For anyone who’s read my book Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent, you’ll be aware of the importance of the River Poddle in the plot. In one major scene, Arthur, Ash and Will explore the river under the city of Dublin.
Here’s a great clip from an RTE documentary a few years ago that tells you all about the Poddle, as well as giving us a glimpse of the river itself. Watch it to the end to see the grate that features in the book, too!
And here’s the actual programme that inspired me to write Arthur Quinn. When I saw the Poddle in this, I just knew there had to be some sort of monster hidden there! (The Poddle part starts from the 4 minute mark.)
During the week, author Terry Pratchett – who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s – broadcast a documentary on the BBC. It was called ‘Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die’ and detailed his own, and others attempts to be receive assisted suicide in Switzerland. Certainly a sobering and painfully sad documentary; but an important one, nonetheless.
It got me thinking about Pratchett and the huge number of books he’s written. He wrote a book with Neil Gaiman – (‘Good Omens’, which, I’m sure, I will write about in the future) – is one of my favourites. But of the Discworld novels, of which there are now about 40 titles, the one that stands out for me most is Mort.
At just over 300 pages, Mort is one of his shorter novels but, to me, this translates as most succinct. While I often find the other Discworld books can stray off the point at times, Mort sticks rigidly to the classic, three-act story-telling structure. We meet a teenager called Mort, whose farmer father believes that his thoughtful temperament prevents him from finding gainful employment. The plot begins when Mort’s dad brings his son to a local employment fair. Thoughout the day, Mort fails to find a new employer. Then, as all hope was lost and at midnight, a stranger arrives in a black coat riding a white horse. He offers Mort a job, which the boy accepts gratefully. The only hitch is that the man is Death and that Mort’s new job is as an apprenticeship ushering souls into the next life. So begins a rollicking adventure that’s part comedy/parody, part fantasy, part romance and part reflection-on-death-itself.
Just a quick note about something I got up to at the weekend. I went on a tour of Dublin Castle. And, as interesting as it was seeing the places the Queen visited only two weeks ago, what really got me going was the Medieval Undercroft. It’s essentially the foundations of the old castle, under street level. You can even get to see a bit of the River Poddle that flows under the city – (and is a main feature of Arthur Quinn’s world!) The tour is €2 for kids, €3.50 for students and €4.50 for adults and is well worth it.