Walter Henry Rothwell Junior gasped his first breath amply blessed
with genetically embedded compasses that might eventually channel him
ably-prepared, fine-tuned, and well-groomed in the footsteps of his
theater-limelighted father and mother. That’s what everybody thought
anyhow. That’s what the newspapers printed. That’s what Walter
Junior actually believed true as he grasped first-words so he could
Such inevitabilities could have been true …if he had paid attention,
There were distractions …like this new little boy crossing the
Atlantic. But walking between shadows of two already so well-known could
have been a steep mountain to climb anyway, especially with all that
exceptional DNA so carefully emplaced. Yet these gifts never
materialized how others might have foreseen.
There were myriad choices …like multiple languages.
Walter Rothwell Junior, or Wally as he became known, you see, would
dance upon a different stage. He would memorize different scripts.
There were erratic happenstances …like World War II.
Still, he eventually played a part—a role without auditions or
memorized lines, no tickets or applause—an important role bearing
different encores. Despite disconcerting discoveries along the way, he
achieved more on this stage than he ever might getting his name in
Though consequential, he was inconspicuous.
As chance would have it, heritage was unconventional.
Among four grandparents, each spoke a foreign language (i.e., not
English), traveled through multiple ports of call, crossed international
borders, married, and lived where just one language, whatever it was,
would never do. So, inside this familial cultural stew, it was a natural
thing for his parents to inspire (permit?) environments where Wally
learned there were no typical models to copy …he learned to think for
himself early on.
Wally’s original playbook was translated and retranslated all
depending on where breakfast happened to be served that morning.
Once lingual menus were synchronized, translations and verbal nuances,
manufactured slang and multilingual puns were all common dinner
fare—with the main course being whatever the dialect d’ jour
happened to be.
Ever-changing buffets, Wally adapted to multi-scripted bills of fare.
But those shadowy hiding places Wally sought as a child? …those out of
the way places he lived within as a youth? What about the shaded alleys
he perused in the army after World War II as a young soldier …the
dimly-lit grottoes he adeptly slithered through to gain evidence or
innuendo or scrap of useful hearsay? Just what were these narrow and
oh-so-private paths? It didn’t take long to learn camouflage or
inconspicuousness—on stage or not.
It really boiled down to choices:
Thought? …which language was best used for thinking? …for acting?
…for laughing? …for loving?
Secrecy? …who was in the same room listening? …who could be trusted?
Allegiance? …what chevrons would emblazon his sleeves? …which
tattoos could be embedded onto his heart?
In the shadow of the rose, only one person knew for sure.
 Walter Henry Rothwell Jr. was born May 11, 1923, at Good Samaritan
Hospital, Los Angeles, California.
Excerpted from "Inconspicuous: Walter Rothwell's Undercover Journey During the Cold War" by Wes Choc. Copyright © 2015 by Wes Choc. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.