Today was truly amazing.
Richard Pierce had his book launch at the Natural History Museum.
I knew it was going to be amazing, because Richard is one of those rare authors who have actually been involved with the places that they are talking about, not just passing through.
I first encountered Richard on Harper Collins website, Authomony, in 2008. I posted the very rough chapters of my novel Custard, Cats and Consequences and went looking to see what else was out there. I came across Richard’s novel Bee Bones, and realised then that I was in the presence of a Novelist. He is on a completely different plane of existence to most writers.
I fell in love with Dead Men when Richard posted a few rough draft chapters of his new novel on Authonomy.
You know how sometimes things are just meant to be, Dead Men was a stand out even in rough draft. I remember thinking that if this did not get picked up by an agent and a publisher there was definitely something wrong with the world. A long time later, Mel (my blog partner here on MIP) and I were talking about Richard’s Radio Stradbroke show, and she tuned in (despite the five hour time difference). She was so taken with the readings that Richard gave, that she decided that she would do a piece on Richard for this blog.
Richard tells the story rather better than I can: from his wonderful blog tettig.com
For some odd reason, the lovely people at Radio Stradbroke had given me my own shows by now, which seemed to be quite popular around the world (Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, the US, even England), and, on Good Friday this year, I decided I’d read live from Dead Men as part of my show (podcast to be up later this month – late, I know, but real life … – refer to openening paragraph). This is where SJ comes in, the wonderful SJ Heckscher-Marquis, one of the best friends I made on authonomy. SJ listens to me regularly (again, I don’t know why – I do, because you always have something to say and it is always informative and entertaining), and donates money to the charities Radio Stradbroke raises money for. On Good Friday, she decides to call Mel Hagopian, and asks her to listen to me reading. Well, Mel does, and an hour after I finish my broadcast, there’s an email in my inbox asking for an interview to be turned into a blogpost. Me, gobsmacked and flattered.
One week’s emails later, and Mel has completed a blogpost that still makes me come out in goosebumps – because it makes me sound like a writer, makes me look at myself from the outside and reckon this bloke knows what he’s talking about, what he’s writing about, and he writes good words, all in the right order, with proper commas in the right place, and all that. She posted the article on 10th May. On 12th May, I got an email from my agent telling me that Duckworth had picked up the book, and would be publishing it in 2012.
I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in serendipitous circumstance, series of fortuitous events, brought about by decisions we make of our own free will, and I believe in the power of friends’ prayers and faith. So, thank you, SJ and Mel, for believing in me.
This has been one of the most exciting journeys that I have vicariously taken. Watching hugely talented people make incredible literature, and seeing the culmination of those efforts today. Serendipity may have played a part, but I believe that talent played a much bigger role.
Richard’s talent was immediately obvious to me. Just as Mel’s talent is. I feel very proud and very humble to be in the presence of such modest, gifted people. The launch setting was equally perfect, one of my favourite museums, the Natural History museum is one of London’s most beautiful buildings, and with the 100th Anniversary of Scott’s Antarctic Expedition, Dead Men was perfectly placed.
Birdie Bowers is a woman with a dead man’s name. Her parents had been fascinated by Henry Birdie Bowers, one of Captain Scott’s companions on his ill-fated polar expedition. A hundred years after the death of Bowers and Scott, she sets out to discover what really happened to them… The discovery of Captain Scott’s body in the Antarctic in November 1912 started a global obsession with him as a man and an explorer. But one mystery remains why did he and his companions spend their last ten days in a tent only 11 miles from the safety of a depot that promised food and shelter? Dead Men tells the story of two paths. One is a tragic journey of exploration on the world’s coldest continent, the other charts a present-day relationship and the redemptive power of love.
If you read only one book this year, make it this one. If you love it, as I hope you will, tell your friends, I promise you will not be disappointed. Richard is a serious talent, with his finger on the pulse of the human condition. I am very proud to call him friend.
For a flavour of today’s launch, see Richard’s charming and funny self-introduction: