During World War II, Walter spent three years in the Aleutian Islands as an Army cryptographer. He relocated to New York City afterward and became a resident of Greenwich Village during the post-WWII years. During this time he pioneered an early form of happening by staging a spontaneous and unannounced group performance with his friends in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art.
Walter then gained transatlantic passage of a freighter carrying ice cream to Europe during the late 1940s. He lived in Paris during much of the 1950s, where he helped launch the Paris Review, living across the street from the publication’s office and contributing to the earliest issues with text, art and interviews. His short story “Troubador” appeared in the first issue. His Paris Review interviews included Isak Dinesen and Robert Penn Warren. In 1960, for Transatlantic Review, he interviewed Gore Vidal. Eventually, Walter moved from Paris to Rome at the request of Marguerite Caetani, Princess di Bassiano, to edit her literary journal Botteghe Oscure.
After a falling out with the princess, he acted in the films of Federico Fellini and translated Italian films into English. His dinner parties in Rome became much talked about, those that attended included T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Judy Garland, Anaïs Nin, Leontyne Price, Gore Vidal and Richard Wright. Walter returned to Mobile in 1979.
And, he wrote and wrote and wrote: articles, cookbooks, novels. Here’s an excerpt from “The Untidy Pilgrim”:
Down in Mobile they’re all crazy, because the Gulf Coast is the kingdom of monkeys, the land of clowns, ghosts and musicians, and Mobile is sweet lunacy’s country seat. I can tell you that’s the truth. I know…