Well, the launch of the paperback of Revolution Day on Monday went quite well in the end after a bit of a chaotic start.
I’d prepared a slide show, with pictures of a bunch of historical dictators whose lives and careers inspired my fictional character Carlos Almanzor, but the person who was supposed to be sorting the projector didn’t turn up. In my introduction, I had to tell people to imagine a picture of Colonel Gaddafi or whoever instead. But at least this got me a few laughs, and the readings seemed to go down very well – with the considerable help of my wife Rosa and friends Mary and Sue, who shared between them the excerpts that were in the voice of Carlos’ estranged wife Juanita. There were lots of questions afterwards, and I sold quite a few books. My hosts, the Friends of Holmfirth Library and Tourist Information Centre, laid on plenty of wine and other refreshments which lubricated proceedings nicely. All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, for me, and I hope for the audience too.
Many thanks to poet and painter David Coldwell for the pic; Rosa Mary and Sue for reading, FOHLATIC for hosting me, and to everyone who came along.
Here’s one of the excerpts that were featured in the event (read by Rosa, in this case). Juanita contemplates the gate that has separated her from the outside world for sixteen years…
It is just a line on the ground, a slight change in colour between the asphalt on one side and the gravel on the other, a few metres away from the door of my house. The same weeds grow on both sides of the line. After rain, part of it is concealed by a puddle. When I was free, I crossed this line hundreds of times without noticing it, except when the wrought iron gate lay closed above it. But even the gate had little significance. It was never locked in those days; its opening and closing were the task of a couple of seconds. Walking over the line made no impact upon my consciousness other than a rather pleasant, fleeting sense of entering a place of peace, of refuge from the demands of public life. Or – when I was going the other way – an odd mix of apprehension and excitement as I prepared to get back to work.
The line has not changed in any way since then. It, and the gate itself – still the same gate, after all these years – continue to be ignored by all other forms of life but me. The birds fly over it. Snails and lizards move unhindered beneath it. My cat – how I envy her this – passes between the bars as if they were not there when she begins and ends her nightly prowlings. The gate is locked now, of course, but for the various men and occasional woman who come here for one purpose or another, that fact is of no consequence. They all have keys, and the act of unlocking it hardly delays their progress at all.
But for me, the line, and the gate above it, are now an impermeable barrier. I have crossed it no more than four times in sixteen years, under armed guard. The trees on the other side of the road beyond the gate do not look any different from the ones I remember, the ones I could have walked among and touched if I had wanted to. They are no further away, in space. But I no longer see them as real trees. To me, they are like a picture of trees or, when the wind blows, a movie of trees swaying to and fro. They are beyond the line, and all that is outside it has for years been slowly fading out of reality.