R.I.P. Castenada?

Carlos Castaneda died April 27.Or did he?

The Los Angeles Times reported that the bestselling author and self-proclaimed "sorcerer" died at his home in Los Angeles of liver cancer, that he was cremated immediately and that his ashes were spirited away to Mexico, according to the Culver City, Calif., mortuary that handled his remains.

But a spokesman in the office of Castaneda's Los Angeles literary agent, Tracy Kramer, said it is Kramer's opinion and the opinion of others who worked closely with Castaneda that the author evanesced - disappeared like mist from this world in much the same way Castaneda believed his teacher Don Juan and his group did in 1973.

"He had to officially die in order for his will to be executed," the spokesman said. "We expect a statement on Dr. Castaneda's Cleargreen Web page stating that Carlos Castaneda left this world in the tradition of the Mexican sorcerers of antiquity in his lineage." The Web address is (www.castaneda.org).

Cleargreen is a Los Angeles company set up by Castaneda to market and handle publicity for his books, seminars and workshops.

If Castaneda didn't vanish into thin air, he may as well have. It's doubtful there's ever been a cult personage shrouded in more mystery.

He did not allow himself to be photographed, have his voice recorded or grant many interviews. No one knows when he was born, where - or even his real name.

- Thomas Ropp

(The Arizona Republic)

`Will This Do? An Autobiography'

By Auberon Waugh;

Car-rol & Graf; $24; 288 pages.

A notoriously difficult man to please, Evelyn Waugh demanded - no, insisted - that his friends and family amuse him. He regarded them as informants to be sent out into the world to gather information and gossip and to present him with a version of the world commensurate with his own exacting expectations. The one thing Evelyn Waugh would not, could not, tolerate was being bored.

With "Will This Do? An Autobiography," Waugh the younger has produced a lengthy bulletin that his father would have undoubtedly liked - a modest but terrifically entertaining book that's funny, acerbic and a little sad, a book that demonstrates just what a fine informant the author grew up to be.

About his father, Auberon Waugh is clear-eyed, observant and slightly wistful. "When he laughed, everyone laughed, when he was downcast, everyone tiptoed around trying to make as little noise as possible. It was not wealth or power that created this effect, merely the force of his personality. I do not see how he could have been pleased by the effect he produced on other people. In fact he spent his life seeking out men and women who were not frightened of him. Even then, he usually ended up getting drunk with them, as a way out of the abominable problem of human relations.

"Which is a little sad when one reflects that all he really wanted to do in company was to make jokes, to turn the world upside down and laugh at it, to enrich and enliven this vale of tears with a little fantasy."

- Michiko Kakutani

(The New York Times)

The rich get richer

Clive Cussler, along with Mary Higgins Clark, one of Simon & Schuster's most popular writers, has re-upped with a new deal that pays him less up-front but with a higher percentage of the profits. He'll continue to write his Dirk Pitt adventures, and he's going to start a new series called "The NUMA Files" that will use other writers as well as Cussler.

In short, he's going into the franchise business.

- Scott Eyman

(Cox News Service)