INTERVIEW: Lloyd Jones on ‘Hand Me Down World’ (Text Publishing)

Matthia Dempsey spoke to Lloyd Jones about his new novel Hand Me Down World (Text Publishing).

Mister Pip was shortlisted for the Booker and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, obviously earning you a whole new readership—and making this next book an eagerly awaited one. What would you tell a reader who appreciated Mister Pip about Hand Me Down World—where are the differences and what do the books have in common?

Mister Pip, among other things, concerns itself about mistaken identity. The identity of Dickens, Mr Watts, even the book Great Expectations doesn’t settle into one version or another. Identity is one of the constant riffs in Hand Me Down World. No-one turns out to be who we thought they were, especially so in the case of Ines who swims ashore in Sicily to begin her quest to hunt down the whereabouts of her boy. This book can’t really be compared with Mister Pip. It is a different beast altogether. Whereas Mister Pip had a single narrator, Hand Me Down World has a multiplicity of voices and offers a bigger bite of the world.

You’ve said the conception of Mister Pip began with the image of Grace being pulled along on her cart. Was there a similar starting point— an image—for Hand Me Down World? If not, what was its genesis? And how long did the book take you to write?

I don’t think it had any one starting point or eureka moment. I had been reading about the African boat people, thinking about lung fish and the Antarctic; I was in Berlin, and much of the landscape of the book was part of my daily beat. As often happens with fiction, these disparate things eventually found one another, and from there the novel emerged. The character of Ines holds the book together. I have no idea where she sprung from. But I’m glad she did— and I do remember writing by a desk lamp in the gloom of a Berlin November about a woman swimming ashore in Europe and feeling—Yes, this is interesting. This is vital. I began writing the book in Berlin over 2007-2008 and finished it in the early part of 2010.

Apart from the setting, how did your time in Germany influence the content of your writing?

Had I not spent the time that I did in Berlin I would not have felt sufficiently confident for it to be the landscape for much of the story. On the other hand, had I not been in Berlin I probably wouldn’t have written this particular novel. I don’t think that the style of the novel is influenced by place as much as a desire to find a form that would release the story.

Mister Pip had the strong voice of Matilda taking readers through the story, whereas Hand Me Down World has many voices. Did this make writing harder or easier? And how did you choose your characters?

I couldn’t begin to say how I chose the characters. I’m not sure the question will lead to the explanation you are after. Generally, I go with voice—I am led by what I hear, and I go from there, and gradually the ‘character’ emerges through incident and to some extent willed into existence. In Hand Me Down World the story of Ines is shared around. The characters, for most part, live in the margin of one another’s lives.

The book seems very carefully structured. Did it require detailed planning or did the structure and plot emerge as you wrote?

There was no planning. The voices came to me in quick succession, and after the third or fourth one I realised that this was the perfect structure for a story that is handed on. In terms of the book’s structure I like to think of it a system of echoes.

In both Mister Pip and Hand Me Down World you render in fiction the lives of characters without powerful voices in the world. Do you think fiction/long form can broadcast these marginalised voices better than journalism (where it might be harder to build the reader’s empathy)?

The opportunity to inhabit the other is fiction’s great attraction. Whereas, the extent to which the ‘other’ can be inhabited is a thorny and contentious area for conventional journalism. Having said that I don’t like to subscribe to hard and fast rules.

What’s next?

It’s too early to say. Except to say, I hope there is a ‘next’.

Matthia Dempsey is editor-in-chief of Bookseller+Publisher magazine. This interview and her review of Hand Me Down World first appeared in the October 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher.

INTERVIEW: Trent Jamieson on ‘Managing Death’ (Orbit)

Chris McDonough thought Trent Jamieson’s urban fantasy trilogy got darker and pacier in book two. He spoke to the author.

Your familiarity with the city of Brisbane is a strong element in the ‘Death Works’ series. Have you based some of the characters on familiar people too?

Well, that would be telling! But yes, I think you learn about human nature from the people around you. I think every character you write about has elements of yourself and those people you know best, they just tend to be mixed up and reconstituted in a book. So the best qualities of the characters in the book are based on my friends—the worst are probably based on me.

The series looks at what happens to humans after they die. Are your beliefs anything like those in the books?

