This is the text of the speech I gave to launch my dear friend Tony’s new book, Severed Past.
Tony and I did our PhDs together. Writing up a PhD is a long and rather torturous process – a bit like writing a book. The kind of thing no sane person would do twice.
During the write up phase a lot of people plan an escape route – generally something dramatic, like going off to be a pole dancer. Now, no-one wants to see Tony pole dancing, so our escape route was selling muffins. At the time I often made a particularly tasty butterscotch apple muffin of my own devising. Tony suggested we call them “Muffled Apples” and go into business selling them. My contribution was to make and sell the muffins. Tony’s, as far as I could tell, was to come up with the name and then sit back and rake in the profits.
Once I finished my PhD I wandered into a real job and forgot all about our escape plan, until Tony called me one day and said he had a favour to ask. To my astonishment he confessed that he had written a book, and he’d like me to read it and give him some feedback.
To say I was startled would be an understatement. Here was this close friend, who I had known for years and thought I knew pretty well, suddenly revealing a side I never knew existed.
Of course I said yes (having proof read his thesis, I figured this couldn’t be any worse), but I was worried. Tony’s a good friend. How was I going to read this novel and make polite noises enough to be useful, but not risk our friendship?
Worse still, he told me it was a thriller. I used to read a lot of thrillers, but I’ve gone off them in recent years, finding them all a bit samey, and generally depressing. I took home a huge pile of A4 printer paper with dread in my heart.
The next day I was headed into the city for work, so I took the first 80 pages with me to read on the train. It seemed like overkill, but I live at the end of the line. I figured I would read a little, then do some work on the way in.
By the time the train hit Flinders Street I was sending frantic text messages to Tony, DESPERATE to know what happened on page 81. I couldn’t believe I’d been stupid enough not to bring the whole book.
I should have known better than to doubt Tony. When Tony sets out to do something you know he will research it carefully and methodically. He is thorough to the point of OCD. When I helped him move house once I was surprised and a little alarmed to discover he still had every one of the little plastic sleeves that his cutlery came in when he bought it. He was moving in with Karen, who is now his wife, and when I discovered that she, too, had all of the little plastic sleeves I really started to worry. Now they have children.
The trouble is you can’t write a book by being careful, thorough and methodical. Well, maybe a dictionary, but certainly not a novel. To write a thriller I think you need a certain crazy fire.
I can vouch for the crazy. And the fire is in this book. It’s an absolute ripper, from start to finish. I’m so proud to be able to say “I know the author, he’s a friend of mine, and I proof read this book!”
For proof, you can read the prologue here – judge for yourself!