A Coin For the Ferryman: The Death and Life of Alex Sanders
Author: Jimahl di Fiosa
published 2010 by Logios
ISBN-10: 1456359886
ISBN-13: 978-1456359881
Paperback, 235 pages
List: $21.95
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Reviewer: Mike Gleason

I admit to a few biases before I begin this review. First, I am a trained, initiated follower of the Alexandrian tradition; Second, I had a written correspondence with Alex at the start of my involvement in Wicca; and Third, I know the author of this book (not closely, but we have met). Having said that, you may feel that I am prejudiced in my review (I don't feel that way, but who am I to judge?).

This is not a conventional biography, Jimahl says so in a note which precedes the actual work. Like other religious leaders from mainstream religions to those less known and understood, there is an element of myth in the story, and people seldom react logically when dealing with myth. There are those who swore by Alex, and those who swore at him; there are those who believed every word which came from his mouth, and those who automatically disbelieved; he was loved and he was despised. All of that means this book is sure to displease many readers.

The basic facts of Alex's life are available in a number of places, but you won't find them discussed in great depth here. This book is drawn from people's memories of the man and the legend. This is not Jimahl's first book about Alex, which is not surprising as he is an Alexandrian initiate, His first book was A Voice in the Forest (which consisted of “conversations” with Alex after his death). I reviewed the revised and expanded edition in 2004. That was followed by All the King's Children (reviewed last year) which was stories from initiates of the tradition.

Jimahl has a breezy, informative style of writing which makes reading his books a real pleasure. In fact, my one “complaint” about them is that I have difficulty slowing down and savoring the writing. Once I get started, I find it hard to stop to do other things. That was the case with this current offering. I picked it up to begin reading at about 7:30 in the morning and three hours later, after taking time to make breakfast, I was already nearing the midpoint of the book.

As to the validity of the memories contained within the covers of this book, I cannot speak. Memories are notoriously fickle things and are easily influenced by what follows (and quite often, by what precedes) them. Alex was, in many ways, larger than life. He was a showman. He was also, according to those who knew him best, intensely private. He had a public persona which was highly visible, but once out of the public eye, even those closest to him were often in the dark as to his motivations. All of that comes through in this thoughtful, enlightening book.

Jimahl has done the Wiccan community a great service by assembling the contents of this book (as well as the contents of All the King's Children. Those individuals who knew Alex first hand are becoming rare on this side of the veil, and soon there will only be memories of memories, unless such memories are recorded for posterity. This book is yet another entry in that short list.

For that matter, there are really very few memoirs in print about (or by) the individuals who were responsible for bringing the Craft out of the shadows and into the public eye. I would hope to more such works in print. Let's learn more about Gardner, Valiente, Herman Slater, Monique Wilson, and many others.