No. But the idea of an afterlife fascinates me, how that might function, what rules it would follow, and how you might bend them. I really don’t think there is an afterlife, but I’m happy to be proven wrong—as long as it’s not the abylonian version of the Underworld, which is like hell, only worse. No, really.

The pacing of the second book felt faster than the first. Was it easier to write?

Wow, I’m so glad it felt faster! I was worried that it might be slower. No, it definitely wasn’t easier to write. Second books are so hard, you feel a real obligation to the first book. A second book has to count, and I think I went into it feeling fairly self-conscious. It was a long hard slog of an edit, but I think I learnt a lot about my limits as a writer, and even grew a bit. Well, I hope so.

There have been a lot of labels thrown around for the recent spate of supernatural novels with current settings. How would you define your series? What kinds of books were you inspired by?

Urban fantasy, without a doubt. It fits comfortably in the genre, I think. But then again, what do authors know about their own stuff? It’s firmly grounded in the urban spaces of Brisbane, and without that setting the tone would be utterly different. As for inspiration, a bit of Nick Earls, a touch of John Birmingham and a rather large splash of Fritz Leiber’s novels (any of them), Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and 30-odd years of reading fantasy and science fiction of all sorts. These novels are about love and the city of Brisbane, but they’re my love song to the spec-fic genre as well.

Read the full interview in the November issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

INTERVIEW: Kate Holden on ‘The Romantic’ (Text)

Andrea Hanke talks to Kate Holden about her new memoir The Romantic, a follow-up to In My Skin.

I read that The Romantic originally started out as a novel. How did it evolve and how do you think this has influenced the style of the book—for example, the decision to write it in the third person?

The memoir was originally going to be the last third of a tripartite novella work, but soon took on the dimensions of a full-length book which put paid to that idea. Even after the first full draft I was considering how to fictionalise the protagonist, give ‘her’ a different character and borrow the real-life events for a narrative contrived on the themes of my real experience. But it wouldn’t work: skewing even one element threw the whole thing out of balance, particularly the emotional truth. However the third-person perspective remains and presents a critical distancing which is, I’m told, unusual in a memoir.

In The Romantic you travel to Europe to discover yourself—a rite of passage for many Australians. Do you think this experience—which can often be a lonely one, so far away from family and friends—is an effective way for people to gain a better understanding of themselves? Do you think you could have made the same discoveries about yourself living in Melbourne?

In In My Skin I was alone in Melbourne, and often fugitive—in Italy I was alone too, still looking for a safe place. I needed freedom from the humiliation I’d felt as an addict, and a chance to re-make myself. The amnesiac anonymity of overseas is attractive to many travelers.But it is frightening also. I do think solitude is clarifying, though it reminds us all the time of how much we need other people. Travel is a test as well as a solace, but one well worth taking.

Most of the sexual encounters you describe in In My Skin were in the context of your profession as a sex worker. Was it harder to write about personal encounters and relationships in The Romantic?

I was terribly, terribly conflicted about portraying my personal relationships, not for my own sake but for that of the privacy of my ex-partners. Fortunately they gave me permission—or at least forgiveness. I am a compulsive over-sharer and already used to having exposed my sexuality in writing but there were moments when I wondered if I should just skip over something truly intimate—and then realised that that instinct meant I should probably share it, because that’s where the good—and empathetic—material is. Everyone’s had relationships so I try to present mine as candidly as possible in the hope that others can relate.

Through your Age column and various public speaking events, you’ve developed a public profile—particularly in Melbourne. How does it feel to encounter strangers who know such intimate details about your life?

Just today I was recognised by my postman! I never know what to say when strangers say they’ve read my work, but I suspect I am more disconcerted than they are, and I try to remember why I chose to be revealing in the first place. Readers seem to be able to separate my writing persona from my real one. And I am always amazed how warmly people respond to my written character. Those who don’t like me don’t bother to say hello. But I am humbled by the sweetness of readers, and how my candour seems to invite their own.

What are you working on now?

I’ve got my Age column to write, and I’m prodding away at a draft of a novel, and making notes on a possible non-fiction book. I’d also like to do more short stories. But right now I’m preparing to do promotion for The Romantic, and I know I’ll have little concentration for writing while that’s on. I feel lucky, excited, and anxious all at the same time!

Andrea Hanke’s review of The Romantic appears in the current issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.

INTERVIEW: Monica McInerney on ‘At Home with the Templetons’ (Michael Joseph)

Monica McInerney spent six months researching stage fright, Irish surf schools and much more for her latest novel, she tells Rachel Wilson.

