Thanks, Siobhan!

Siobhan Dowd NYC 80s-90s, by Helen Graves

Easter brought back my earliest memories of Siobhan Dowd, and of The London Eye Mystery. It was as we left the local bookshop just before Easter 2007 that Daughter grabbed the proof of this wonderful book, and once she had read it, she gave me permission to read it as well.

I’d like to think that this ‘illustrious’ blogging career of mine would have gone in much the same direction even without Siobhan and The London Eye Mystery. Hard to say. It made me do my fan email thing, which in turn meant Siobhan wrote back to me, opening up a more personal view of herself; one which I might never have encountered otherwise.

Looking back, it seems so dreadfully unreal that she would die just a few months later. And who would have thought that her work would just go on and on afterwards? I won’t be alone in blessing her strength, writing four novels in such a very short time, giving us her fantastic books to read after she was gone. And her trust, which she had time to plan, helping young people to read.

This was the very beginning of my moving in literary circles, and I marvel at how I dared get on that train to Oxford for Siobhan’s memorial service in November. I met so many people there, who I would probably have met at some point, but not quite like that. Would I have known that Siobhan’s friend Fiona Dunbar would make the perfect Bookwitch Profile as seen here last month?

The London Eye Mystery made more magic later with the stage version. Again, lots of people met up, and for me a lasting pleasure was meeting her best friend Helen who came over from New York, and who provided the photo above. (You could ask why it’s important to meet the American friend of an author you never met. I don’t know. But it feels good.)

Siobhan Dowd and Helen Graves: friends at Blenhaim Palace spring 2006

When I think back to first meeting literary people – online or in person – I can link back to Siobhan surprisingly often. It’s not just Declan Burke of Irish crime fame who popped up. He brought with him all those Irish crime writers that I’d never heard of before. Other bloggers. And in turn, these writers have taken me further in many different directions. I find paths doubling back on themselves.

Rings on the water, is what it seems like. Once this idea had come to me, the rings just grew and grew. I am not going to bore you with long lists of authors and publishers (although the lovely David Fickling must be mentioned). I started counting how many facebook friends originated with Siobhan, but gave up…

There was something in the way my brief contact with Siobhan encouraged more mad behaviour on my part. It wasn’t only meeting people. It was learning other things I could do. Was allowed to do. I owe Siobhan a lot, and I hope she’s sitting up there looking down at all of us, having a bit of fun herself. Maybe with a fluffy dog by her side, and a glass of something.

(I know. This is very much a me, me kind of post. But whenever I think ‘how did that come about then?’ my inner detective notices footprints going all the way back to this great author and person.)

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10 responses to “Thanks, Siobhan!

  1. V. Kathryn Evans

    What a lovely post and so true how the threads that bind us weave and tangle. I never met Siobhan but I’ve heard her mentioned so often by so many friends that when it came to reading A Monster Calls I was nervous for her, for Patrick – not that I needed to be. Legacies live on in wonderful ways x

  2. A lovely and heartfelt post, BW. She was a real diamond…

  3. And there you were, Linda, at the memorial service. Except we didn’t meet properly.
    Kathryn, you might well be one of the rings.

  4. It’s all too easy to descend into hagiography when writing about Siobhan, but here’s what made her so special: she carried her intellect lightly. She was far, far more learned than me, yet treated me as an equal. I loved her for that. I loved her for her raucous sense of fun, while at the same time being hugely impressed by her many and varied achievements. She lived long enough to reap some benefit from her literary success but she did not, nor would she ever have, become boastful or arrogant. She cared far more about making the world a better place than about personal fame. Also, she sang like an angel! And yes, she brought people together because she had a big, generous heart.

    • Yes, I wouldn’t have felt I ‘knew’ Siobhan if she hadn’t immediately talked to me as though I was an equal and someone she’d known for a long time.

  5. You describe Siobhan perfectly, Fiona. She really was special for all of the reasons you cite.

  6. What a beautiful post. I’m so sad I never knew Siobhan, and am blessed to have inherited some of her friends.

  7. Keren, I suspect you’re another of Siobhan’s rings. And I’m very grateful.

  8. Rose Kernochan

    Thank you for this lovely post–from another American friend of Siobhan’s.

  9. Very nice post indeed about Siobhan. I wish I had been able to meet her. But the books abide.

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