Brief Encounter with a Great Author-Harry Patterson
a.k.a. JACK HIGGINS 'Master of his Craft'
by Allan Skertchly
Recently my son and his partner moved into a rented house nearby. This precipitated our offering of spare furniture and household things to help them with setting up. Over the years the number of books in our houses have periodically got out of control with consequent much passing on to friends, students and children. And as my son's move was seen as an opportunity for him to take his childhood and other collection of books with him and so free up some bookshelves. So, yet again, a bit of book sorting and culling was started.
In the course of this I came across Harry Patterson's 1959 book Sad Wind From the Sea (London: John Long). The book is a fast-moving tale about Chinese gangs in Macao and China, and the abduction and rescue of an eighteen-year-old girl. I recalled re-reading it with especial interest after a visit to Hong Kong where once I became a murder suspect in the old British Colony. But that is another tale! Harry's fast paced story rang true, capturing criminal realities well.
Looking at the inscription in the book, I recalled a brief encounter in England with the now renowned author, which took place some forty years ago. The encounter was occasioned by us both sitting for the same university degree final examinations in Bradford, England. And so through my favourite World Wide Web 'search engine' Google, I caught up again with Patterson's outstanding writing achievements, the most illustrious of which are often published now under the nom de plume 'Jack Higgins'. His latest being Midnight Runner.
So here's a little story I'd like to share, because Harry's is a great tale of an obsessive writer rising to the top in his craft after an inauspicious start in life, and which reveals many important aspects of the art of writing. The oft-quoted assessment of him as 'a master of his craft' is indeed most apt and absolutely right. Many details of his story may be found and elaborated upon elsewhere, as in newspapers and literary journals and now on the ubiquitous and readily accessible World Wide Web. What is assembled here is unique. Although it covers the whole of Harry's life, it is not definitive; it is but a short sketch.
If a definitive biography has been written on Harry Patterson, I am not aware of it.
In this account there are two interwoven biographies with common and disparate threads. What happened to us before, at and after, the serendipitous meeting at Bradford over four decades ago, at the height of the Cold War.
He and I both experienced some early traumas; share some interesting similarities; and as well possess many differences.
We are both successful people, albeit in quite different spheres of life. He is highly accomplished and highly successful writing zealot; I am a polymath. His distinguished third vocation has resulted in rich tangible rewards. My rewards are highlighted by intangibles.
Harry's life has been one of single-minded commitment to one predominant goal, that of becoming a successful writer.
Mine has been characterized by no single fixation, except perhaps for the first phase of maturity focussing upon becoming a successful scientist. Rather it has been that of a questing polymath. There have been a number of distinct career and professional vocations and roles. But there is a common core of interests and characteristics, some of which brought about our brief encounter.
Turning to the seeds of why Harry and I met.
Since an early age I have always been interested in human settlements and community matters and I remember studying in the English class, at my most important and formative old school, Trinity Grammar School, Kew, Melbourne, a book by King and Ketley called Everyone's Business. It was during World War Two, and the authors came from the University of Western Australia.
Their book explored the theme of human collaboration to build a 'New World Order' after the war, largely through communitarianism (not communism!) and introduced the notion of 'community centres' as the heart-lands of community well-being, an idea later realized in the establishment of 'information and learning exchanges', like those that I remember in Melbourne at Diamond Creek, Eltham, Ringwood and elsewhere in Australia and around the world.
Another book, The Endless Quest, found in the crusty old library of Trinity Grammar, about scientific discoveries, caught my attention and helped motivate me to initially become a scientist. To do this I knew I had to study hard and obtain a doctorate in my chosen field. My old headmaster, at Trinity, Alfred Bright, had an MSc from Leeds University in England where he had been a scholarship boy. I was fortunate to obtain a postgraduate scholarship to Leeds and so began the train of events that led to my congruence with Harry.
So by the time the decade of the 1950's had expired, I was established as a permanent academic scientist at Leeds University having spent 10 years or so, of up to 18-hour days, researching in the 'hard' macromolecular biophysical sciences. But I also retained a passionate interest in community and social affairs, which has emerged in a number of ways throughout my varied career.