At Home with the Templetons, like all your novels, deals with family dynamics. What particular dynamics were you trying to explore in this novel and how do they differ from your previous books?

Families of all shapes and sizes fascinate me, but in my previous books the story focused on one family each time. What I wanted to do with this novel was bring two very different families—the seven unruly Templetons and the smaller unit of Nina Donovan and her son Tom—into each other’s orbit, with good and bad consequences. I also wanted to touch on issues such as jealousy in its many and damaging forms, the lasting impact of grief, the different aspects of motherhood and marriage, sibling rivalry and sibling loyalty, contrasting parenting styles, family secrets and lies, all against a background as rich in comedy and drama as possible.

It’s been three years since your last novel and I have read that you undertake extensive research before completing each one. Could you describe how you prepared for this book?

The starting point was visiting as many stately homes in Australia, Ireland and the UK as I could to help make my fictional Templeton Hall as authentic as possible. As the writing unfolded, I researched the antiques trade;  homeschooling; the Australian gold rush of the 1850s; architecture, interior design and clothing from that time; Captain Cook; stage fright; selective mutism; alternative therapies; the nanny industry; life as a freelance illustrator and painter; cricket; Irish surf schools; alcoholism and the rehab industry; spinal injuries; yabbying; and children’s television (though my own time working on the Here’s Humphrey children’s TV program in the 1980s helped there). I used the internet or read books or watched films on many of the different subjects but the best source of detail for me was talking to people who had first-hand experience of what I was writing about. It’s those fragments of fact that add the real colour to the story, I always hope. I also visited (or had previously visited) nearly every location mentioned in the book— Castlemaine and the Victorian gold fields, London (including Lord’s Cricket Ground), Melbourne, San Francisco, Chicago and Woodstock, Illinois, Auckland, Whitby in Yorkshire, the Isle of Skye, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Italy, France, Sligo in Ireland …

Could you describe your approach to writing and your working regimen?

I spend about six months plotting in my head before I sit at the computer and start writing. There’s usually an overlap between my books. I had the idea for At Home with the Templetons about three months before I finished Those Faraday Girls. Similarly, I had the idea for what will be my next book halfway through the Templetons. I aim for 2000 words a day minimum in the early stages of writing, getting very attached to the word-count button. A day always comes when the word count is irrelevant, when all I want to do is be at the desk writing. The final six months are usually seven days a week. I edit as I write, and also show the manuscript to two people in the early stages, my husband, who is a journalist, and my younger sister, who is an editor. I completely trust their feedback, and their encouragement keeps me on track until the manuscript is as polished as I can make it before sending it to my publishers. I also love deadlines. They terrify me into finishing. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Gordon Reece on ‘Mice’ (A&U)

Reviewer Clare Hingston spoke to Gordon Reece about his new YA psychological thriller Mice (A&U).

Mice raises some very difficult moral questions. Do you believe good will triumph over evil, or is it more a case of survival of the fittest?

I think few of us see the world in such black and white terms any more and I doubt even Superman himself believes that good will triumph over evil. It would be wonderful to have that conviction, but I think we’ve all seen too much. Even defining ‘good’ and ‘evil’ isn’t straightforward—is an act ‘evil’ if it’s carried out for ‘good’ reasons? In Mice Shelley and her mum are involved in something that will stand their moral code on its head; an act whose corroding influence prepares the ground for the—hopefully unexpected—finale. I wrote the novel in stages, sending each finished section to my agent, Debbie Golvan, for her opinion. I remember her saying when she’d read the final section—‘I’m not sure I know these people any more.’ And, in a way, that was precisely the point of the novel. The survival of the fittest is an interesting lens through which to read Mice. It’s arguable that in some ways, in spite of the odds stacked against them, Shelley and her mum do prove their fitness to survive. It’s certainly closer to my intention than the triumph of good over evil.

How do you relate to Shelley and her mother, and to what extent do you identify with the ‘mousey’ aspects of their personalities?

