This morning I arrived early at Christ Church in Bath where Toppings, the wonderful independent bookshop pictured above, had organised an author event with Patrick Gale. Having enjoyed the book he is currently promoting, A Place Called Winter, I was keen to hear what he had to say. Despite my unease in social situations I have come to enjoy listening to authors talk about and read from their creations.
Patrick was walking towards me as I entered the church so I introduced myself. He hadn’t a clue who I was, and why would he? A popular author with thousands of Twitter followers is not going to remember just one. Feeling slightly flustered I decided to ask him to sign my book; this too was a mistake. As he politely pointed out, if others saw him signing a book before the event then they too would expect such treatment. Mortified I retreated, craving a large rock under which to crawl in order to hide my shame at my faux pas. No rocks being available I made my way instead to the front of the church to calm myself in order that I may enjoy his talk.
I should mention the coffee and cake. At previous author events I have enjoyed a glass of wine. As Patrick was in Bath in the morning, attendees were offered freshly brewed coffee and a delicious array of home made cakes. Whoever made those cakes deserves an award.
On then to the main event. Patrick is undoubtedly an interesting speaker. He opened by explaining the background to his novel. Its protagonist, Harry Cane, is his great grandfather and he used known facts gleaned from his wider family as the framework on which to build this work of fiction. He talked of the challenges of writing a historical novel given changing attitudes and use of language. He described a fact finding trip he took to Canada where he visited the places referenced in his book.
Before taking questions from the audience, Patrick read aloud two passages from the book. I enjoyed hearing the voices he gave to his characters. His subsequent explanations around the social attitudes at the time were a reminder of how certain things, such as homosexuality, would not have been discussed. The words that we use today did not exist as we know them; certain actions would have been deemed too shocking to be mentioned within the hearing of ladies.
Two of the ladies in the audience, sitting just along the pew from me, well understood what he was saying. One of them is a granddaughter of the real Harry Cane and had traveled to hear her relative speak of the book he had based on their family. I do not know if she has yet read what he has written but she bought a copy at the church and joined the queue to have Patrick sign it at the end.
There were a lot of people eager to have him sign their books. Below I captured just a fraction of the queue that snaked around this beautiful church, built so that those who could not afford a pew at the nearby abbey would have a place to worship. It is a lovely venue for a literary event.
Having disgraced myself early on I waited until the very end before joining the queue. Patrick was most gracious as he got to my copy despite the number of eager readers who had gone before. Once again he showed no recognition. This time I kept quiet other than to spell out my name.
Patrick is promoting ‘A Place Called Winter’ in many venues around the country. If you would like to go along then his schedule may be found here: Patrick Gale » Diary.