CROSSED LIVES”My grandmother died of cancer on 25 March 2008, after a long and painful illness. You probably never heard of her. She lived in the shadow of her husband, the Ulster-born, British novelist, Paul Kirkpatrick. Him you would have heard of. Of that I am sure. Even if you never read any of his dull, moralistic books, novels that became so inexplicably popular, even if you never read any books at all, you must remember the media attention lavished on his infamous Last Will and Testament, made public after his suicide in 1988. Almost every penny he possessed—and he was a wealthy man— and every royalty payment still to come from his published books he left to Oxfam, Greenpeace and the Salvation Army in equal measure. To his wife, Estelle, he left only their house and its contents. No money to her, though she had plenty of her own. She neither needed nor wanted more. And not a penny for his only son, Wesley, who did want more. He wanted everything. Nothing for his granddaughter, Estella. Nothing for the second grandchild he knew his daughter-in-law Celia was carrying when he changed his original will. Yet he bequeathed five thousand pounds to a cleaning lady, who came to his house only a few times after he ordered his wife out of it. And what filled newspaper columns for several days, he bequeathed a complete set of the Oxford Illustrated Dickens to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. That you must remember. The tabloids feasted and slobbered over that one like hyenas on a dead antelope. I believe Mrs Thatcher, as she then was, sportingly accepted the set of books and donated it to the library in Nether Chiddington, the village in Buckinghamshire, where Paul Kirkpatrick had lived.Then there was the oft-repeated question: why did a world-famous novelist like Paul Kirkpatrick, still at the peak of his career, stop writing, hit the bottle, separate from his wife, and commit suicide? In an obituary in the New York Times, Aaron Goldblatt, that austere, Jewish-American critic of English literature, referred to this vexing question, with extravagant hyperbole, as ‘one of the great mysteries of twentieth-century literature.’ To his credit, Goldblatt wrote that before my father, Wesley Kirkpatrick, contested his father’s will, and the story of Paul Kirkpatrick’s last few months of life entered the public domain. It stirred up a ripe stew of controversy.What the media publicised with such brouhaha at the time was only part of the story. Now I can make the full story known and wait for another media feeding frenzy.”So wrote Jane Kirkpatrick, the novelist’s granddaughter, a PhD candidate at Queen’s University in Belfast, in her introduction to a biography of a doomed man and a history of a doomed marriage. Like a good researcher, she assembled her sources—press cuttings, letters, Kirkpatrick’s diary, his wife’s notebook—and copied them onto her computer as she would the chapters of her PhD dissertation, ready to send to Kirkpatrick’s former editor. In Crossed Lives you may read Jane’s unedited compilation and watch the steady disintegration of a great novelist through drink, depression, and “conversations” he claimed to have had with a disembodied voice that called itself Lucifer.Crossed Lives was a nominee in the Whistler Independent Book Awards competition and received an Honorable Mention at the New York Book Festival,both in 2012.
About Ron Duffy
Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Ron Duffy spent three years “on the road”, mostly by bicycle, travelling extensively in both western and eastern Europe, with “working sojourns” in Norway, Austria and England. HisMy adventuring over, he settled down to studies, and obtained a BA in Geography from the Queen’s University of Belfast. He then emigrated to Canada, took an MSc in Biogeography at the University of Calgary and studied for his PhD at McGill University in Montreal. In Montreal he started a long career as a university lecturer in geography.Duffy’s writing career began when he started publishing mostly travel and history articles in numerous Irish, British and Canadian newspapers and magazines. In 1988 McGill-Queen’s University Press published his non-fiction book, The Road to Nunavut: The Progress of the Eastern Arctic Inuit since the Second World War which was based on his PhD thesis. In 1988 his play, Hearts and Minds, won first prize in the novice section of the annual Alberta Playwriting Competition. Another play, Loved and Left, was given a staged reading by Theatre 80 in Calgary.Retired from lecturing, Duffy turned to writing full-time. In the Whistler Independent Book Awards competition in 2012 his novel Crossed Lives was a nominee, and his historical novel O’Hanlon received an Honourable Mention. He has also written a trilogy of Irish novels, The Unquiet Land, In Turbulent Times, and A Further Shore, since published independently in one volume, and a World War Two novel Brandt. As a companion volume to the Ulster trilogy he wrote Until The Troubles Started: A Brief Political History of Northern Ireland.