I should start by saying that my definition of a human mouse isn’t necessarily a person who’s painfully shy or socially inept—in fact, Shelley and her mum are intelligent, talented and successful in many different ways. For me, what makes them ‘mice’ is their inability to deal with confrontation—verbal, physical or psychological. And in a world where so many people seem to thrive on confrontation, this leaves them dangerously exposed and vulnerable. Many of Shelley and her mum’s ‘mousey’ characteristics—bookishness, intellectualism, a love of classical music, respect for the law, speaking well, politeness—are almost defining features of English middle-class culture. I came from an essentially working-class background and I know I kicked against what I saw as these ‘unmanly’ characteristics. I recall a school report describing me as ‘aggressively anti-intellectual’ and I can remember smashing my glasses I was so frustrated that I had to wear them. So there’s a degree to which middle-class culture itself is seen as ‘mousey’ in the UK. When Hamish Hamilton dropped my first children’s book way back in 1985 and I thought the door to a writing career had been closed forever, my reaction was quite telling I think. I tried to join the army.

Mice is ultimately a very empowering novel, but what inspired you to write a book that deals so extensively with the darker side of humanity?

I suppose I’ve always written stories that dealt with the ‘the darker side of humanity’—even when I was at school—not horror exactly, but more thrillers, stories that invariably revolved around a violent act and some sort of twisted psyche. If I was to indulge in amateur self-psychoanalysis I’d say this was due in part to my personal history and in part to the books that have influenced me most strongly. When I was nine my brother-in-law gave me a bag of American comics which had, in amongst all the superheroes, several issues of ‘Uncanny Tales and Astounding Stories’. These horror and sciencefiction short stories changed my life—I was immediately addicted to these dark melodramas and I crammed my school essays with their ecstatic vocabulary. I really believe they taught me how to write (people underestimate how well written a lot of those comics were). They also gave me a healthy appetite for plot, for plot-driven narratives, usually with a darkly ironic twist in the tail. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Kimberley Freeman on ‘Wildflower Hill’ (Hachette Australia)

Fans of speculative fiction may know her as Kim Wilkins, but author Kimberley Freeman is also making a name for herself in commercial women’s fiction. She spoke to Bookseller+Publisher reviewer Kate Cuthbert.

You started out in speculative fiction—what prompted the move to commercial women’s fiction? What is the appeal of this genre? And the challenges?

When I was little and imagined growing up to be an author, I never imagined that I would be limited to one genre. I wrote 10 books before I had anything published, and only a couple of them were spec fic. But then I began publishing in the dark fantasy genre and, the market operating as it does, I continued to publish in that genre. After Rosa and the Veil of Gold, I felt that I had exhausted what I wanted to say in spec fic (for a while, not forever). I was sitting on the couch at my agent’s house and we were talking about books we used to love in the 80s—like Lace and A Woman of Substance. And we both sort of looked at each other and went, hey that’s not a bad idea. Why don’t I write something like that? I had such enormous fun with it. I’ve always liked writing about strong women who are faced with difficult choices, and this gave me free rein to imagine big glamorous story ideas. The challenges were all about narrative interest. I’d been so used to thinking, ‘oh, the story’s getting boring, I’ll stick in a ghost’. I definitely learned a lot more about my craft when I became Kimberley Freeman.

How do you feel about the term ‘women’s fiction’? What are your thoughts on its usefulness as a descriptor or marketing tool?

While it seems a little broad, I think that it’s apt. My spec fic books, despite being about women, attract readers of both sexes. My Kimberley Freeman books have largely had a female audience. I think ‘women’s fiction’ just means fiction that privileges the female experience of the real world: fiction that gives women centre stage and allows them to be complex and conflicted and so on. My only misgiving would be if ‘women’s fiction’ became a term of derision. But I think the term is offered and accepted in good spirit as far as I can see.

There is a strong emphasis in Wildflower Hill on traditional ways of communication—letters, diaries, photos, paper records, body language, dance—even your modern-day heroine is uninterested in her mobile phone. Is this an ode, a lament, or merely a useful plot device?

I was recently up at the Fryer Library at University of Queensland, looking through old manuscript boxes full of notes and correspondence and so on and I was thinking about the incredible romance of traditional forms of communication. I’m particularly fascinated by old diaries. One of the most interesting that I read was a diary of an 11th century Japanese woman (in translation, of course). That she could touch me across so many years and across that East-West cultural divide was amazing and humbling. Even though I love the internet and I blog and you can’t keep me off Facebook, I do sometimes feel that we connect with each other too superficially (and perhaps too often). I can’t reconcile these two things about myself—my desire to be right in the thick of web 2.0 technology and my desire to receive letters written on parchment—but I do think that tension might have worked its way into the story unconsciously. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Jon Bauer on ‘Rocks in the Belly’ (Scribe)

Pictured: Jon Bauer (photo by Natasha Blankfield)

Rocks in the Belly (Scribe) is the story of a young boy who is overcome by jealously after his mother fosters another child, and the man he becomes as he returns to face his now chronically ill mother. The book was officially launched last night by Cate Kennedy.

