Sep 13th 2014

Me, two books and two movies

by Colm Herron

Colm Herron's first writing career began at the age of seven when he stitched together his vampire stories on his big sister’s Singer sewing machine and sold them to classmates for a penny a piece. He was in business. Two years later he was telling cliff-hangers to the ne’er-do-wells in the local gambling hall. Colm’s abiding memory is that these wasters seemed to enjoy this weekly break from misspending their lives. When he was fifteen he had a play on BBC and later brought his short stories to Brian Friel, an emerging playwright. Friel said “Great. This stuff’s better than what I wrote at your age." But Colm was unimpressed and thought “This guy’s going nowhere. I don’t know why I came to him at all." So Colm gave up writing, deciding to live instead. Meanwhile Friel took off and, while his plays were showing worldwide for the next thirty years,stories were kicking and turning in Colm’s head. But they still weren’t ready to come out. Till twelve years ago, that is, when he said to himself “OK, I’ve lived. Maybe it’s time to do the other thing." Thus began his second writing career. And his latest novel The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next) has just been published by Nuascéalta Teoranta.

The first time I fell in love was in the children’s section of Brooke Park library. I was eleven and she was ten and her name was Josephine and she had so many freckles on her face that she was a haze of delight.

It didn’t take long for me to work out that she changed her books once a fortnight, always on a Wednesday and always between half four and five. I used to arrive early just in case, hoping she’d do the same and I’d get more of her. But she never did and it was during those twenty minutes of earliness one Wednesday that I discovered William Brown. William was the central character in the Just William books by Richmal Crompton and he made me forget my shyness and my sadness by making me laugh out loud. Now laughing out loud in Brooke Park library was like yodeling in a Trappist monastery but I just couldn’t help it. 

William was my age and he had a gang which wasn’t supposed to include girls because, well, just because. Yet there was one girl that he couldn’t shake off and she eventually intimidated her way into his gang.  Violet Elizabeth Bott was the lisping spoilt daughter of the local nouveau riche millionaire and it was Violet’s company that William was forced to endure as his second-in-command to prevent her carrying out her threat

"I'll thcream and I’ll thcream 'till I'm thick." The end of my affair came one Wednesday at the foot of page fifteen of William the Rebel. I looked up for some reason and realized that Josephine had come and gone. Or maybe she hadn’t even been. I turned to page sixteen and stifled a snigger.

During the next few years I moved from William to westerns. The greatest of these was by a writer called Jack Schaefer. It was called Shane and it told the story of a mysterious gunman who was a combination of Jesus Christ, Che Guevara and Clint Eastwood. And you couldn’t get much better than that.

Hold on, that’s not true. Alan Ladd, the guy that acted the part of Shane in the movie that was made of the book, was better than the three of them put together. (Apologies here to all christians, left-wingers and Clint worshippers). Alan Ladd acted Shane.

Or rather, Alan Ladd outdid Shane. He was utterly magnificent, a man who presented himself as a tenderfoot but was in fact as brave as any lion, a man that made me want to wear buckskins and two six-shooters and win the heart of any girl I wanted. Ah, the dreams, the dreams.

Just one request from me before I go. Don’t read a library book while you’re taking a dump in the toilet. Not hygienic. Read it anywhere else – bus, train, plane, wherever – but keep it out of the toilet. The very thought drives my obsessive compulsive disorder to distraction. I’m a Quaker at heart but there’s one cinema murder that I approve of. Remember John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction who took a book to the can with him every time he was going in to do his number two? And never washed his hands after? And Bruce Willis’s character who shot him between the eyes just as he came out of the toilet for the last time?

Always remember that.

P.S.   Saw Josephine the other day with her grandchildren.All her freckles are gone and she’s a sight. Lucky escape there.

Below: John Travolta before going into the can:




In the picture at top the author Colm Herron as portrayed by his daughter Nuala Herron. For her web site please click here.


     

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