TPQ: What are you currently reading?
SPO: I'm currently reading a mixture of Christmas leftovers - A Belfast Child, which I had to buy for myself. Early in my 14 Yuletides care of Her Majesty, I felt I needed cheering up during the long Christmas lockup days in Brixton and Wormwood Scrubs prisons, so I began to read three books every year at that time and I still do, for some nostalgic reason. I'm re-reading Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, banned in South Africa in 1948. It's always moved me. Then an Irish treat, Blackcock's Feather by Maurice Walsh, who also wrote The Quiet Man. Blackcock's Feather is an Irish swashbuckler of a book, beautifully written. I did a tour of Ardmore Studios in the early 1990s and was told that they tried to make the film of the book in the 1960s but didn't raise enough cash. Finally, I amuse myself by re-reading Peter Ustinov's Dear Me. I need cheering up at Christmas time and over New Year. I don't like Yuletide much.
TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?
SPO: I read my way through prison - I was reading For Whom the Bell Tolls by Hemingway about a young bomber in the Spanish civil war when I suddenly realised that I was a young IRA bomber and could write my own book, which I subsequently did and it became an instant bestseller - so I have to pay tribute to For Whom the Bell Tolls as a sort of best book inspiration. The worst book? I mean as somebody who wrote a paperback fairly fast, I respect mostly everybody who writes a book. I hate depressing books, all of them. I suppose as somebody who spent 4 years in Trinity studying nothing but English, I must love books, but there is one hard read I truly hate and it is Tess of the Fucking D'Ubervilles ...
TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?
SPO: As the seventh child of a CBS primary schoolmaster and later Headmaster, I was sat on my Da's left knee while my older sister Moira was on his right knee and he was reading from Kidnapped and Catriona, by Robert Louis Stevenson. I still watch the Michael Caine movie of it every year. It helps that my mother was born in Scotland. Scotland moves me.
TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?
SPO: I loved Westerns, particularly Shane ... but a schoolfriend, Dermot McNabb, introduced me to the racier Westerns of Louis L'Amour. Simple justice has an appeal...
TPQ: First book to really own you?
SPO: Shane by Jack Schaefer - we read it at school and everybody took the piss out of me for years... But it's a classic Western and I re-view the movie with regularity. Come back, Shane ...
TPQ: Favourite male and female author?
SPO: It's a draw between Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham and Evelyn Waugh, but I'll have to go for Somerset Maugham, in particular The Moon and Sixpence - satire is amusing. Female author - WTF? How can a Man like me enjoy Pride and Prejudice? But no, I enjoy afternoon television sometimes and so I have to vote for Agatha Christie who gave me Poirot and Miss Marple. Pity she didn't also write Father Brown. There's something appealing about murders solved in under an hour.
TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?
SPO: Mmmm, fiction reveals facts which reality obscures, but I do ultimately prefer fact in an era when facts are disputed all over the show. Apart from studying English at university, and later Computer Science, and later Philosophy, I'm fascinated that the old dispute between Science and Religion has now become the dispute between Science and Science, or one bunch of Scientists versus the other bunch of Scientists. Wow.
TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?
SPO: My wife tells me I'm always too serious. Everybody tells me that my face is serious even when I'm laughing internally. So, I have to take a stand for David Niven's autobiographical hoot in two parts, The Moon's a Balloon and later Bring on the Empty Horses. I love movies. These autobiographies did inspire me to spike my own autobiography, The Volunteer with a hefty dollop of self-satire which not everyone notices.
TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?
SPO: Gerry The Father of Lies and Mass Murder Adams.
TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?
SPO: Jeez, I'd have to say my own wee book that's still selling since it was first published in 1993 by HarperCollins. My life was threatened by members of the IRA at the time shortly before its publication. [I was confronted outside Trinity one day by a number of IRA members who asked me in a most threatening manner: "Who gave you permission to write a fucking book?" to which I replied - one of hot temper all my life - "You claim I fought for Irish freedom - can't I have some that freedom meself?" Wankers...]
TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?
SPO: A book by a WWII Scots war hero, one of the founding members of the SOE who later retired to Mountcharles in Donegal - John McCaffery - The Friar of San Giovanni - Tales of Padre Pio - a book that helped me to change my life in Wormwood Scrubs.
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
SPO: Fuck off Mackers, The Volunteer of course...
TPQ: A "must read" you intend getting to before you die?
SPO: My childhood best friend Paul O'Connor's autobiography - My Years as a Pat Finucane Centre Human Rights' Phoney. It was Paul who invited me to join the Provos with him in September 1970 - what a fucking mistake that turned out to be.
|Shane Paul O'Doherty is a writer |
and author of The Volunteer.