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No holds bard Keller takes on doubters about Shakespeare's work

Most men who make it past their 90th birthdays have long since surrendered to a life of leisure, their free time whiled away on the inconsequential hobbies of old age.

But Frederick A. Keller is not most men. The 90-year-old, a former proprietor of local cinemas, broadcasting pioneer and longtime fixture on the Buffalo theater scene, isn't done working yet.

Since relocating in 2001 to Los Angeles, where his son, Fred. K. Keller, works as a prolific television director, Keller has been deeply immersed in one of his life's greatest passions: the life and work of William Shakespeare.

His new book, "Spearing the Wild Blue Boar," which came out in August, is the product of more than a decade of intellectual pursuit. In it, Keller has crafted a devastating takedown of critics who claim that Shakespeare's works were not, in fact, authored by Shakespeare.

These critics argue that, for reasons of upbringing, circumstance and politics, Shakespeare could not have authored the accomplished works of drama and poetry for which he is known today.

As far as Keller is concerned, that's bunk. And he's out to prove it.

The project began when Keller read a 1999 article by Lewis H. Lapham in Harper's magazine that raised doubts about the authorship of plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare. Troubled by the notion that his beloved author was under assault, Keller spent a decade devouring upward of 300 books on the subject of Shakespeare, the knowledge from which he distilled into his book.

In an interview from his residence in Los Angeles, Keller described the intent of his project, and also what sets it apart from the dozens if not hundreds of Shakespeare titles published yearly by authors around the world.

"This is going one on one, mano a mano with these heretics, and nobody's done this before," Keller said. "In my case, I've actually singled out these people and say, 'This is what he said, in quotes, on page so and so of his book, and this is why it's wrong.'"

Keller seems to take an almost personal offense at those who doubt the source of all that ingeniously crafted iambic pentameter.

"I don't find it difficult to write about Shakespeare. In fact, the difficulty was what to leave out. Running down these [Shakespeare critics] became almost a game," he said. "I wanted to get the book published and out there because I was just enraged.

Keller said he decided to publish the book himself and to forego the lengthy process of finding an agent and publishing company, both because of his age and his urgent desire to see the book on shelves. In retrospect, he said, that may not have been the wisest choice, as he has had a difficult time promoting the book through traditional channels.

Fred K. Keller, for his part, praises his father's tenacity and passion at this late phase of his life.

"I'm obviously very proud of him and I'm also astonished by his productivity," he said. "This is a project he's wanted to do for years and he buckled down and did it. He's always been passionate about defending the Bard's reputation and he just wouldn't say no."

So, with "Spearing the Wild Blue Boar" out of his system, what's next for the irrepressible Frederick A. Keller?

"I've just started playing the piano," Keller said. "I've learned to play the first few bars of 'Clair de Lune.' "

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

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