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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Joan who? The fragility of fame.

My wife went into a bookshop in Ealing, London, the other day. She wanted to buy an easy-read book for a friend who was incapacitated and feeling a bit down after a bad fall. She asked for a copy of Passion for Life, the new book by Joan Collins. "Who's Joan Collins?" asked the young sales assistant.

It reminds me of a similar sort of experience several years ago when I went to a large bookshop in central London seeking a copy of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. When I failed to find it in the Drama section, I sought help from a young woman behind the counter. "Have you checked in Business?" she asked.

Understanding God's Triangle

I very rarely get upset if I get critical comments about my book God's Triangle or any of my other writings. Sometimes the criticism is not to be taken too seriously, such as when a woman in Sydney told me that my book was rubbish without having bought or read it, but often criticism can be very constructive. By that, I mean that it can expose the fact that I have failed to get my story across successfully, either because of a poor choice of words or an unnecessarily complicated sentence.

When I first wrote God's Triangle I arranged to have test readings by people I either didn't know or whom I was convinced would not flinch from telling me the truth. The feedback was immensely useful and resulted in my shortening of some chapters while expanding others. Since the first edition went into print I have been heartened by the number of readers who have taken the trouble to tell me how much they enjoyed the book and the extraordinary story it revealed about Florence "Florrie" Cox, who was a missionary and my great aunt. I was particularly thrilled yesterday to get this message unprompted from Jennifer Chamberlain in Auckland, New Zealand:

      A great read. Very compelling with good build-up to the high drama of Mr Justice Beach’s back down and the author finally getting to open those divorce files after a determined 18-month battle.

      The story has all the elements of a great movie: modern-day journalist sleuth who won’t be thwarted -- not even by Melbourne’s Supreme Court; the love triangle in its exotic setting; the objectionable Olga and her hapless target; the interesting syndrome (which I had never heard of before) and the poignancy of what poor Florrie endured; the missionary/religious/Masonic themes and the details and colour -- which help conjure the settings. It’s a real journey towards enlightenment narrative and all the more fascinating because we live in an age where nothing is secret any more and yet this potent secret was so well kept by generations of very determined people … and it all happened not so very long ago.

      I also liked the way Ian put himself right into the tale and offered his personal thoughts and reflections. That always helps people clarify their own thinking. It’s going to make a great Aussie film. 
Thank you, Jennifer. It has lifted my spirits.