Bookseller+Publisher Reviewer B Owen Baxter interviewed first-time novelist Bauer for our July issue.

What inspired you to write this book?

This book began as far back as 1998, way before I began writing. I was visiting family friends in England with my mum at a time when she was showing the first signs of her illness. I saw a photograph on the mantelpiece of a wonderful 13-year-old girl with an intellectual disability. I asked about her and it was clear that this girl meant a lot to the family, that they’d fostered her but she’d died. I must have carried that image because in 2007 it returned in the form of a first line: I used to tell people I was a foster child.

To what extent did you draw on real-life experiences (whether they’re your own or from somebody you know)?

This is fiction but of course there are parallels with my own life. My mother dying of brain cancer is the clearest link although her illness is more a cameo than a central feature of the book. But I made sure I put real emotion into the fiction so that the book’s heart is my heart, even if the events are not mine. If you want to move people you have to risk your own truth. If you want to do anything well I think you have to give of yourself.

The main character (particularly as a child) has quite a disturbing combination of naivety and sociopathy. What (if any) research did you do in order to portray this?

I researched fostering through a friend who works in the field, but I’ve long been an avid observer of the human condition. I believe that we all contain every element of humanity, which is why history is so repetitive. None of us is all good or all bad. We’re often simultaneously both.

What is the significance of not revealing the main character’s real name?

This was an instinctive choice but I struggled with it during editing because it made things hard at times—to avoid the name without if being a conspicuous avoidance. I think a nameless character can add power. It’s more personal for the reader somehow, and the writer. Perhaps it was also about my own need to keep the character inside of me. I’d tremble sometimes while he was up to his ‘sociopathy’. Especially because, in my mind, he was doing it to the memory of my dying mother.

Do you have any plans for a sequel/prequel? If not, what do you think your next project will be?

I am returning to a novel I wrote prior to this—The Prophet of Loss, a story I spent 18 months researching in Morocco. I’ve also started looking into blindness (including plans to be blind myself for two weeks) for another book I want to write about an older man losing his sight: Winter Solstice. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: James Phelan on ‘Chasers’ (Hachette Australia)

James Phelan has followed up his successful adult thrillers with a new trilogy for YA readers, ‘Alone’. John Webb asked him about the first book, Chasers.

The four young central characters in Chasers seem quite resourceful in dealing with a difficult situation. Do you think they reflect the skills of a current younger generation?

I think teenagers are as resourceful as any age group, particularly so when we are seeing this story’s events through the eyes of 16-year-old narrator, Jesse. Characters are more stylised than people we know and stories in novels are the more dramatic moments, so 16-year-olds in fiction, such as Holden Caulfield and Picene ‘Pi’ Patel, seem more resourceful than we’d expect. I put Jesse into a post-apocalyptic world and tried to be true to him while letting the chips fall where they might—extraordinary circumstances brought out some unique methods of survival for him.

This is very much a New York story. Do you think this will be a problem for readers unfamilar with the Big Apple?

I chose New York because it’s the world’s greatest city and its most inglorious, its most frenetic and its most lonely, and it has played a key role in spawning two global events that have shaped the opening of this century. Australian readers will see New York as Jesse sees it—through Australian eyes. The setting is a backdrop to the series but is a minor component compared to the story of Jesse that unfolds on the page. I tried to make every word of his so true thatit hurt, so that by the final chapter when our truth is skewed it hurts all the more but at the same time it’s an uplifting revelation because the lies preceding it were beautiful: they’d saved a life.

The parallels with 9/11 are drawn by the book’s narrator. Were you trying to make a metaphorical link between the nature of terror and horror?