And for what 'leisure' there was, and as a counter to the pre-occupations of my intense scientific specialization, I was an avid reader of the somewhat whigish Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian, London) and books on post-war reconstruction and the emerging (for the English) field of sociology. So when, around the mid 1950's, London University offered an external degree in sociology, I enrolled. It was a most rewarding introduction to 'distance learning', the first of a number of others. At the same time Harry Patterson had been accepted into the University of London and studying similarly.
And, subsequently, in the summer of 1961, in the June thereof of that year, Harry Patterson and I, Allan Skertchly, were the only two candidates sitting for their final B.Sc. (Sociology) London University examination papers at the then Bradford Polytechnic (now University of Bradford).
Leeds and Bradford were then the archetypal wool processing centres for the Australian wool clip in the dying days of Australia 'living off the sheep's back'. As part of my scientific work I had spent a lot of time ascertaining the macromolecular structure of wool - known technically as the fibrous protein keratin. In the course of my university research work I had been to Bradford several times and was reasonably familiar with the city.
The Asian influx to the textile cities was just beginning; clean air was still a generation away. The examinations were held within a Victorian red-brick assembly hall, within which a tight discipline was maintained by the eagle eyes of the invigilators, or "Bulldogs", as they walked silently up and down the orderly rows of desks standing on saw-dust strewn floors. Most of the other candidates in other fields would have been from the Bradford Polytechnic.
At this time nearly all university courses were for full time students only. For those London external degrees, which were the only university level degrees available for many people in the British Commonwealth, including Australia and elsewhere, you simply studied at your own pace for as long as you needed, and when you felt you were ready to finish you advised University of London that you wanted to be examined at the end of the university year in June sessions. Examinations could be held anywhere where there was competent supervision. But mostly candidates sat in established centres with other examinees, as Harry and I did for our sociology papers.
For the sociology degree finals you had also to earlier pass a subsidiary unit in economics at 2nd year level (I had done this in 1959) and Harry and I had both obviously done that to be fronting up at Bradford, in what I recall was fair summer weather, to sit our finals papers. As for all examinations, candidates are under pressure to perform as well as possible. For me sociology was a pleasant a-vocation; for Harry the stakes were considerably higher, as it was his first attempt at obtaining a degree.
The formal study of sociology was in its infancy in the UK, and for two students from Yorkshire to be sitting their examinations in Bradford, of all places, in order to become professional sociologists, was a unique pioneering event. He and I were amongst the first graduates in sociology in the United Kingdom.
It was in the age before British and Australian universities were
Americanized and semesterized. Most internal university courses were examined with three-hour written papers at the end of each teaching year. The Northern Hemisphere terms were then in 'quarters' running from September to June.
Today, there is often less reliance upon examinations; more on assignments, which assessed progressively, with results given as 'feedback' on progress to students. Nowhere would you now, as then, have to study for years without having many opportunities for on-going 'knowledge of results' of studying and learning endeavours.
Before the advent of the Council for National Academic Awards and The Open University, London University was the only British University offering external university level degrees, and for those remote from any face-to-face teaching it was virtually a syllabus setting and examining body only.
The external students just studied to a broad syllabus and book reference list supplied by the University as best they could. There were no assignments with feedback to get some feel for how you were going; no phone hookups; and no computers, nor easy access to libraries then. The student was responsible for virtually all his/her disciplined learning endeavours and for accessing the necessary books and other resources!
A few institutions, some in Africa and Asia, held lecture/tutorial style courses around the London syllabus, but many students, like Harry and myself just read on their own. But, as both he and I attested, this was no hardship. Both of us were avid readers and much-enjoyed our reading. And both of us were writers too, as this was a skill necessary for earning our livings as teachers at the time.
So the practical external study side of things was not that difficult, but like all areas of the humanities and social sciences, there is an almost infinite number of books that you could spend time reading. Sociology is not to be confused with social administration, which is to do with the practical side of providing social services to people in need. Sociology was seen to be 'a branch of the science of human behaviour that seeks to discover the causes and effects that arise in social relationships among persons and in the intercommunication and interaction among persons and groups'. It is an ideal field for writers to study.
The real difficulty was mastery, over some years, for recall, over two weeks, of the material necessary to satisfy the examiners in a number of diverse component subjects ranging from statistics to social theory and practice.
