Scenes from an artist’s childhood
“Write from within what you know.” It’s sound advice for a novelist. Maybe, some might argue, there are exceptions, such as the writer of science fiction who cannot know anything about life on Mars. Agreed, but what the well-rounded writer does know, from the inside all the way out, is human nature. Human nature in science fiction – surely not! Oh yes, because the best s-f, when read carefully is about the very anthropomorphic problems and battles of the central characters within the framework established by the author and everywhere you look, including Mars, it is the human dimension that is reflected in the story-telling. Indeed I’ll risk a bolder statement: all s-f from Frankenstein to Pattern Recognition (William Gibson) is founded on present knowledge and humanity every bit as much as fantasy. To take only one example; The Martian Chronicles of Ray Bradbury and, my favourite story in them, ‘The Silent Towns’. Earthman Walter Gripp, a mining engineer living on Mars, misses the last flight home to Earth when the colony is abandoned. At first he enjoys the high life of the automated hotels and restaurants still functioning and well stocked but does feel lonely. Suddenly a phone rings but he can’t answer it in time. Driven by his craving for companionship, he works his way through the Martian phonebook until, finally, someone answers – a woman. After some confusion, they meet but, from Walter’s point of view, the woman lacks almost everything he would want in a companion. So, when she proposes marriage, he slips off in the middle of the night and whenever the phone rings he does not answer it. This is clearly science fiction but it is also human story telling of the highest order.
For a novelist working on an earthbound story, it adds to the apparent realism (or, for that matter, the apparent modernism) of the narrative if s/he knows enough to make the reader feel drawn into the place, the activities and the problems of the characters. In my case, I grew up in the Scottish Borders and in its wool textile industry of the middle years of last century. I am planning a novel that will follow the life of one leader in that industry, born early on 1 January 1900 and who, if my present plan survives the research and the writing, will live on into the year 2000 and die with the Royal telegram on his bedside table. As I have been researching the background with which I am very familiar, memories come popping out of the bookwork; memories such as standing in Market Square where the SMT buses parked and gazing into a working smithy as one of the Co-op’s carthorses was being shod. It’s a happy and nostalgic memory that I hope will find its way into the book.
My recently published novel Rembrandt Sings draws on my knowledge of painting and on my travels across the USA and Europe visiting many art galleries. Art forgers of my acquaintance have liked it so much they have asked for a sequel. I’m thinking about that one.
a Tale of Forgery, Deceit, Sex and, quite possibly, Murder
Author: Michael Johnston
Paperback: 214 pages
Publisher: Akanos (October 25, 2012)
File Size: 463 KB
Print Length: 214 pages
Publisher: Amolibros (October 17, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Ambitious art historian Bill Maguire searches Paris for a subject for his doctoral thesis and follows up faint clues about once famous abstract painter Alexander Golden. He fi nds himself in Carmel listening to the death-bed confessions of Joe Rembrandt, an art forger on an industrial scale, and meets beautiful Anna Glover whose life seems somehow connected with the dying man. But when Anna's lawyer boss completely debunks Rembrandt's story, he decides it's time to get out and write his thesis. Unable, however, to get out of his mind Joe's assertion that he found where Golden disappeared to with his mistress and a cache of his never-beforeseen canvases that could be worth millions, Bill searches around Arles for Golden's farmhouse hideaway that probably never existed outside Rembrandt's imagination. He fi nds Anna there before him and hears yet another version of Joe's story. Together, they make the discovery that adds love, greed, insanity, academic dishonesty and very likely murder into the mix before leading to a completely unforeseen outcome.