Tom Taylor has lived in Tommy Taylor’s shadow all of his life. Everyone thinks it must be great to be the living inspiration for his father’s best selling character, but Tom hates it, he’d rather be himself. He’s sick to death of Tommy and his two faithful companions, Sue and Peter, and their arch nemesis Count Ambrosio. Maybe now that his dad is dead, and there will be no more Tommy Taylor stories, now Tom can live his own life.
Ha, foolish mortal!
As Volume 1 of The Unwritten begins, Tom Taylor’s life is on a downward spiral. Forced to make a living the best he can, he attends comic conventions and signs autographs, and speaks about his namesake, Tommy Taylor. This isn’t his choice, but it’s the best his agent Swope can do for him, and he is forced to endure the condescension of the other writers, who accuse him of living off of his late father’s coat tails. During one of his panels, a weirdo who dresses and acts like Count Ambrosio pops up—seems he’s been stalking Tom for a while. Then there’s the girl, Lizzie Hexam, with the burning question—who is Tom Taylor and is it true he isn’t who he says he is?
Things go from bad to worse, as information surfaces that Wilson Taylor never had a son, that he bought Tom from a Bosnian family. So now he’s being accused of being a gold digger and a fraud!
Crowd sentiment has definitely turned against Tom. He can’t even do his next gig because of threats against the book shop where he is supposed to have a signing. As he and Swope walk around London, Tom points out all the literary landmarks—it’s the only real legacy his dad left to him, this encyclopedic knowledge of literary geography, useless though that is. The internet is filled with stories about Tom Taylor and his heritage, running the gamut from hatred for him to proclaiming him to be the Messiah. Things are definitely getting weird. What’s a guy to do? Before he has a chance to sort that through, though, Tom finds himself kidnapped by the wannabe Count Ambrosio, who tells him he’s going to cut him up with his homemade nail bomb. Okay, this is not a good day, not at all.
After he leaves the hospital, Tom decides he needs to search for the truth, figure out who he really is, starting with Lizzie Hexam, who opened up this Pandora’s box. But when he goes to the college where she claims to have been a student, he learns that the only Lizzie Hexam there is in the library—in Charles Dicken’s Our Mutual Friends. Meanwhile, at the publishing house which is the home of the Tommy Taylor series, a mysterious package arrives containing the missing 14th volume of the series, signed by the author himself!
Tom begins a pilgrimage through his life, searching for answers, unaware that someone else is one step behind him, and is in fact manipulating him—the mysterious sinister Pullman. Tom decides to go to his father’s old gothic castle, the Villa Diodati, near Geneva, Switzerland, where not only Tommy Taylor but Frankenstein and Satan (Paradise Lost) were born. There’s a literary weekend going on, but he is vouched for by someone he hasn’t expected to be there. Memories come flooding back to Tom, and he begins to put some of the pieces together. There are forces that are fighting against him, but why?
The second story in the volume is How the Whale Became, in which we meet Rudyard Kipling and Samuel Clemens, as Kipling tells Clemens an extraordinary tale and during the course of which we also meet Oscar Wilde.