Later I met other external students who had studied and succeeded in very difficult situations around the world. Their hard gotten degrees were their passports to realizing their potentials. As indeed was Harry's also.
At that time sociology was largely the province of the Germans, French and of European émigrés living in England and the U.S.A.
The secret of examination success was to concentrate on the seminal texts, both theoretical and observational, and in particular be familiar with the mainstream continental sociologists such as Hobhouse, Voltaire, Comte, Durkheim, Malinowski, Mannheim, Weber, Marx, Cooley and Parsons.
Now, looking at Harry's literary skills over his prolific literary output, I can find clear evidence that reflects his competencies as a professional sociologist and social psychologist. He writes accurately, methodically and meticulously, about human interaction, with a driving story line, which forcefully engages the attention of the reader. His superior mental acuity underpins these manifest accomplishments.
His writings reveal that he is always within the evidence-based canons of plausible human behaviour as revealed by the science of sociology. There is no doubt but that the raw, but highly able, mind of the callow 25 year old had much benefited by the experience of a sound and disciplined higher education, and in which he was overwhelmingly self-taught. And his situational and technical knowledge, too, is always impeccable. Altogether he is comprehensively competent over all aspects of his writer's craft.
While in England for nearly a decade, 1953-1961, my mind had already been transformed from that of a rough colonial hew to something approaching the scientifically disciplined, by my principal mentor and examiner at Leeds University, the much-revered mathematical physicist, the late Henry John Woods 'HJ'. He typified the talented caring student-empathetic academic, utterly dedicated to research and his students. Twice a day we all - lecturers, students and H.J. - crammed into a little coffee room in The Tower, which had a flagpole running through the centre, and discussed everything from science to religion.
And when Harry and I came to being examined at Bradford, we sat 2-three hour papers in each of the ten or so subjects over an intense fortnight of writing! If you passed these you became a sociologist, one of Britain's 'new breed of social scientists with potentials to contribute to a better world', the need for which was becoming increasingly apparent as the intractable nature of core post-war problems unfolded in the tension-filled Cold War Epoch. Sadly, however, many of the problems failed to be solved by the new breed. Many got far worse and increasingly intractable! Vide the World Trade Center and September 11th 2001!
As the only two candidates at the Bradford centre for the BSc (Sociology) degree, it was natural that we were both inquisitive about each other as to why we were there. Something of a questing to contribute to improving the human situation would have been a substantial component of the factors that motivated both of us.
The subjects that Harry and I were examined on, including the subsidiary subject economics, and on during that fortnight at Bradford in 1961 were:
Economics Principles of Economics
Sociology Theories and Methods of Sociology
Statistical method in Social Investigation
Comparative Social Institutions
Ethics and Social Philosophy
Social Structure of Modern Britain
Social policy and Social Administration
Comparative Morals and Religion
I still have copies of the detailed syllabi and the examination papers. They make for interesting reading, reflecting sociology at the time. The times of which we wrote our answers were between 10-1 and 2:30-5:30 each day we sat.
Over the fortnight of the demanding assessment of our understanding and mastery of matters sociological, Harry and I walked through parks and around the cobbled streets of workers' terraces as we lunched over our 11/2 -hour breaks on ham pies and Eccles Cakes, munched apples and sipped juice; and talked and talked! I recall many such similar lunchtime walks as an undergraduate student at Melbourne University when often companions would have been World War Two veterans, who outnumbered those of us direct from school 5 to 1.
I learnt much about Harry and Ireland; I'm not sure that Harry learned much about me or science! Harry was the great raconteur! Always the nutritional breaks and autobiographical exchanges were a welcome relaxation before our responses to the challenging examination questions devoured our minds once more. Having studied in isolation, we relished the opportunity to discuss and debate issues concerning our discipline and the world. I don't think that had ever been close to any other sociologist before. Neither Melbourne or Leeds had a chair in the discipline.
So Harry and I got to know each other quite well as we waited before examinations commenced and lunched together over that period of intense memory recall and cerebration. And as it happened we found unexpected commonalities in our early lives. And there were to be, as well, more later ones too.
He told me that he was a, comprehensive, secondary modern, schoolteacher in Leeds and wrote a book over each summer holiday that earned him as much as teaching did over the whole year. Harry's additional purpose then, was to earn enough money writing creative fiction in order to be able to devote time to do substantial research and books on the smoldering "Irish Problem" and its resolution.
