't even begin to describe it. But when this great eccentric, born in 1900, died at the age of 93, she was all but forgotten. We have Daily Telegraph journalist Kate Summerscale to thank for bringing Joe's story to light with The Queen of Whale Cay.
Carstairs, who in the 1920s held the record for the fastest female speedboat racer in the world, was quite an iconoclast. A cross-dresser, open about her sexuality, she had a string of beautiful lovers and surrounded herself with famous people and fine things (she inherited a Standard Oil fortune). Perhaps most curious of all, though, was her relationship with her beloved doll and constant companion, Lord Tod Wadley. (Yes, that's him, perched on her shoulder.) She had outfits designed for the little fellow, pictures taken of him, conversations with him; he was for Joe, Summerscale posits, a talisman of sorts. Eventually Joe went into a self-imposed exile, taking Lord Tod with her, of course. She bought an island in the Caribbean (Whale Cay), populated it with Bahamians, and, in essence, created her own queendom. Which brings us to this exclusive business you've been hearing so much about.
Inspired by the book, an intrepid BookPage correspondent recently went on assignment to Whale Cay. Upon her arrival, she found the island turned to jungle and gave us this report from the front: I don't know if they tore the stuff down and moved it, took it with them, or what, but we didn't seen any evidence that there was once a small kingdom on Whale Cay. It's a deserted island! I did find some beautiful pieces of beach glass so the trip wasn't a complete wash. And if you look closely, one of those pieces very mysteriously resembles a glass eye . . . a doll's eye, perhaps? Yes, perhaps it was.