My wife and I took our two youngest children along last night to the launch of the latest book titled Problem Child from Katoomba, NSW childrens' author James Roy. I wrote about his visit to our house on 27 March 2007.
Our two kids were the only children at the book launch, which I thought a curious thing for an author of juvenile fiction. There were a lot of literary author types though, close to forty in number by my count, most of whom were unknown to me. I suspect prolific bloggers such as I are the misfits in the literary world. We'll only be famous when we are dead.
I did briefly meet an old acquaintance, Bob Reece. He's a Fremantle based university scholar with a swag of highly respectable scholarly titles under his belt. Famous in his own way, he has been working on a new Daisy Bates biography which has apparently grown like Topsy. It's going to provide much deserved new insight into the early twentieth century observer of indigenous customs. I noticed that Bob's right thumb was bleeding when he shook my hand last night - either he jammed it in a car door or he had been typing too hard.
The book launch was quite a good one. Copious quantities of wine for the lushes and about a litre of orange juice for the teetotallers. The ratio said said something to me about literary circulators. The selection of nibbles was ample too, plenty of mixed nuts - the expensive type from Big W.
A local English teacher/author introduced the book. I've forgotten his name, but he did a good job. He toyed with the idea that James Roy's depiction of a schoolyard bully had been so insightful that he may have been one himself. An excerpt was read to prove it. Then a joking hand-count was taken amongst the assembled that Mr Roy had indeed been a schoolyard bully and deserved punishment by having his own book launched back at him.
James Roy's former high school English teacher was present too. He looked the same age as Roy so he must have been clean-living teacher. I've forgotten his name too. Apparently he told his charge when he was at school he would get a hundred percent mark for a book length project if he completed it. It never quite happened at school. However, it must be very pleasing for an Australian English teacher to realise that he actually inspired someone.
A shroud was lifted to reveal a small trebuchet with a copy of Problem Child dangling at the business end. James was sat down in a distant chair and fitted with helmet and goggles to guard against a law suit. A string puppet purported to have once belonged to Rolf Harris declared him guilty and the catapult was released. The book had been well and truly launched.
The trouble with going to a book launch where you are known to the author is that you are then obliged to buy a copy of the book - not that we minded on this occasion. I think it was $16.95. Cheaper I'll bet than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which will be released on 21 July.
Our youngest daughter presented the cash and a copy of Problem Child became hers. James was pleased to see us and naturally signed the book with a joint dedication to our two kids. I'm hoping the entire proceedings will be a seminal moment in their own literary lives.
The old Fremantle Prison is huge, and since the prisoners were sent somewhere else in 1991 it has become a celebrated heritage asset. The book launch took place in the building that was once the prison hospital. It's still inside the stone wall perimeter and has a wonderful view overlooking the main cell blocks and exercise yards. A visit to the the Fremantle Childrens' Literature Centre is a good way to take a partial look at the inside of the complex for free.
And what about the content of Problem Child? Well we've got to read it yet. "They" say that an author has to grab the attention of the reader on the first page. The first line reads: "That Monday I went to school. I had a pie for lunch and it was nice..." "Mmmmmmmm pies!" I thought to myself, "This book shows promise." Unfortunately lunch time quickly degenerated after that sublime introduction into a food flinging fight between boyish peers which perhaps will be more appealing to a scruffy juvenile mind than a dainty epicure type like me.
© MMVII Paul R. Weaver.
About the writer
Check out each month's subject index on the Calendar Page for my "common-man" monologues about survival in 21st century Australia – plus a little history occasionally. An original essay is added most days as part of an undertaking to write a couple of million words.