Born in England in 1929 as Henry Patterson, but with early days spent in Belfast, 'Harry', who had grown up in Leeds, was an imposing, good-looking, well-spoken, dark-haired figure in his six-foot frame. I think we both wore tweed jackets with leather patches at the elbows, which were in vogue at the time. We were both white men of roughly the same stature and build, and both around 32, married and with young families. And both before and after our meeting, our lives have, inter alia, some interesting parallels.
In Sharkill, Northern Ireland, 'in a working family with a political background, Harry frequently experienced the worst aspects of the troubles during his youth'. In Ireland, from his very earliest years, he experienced a most traumatic and stressful environment. He was at a cinema when it was bombed and as a youngster 'he recalled his mum throwing herself over him in a Belfast tram as it was raked with bullets in a Fenian outrage'. He attended Nettlefield Primary School, which was 'as violent then, as it is today'.
'We were very poor, and mother was a single parent, but a very clever one. She encouraged me to read from an early age and somehow from being a reader, I (gradually) became interested in the idea of writing'.
And, decisively, he 'had a freak reading ability. When I was a child of 3 or 4, I could read marvelously. I used to sit when I was 5 on my grandfather's bed and read the Christian Herald (newspaper) to him. He was a very religious man and his sight was going. I had this gift. I was lucky.'
Very early on, his father dropped out of the picture and his mother remarried, and at the age of about 13, at the start of the war, the family went to live in Northern England in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where the main cities of the industrial revolution of Leeds and Bradford formed part of the grimy, smoke-stacked industrial, region whose distinctive core industry was the wool processing textile industry.
'Leeds always had a great reputation for taking people in, the outsider, the foreigner. It was a great melting pot. Thanks to Adolf Hitler, there were kids like me from everywhere. Refugees from France and the low countries. Jews from all over Europe'.
This was reflected too at Leeds University, in the Department of Textile Industries, where I worked. There were Americans, Argentineans, Australians, Frenchmen, Hungarians, Germans, Poles, South Africans, and New Zealanders. The University was really a polyglot microcosm of society!
At the centre of the then vast wool manufacturing and clothing industry, and before the excessive pollution of the 'smoke stack' industries was eliminated by the Clean Air Acts of the 60's, Leeds normally looked grimy and in need of a good clean-up. Only on Bank Holidays when the industries closed down and the skies became blue for the day, or when carpets of sparkling snow covered the filth and everything glistened in the soft gaslights of the day, did the city look clean. A single street gas-lamp reflected a long way over the pristine snow and turned everything, including the grubby redbrick facades and leafless treed parklands into a sparkling fairyland!
Today, Leeds and like physical environments are, externally, so much cleaner and more appealing, and the city even still retains some of it's pre-industrial rural qualities in having the largest indoor agricultural and natural produce market in the new Europe of which the United Kingdom is now an integral component of the composite European Community. Most of the textile mills have been closed, their durable machines having been sold off cheap to factories in Asia where they still produce the fabrics used to make our blazers and suits.
Of course there are now, too, severe social and societal concerns, in Leeds, as indeed there are in most such cities. Individuals and communities have lost their past innocence. All are confronted with problems unimagined in 1961.
In the forties and fifties Harry's family lived in Leeds 'in very working class circumstances, in back-to-back houses without a bathroom and where the toilet was outside in the yard. My mother was a good woman, a hard working woman. She worked 60 hours a week as a waitress at Marshall and Snelgove, a high-class city emporium. My stepdad played in a band at the old Victory Hotel in Briggate'.
At home Harry was something of 'an outcast in his own house. My stepfather bitterly resented my presence. He never had any children and I think, God rest him, he looked upon me as excess baggage. We never got on. It was just one of those things'. And the times then were very hard. There was rationing until around 1960 and the ongoing societal dysfunctions surrounding the world-wide war and its aftermath. The social divide was strong and well entrenched.
Harry's passionate desire to become a writer was evident early in his teens. 'It all started when I was about 13 years old and in another very rough school with ragged kids, Gipton Elementary School, where everyone thought I was daft for saying that I wanted to be a writer. They didn't understand those sort of things at school. I hated school. I did really badly. It could have been a passport into the middle classes'. But at this stage of his life Harry was neither ready nor able to break away from his all-encompassing class origins.
