I was very pleased to give a talk and reading from “The Venetian Game” at the Circolo Italo-Britannico in Venice recently. And even more pleased to receive this rather lovely paperweight as a gift.
I hope one day to have a desk that does it justice. Actually, I hope one day to just have any sort of desk at all. I write on the sofa. But I aspire, one day, to a desk.
Anyway, I took a few questions from the audience, including this one : How much of Nathan Sutherland is Philip Gwynne Jones?
It’s a good question. One answer would be Stephen King’s from On Writing (and if you’re a writer or in any way interested in the craft of writing, do go out and buy this – it’s essential) : namely, that every character is, in some way, a reflection of you. But I think it’s worth adding a few things.
Firstly, my domestic situation is rather (by which I mean much) happier than Nathan’s. My wife lives in the same country and, indeed, same apartment as me. There are not, nor have there ever been, any art restorers in my life except for Stefano to whom I briefly taught English five years ago. Very nice chap, but not my type.
I do some translation work but, so far at least, have managed to avoid lawnmower manuals. We do have a cat but whereas Gramsci is a spitting, clawing furry ball of misanthropic fury, Mimi…is not.
But there are, of course, some things in common. I once heard Donna Leon say that Brunetti had to be someone she liked, if she was going to be spending so much time with him. It’s a good point. I’m not sure if there’ll ever be 25+ Nathan Sutherland novels (although I’m perfectly happy to give it a go) but I do think that, yes, he kind of needs to be someone you want to cheer on. One review described him as being “slightly rumpled”. I think that’s a very good description.
His musical tastes are, of course, mine. One review suggested that I was very cleverly poking fun at the predilection of Italian men of a certain age for old British progressive rock bands. I was, of course, being totally sincere. Hawkwind, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd are the soundtrack to my life. If anyone goes out and listens to them as a result of reading “The Venetian Game”, I would absolutely delighted.
The big difference between us is that Nathan is – in his own quiet, rumpled way – quite brave. And I’m not. Not at all. I think I’d just have taken the package from Mr Montgomery and gone straight to the police.
The character I’d like to be, I think, is Federica. The one that I enjoyed writing the most is, of course, Arcangelo. But that’s another story for another time…