I’d written three novels for an adult audience that dealt with terrorism and 9/11. The third one, Blood Oil, was very dark: my response to where we’d gone as a society. Chasers was a departure as it was an entire world that I created—a world forever changed from the end of the prologue. Jesse is aware of 9/11 (he was headed on a field trip to the memorial when the disaster struck) so it seemed logical he’d think of it in the context of what he’s seeing all around him. Linking real events in his mind was something he employed to cope with the situation at hand—this kind of thing has happened before and people have overcome it, so he can do that here too. It deals with horrors as Jesse sees them: illness, mortality, heartbreak and loss. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Darren Groth on ‘Kindling’ (Hachette)

Bookseller+Publisher reviewer Toni Whitmont spoke to author Darren Groth about his new novel Kindling (Hachette).

Kindling is instantly recognisable as an Australian story. Fear of fire is seared into our national psyche. You now live in Canada. Did you have to leave Australia in order to get enough perspective to write the story?

Not at all. Where I happened to be whilst writing Kindling didn’t really factor into getting it down on the page. I wrote the first half of the story before we moved, and had we stayed in Australia, Kindling still would have turned out quite similar to what it is today. Regarding perspective, the Black Saturday bushfires provided plenty; not so much in terms of the story (I was nearing the end of the draft when the tragedy occurred), but more from the point of view of being an Australian living overseas. Looking at the newspapers online, reading the stories, seeing the terrible photos, I felt a very deep sense of shock, sadness and dislocation. I felt I couldn’t adequately convey to the Canadian people around me the horror of the situation, nor the sense that this affected me in a way that emphasised my difference and relative isolation.

How did you manage to capture the voice of the autistic boy with such authenticity?

My eight-year-old son has autism. When I began the work, he was five. In imagining Kieran, I started with what I’d seen and heard and experienced with my boy. Kindling has numerous things going on that are recognizable to my wife and I. A good example is the three books Kieran is interested in at the Garretts’ house. Those books were my son’s favourites (he still pulls out the Golden Retriever one every now and again). He would routinely ‘read’ them, looking at the cover and poring over the pages and photos. Titbits like these were combined with the learnings I’d accumulated as the parent of an autistic child. I also got out the crystal ball a bit, tried to imagine the autistic experience at 10 years of age. I’m pleased beyond words that people feel I’ve captured Kieran authentically. Ensuring he was believable and true was important for my son, the autistic community, and obviously for Kindling itself.

Is this a story about an autistic boy running away to a suburban fire or is there something deeper going on?

At face value, Kindling reflects much of my work to this point. It is a small, simple story, chronicling small, good people contending with big, bad life challenges. Beneath that, there are certainly some deeper layers I wanted to dig into. The idea of heroism. Of making amends for past wrongs, perceived or otherwise. The prevailing definitions, descriptors and stereotypes that govern society’s understanding (or lack thereof ) of autism. And the notion of respect for difference; how we treat others who challenge the construct of what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘normal’. Continue reading

INTERVIEW: Boyd Anderson on ‘Errol, Fidel and the Cuban Rebel Girls: A Novel’ (UQP)

Bookseller+Publisher reviewer Scott Whitmont spoke to author Boyd Anderson about his forthcoming book Errol, Fidel and the Cuban Rebel Girls: A Novel, to be published by UQP in August.

Not many people today know of Errol Flynn’s Cuban connection in the last years of his life and his relationship with Fidel Castro. How much film and political history research was involved in the writing of the story? Was Cuban source material readily available?

No, not many people know of it, and I wasn’t one of [the few who did] until I saw a documentary on Errol Flynn that finished with a tossed-off line that went something like: ‘When Fidel Castro rode his victory parade into Havana in 1959, Errol Flynn was on the next tank.’ This appeared so preposterous that I went straight to that fountain of all absurdity, Google, where I found it was indeed true, and the more I read about it the more I felt that it wasn’t absurd at all, that it was inevitable that these two should be attracted—the celluloid hero seeking adventure, the genuine hero seeking fame. Each had what the other wanted. Put that together with the fact that both were renowned Don Juans, one an ageing stag and the other a young buck, and the deliciousness of this encounter was irresistible. Drama is conflict, and this is a drama that occurred but has gone unreported for 50 years.

Regarding research, there is little about their connection to be found. There are a couple of grainy and badly composed snapshots, a mention or two in despatches, but few reliable reports. For his part, Fidel refused to even talk about Errol Flynn soon after the victory. He confirmed the film star’s presence to a few American reporters, but then denied he was even there. Errol, on the other hand, bragged about it all over US television for months. Something dramatic had obviously happened. Continue reading