However, his latent talents were sufficiently recognized to gain a scholarship to Roundhay Senior School. But it was not his scene. There 'the blazers, the master's gowns, the French and German left him cold'. And the Headmaster, once flogged him during a snowy wartime winter. 'He didn't just give me six, he gave me nine strokes. I was in agony. But I was buggered if I'd blubber for him'. He quit, very early on, in his low teens, at 15, the Head saying 'you'll never amount to anything Patterson, you're useless'.
A 2001 British Ministry of Education Green Paper, attests to the long odds against the best possible lives for those who leave school early, saying 'if you leave learning at 16, your chances of really fulfilling and reaching your potential aren't very high'. That Harry Patterson amounted to so much over the next forty years is a great testimony to himself and his formidable success-determining qualities.
But, soon after, during the early part of his life, well before achieving much from his writing efforts, he did receive help from a famous women to whom he wrote for advice, and from an agent, Paul Scott, that she had suggested he contact, who wrote, after reviewing an early manuscript, in conclusion that 'Yes, I was a writer'.
'And the agent expressed interest in me but felt the book wasn't right for publication. Nevertheless, this was the first time any such thing had happened to me; that someone actually recognized my work! ' This was a decisive point in Harry's life. 'I think that if he hadn't said that maybe I would have dropped the whole idea' of becoming a writer. However, 'there was no overnight success'.
From the age of 15 it took Harry some 25 years of apprenticeship writing, rejects and disappointments, before he was firmly established. In those days you could train as a teacher in 2-4 years; as an engineer or lawyer in 5-6; or as a medico in 8. My training as a fully-fledged professional scientist took from age 18 to age 31, some 13 years. After these various periods of learning and skilling such people would be free to enter and progress in their vocations. Harry, even with his most able mind and superior endowments, did not fully enter into his profession until the year 1970 when he turned 41, and after 25 years of apprenticeship. By then he was over half way through his life! That's real commitment and determination.
The University of Leeds, which had emerged in the late 19th century from a Working Men's College, is renowned for providing students with backgrounds such as Harry's with opportunities that they never would have dreamed of within their own social milieu. Currently the University is one of Europe's most successful, and attracts around 50,000 applicants for places each year of which about 1 in 10 are accepted.
The basis for its popularity is the excellence of its environment for preparing students for the realities of contemporary and future vocational opportunities. In the 1950's Leeds University had around 5000 people; today there are some 20,000. Leeds is one of the, around one century old, "Red Brick Universities" established to serve then burgeoning British Industry after the fabulous 19th century discoveries and inventions in science and technology had brought Britain to the leading edge of industrialization.
Fortunately, in 1956, after a series of disparate basic occupational activities and the gaining of the necessary 'high school equivalency' entrance qualifications, Harry finally made it to City of Leeds Training College arriving to do his two-year Diploma in Teaching, which he gained at the ripe age of 28, just three years before our Bradford meeting. Over these same years, Harry would have been studying also for his external London degree, which he compressed into two years frantic work. As well he had to work to earn enough money upon which to live.
By comparison, I also studied for the sociology examinations over two years at the same time as I was completing my doctoral research work, which was finalized in July 1960. This work was a significant component of a, for me, most important, later Nature, end-point, summary article.
At the time we first met he had successfully completed his teaching credentials. But it was to be another decade and into his forties before he became a full time professional writer, whom he has now been for over thirty years. And his high academic standing too, has been recognized recently with the award in 1995 of an honorary doctorate from Leeds Metropolitan University and his appointment as an adjunct professor at Manchester University.
The years of development and maturation living in the highly supportive Leeds environment, provided both Harry and myself with enormous benefits. Back again to my story.
By comparison and contrast, I too was born in 1929, but into the middle class, in Melbourne, Australia, also then, as was Ireland, and indeed the world was, in the depths of The Great Depression, when many were unemployed and life for many families was tough. Both Harry and I never knew our fathers. My father 'disappeared ' before I was one year old, leaving me to the ministrations of my young mother, who was in the early stages of establishing herself as a professional photographer, and my grandmother, who had lost her husband in 1915 as a young Lieutenant with the ANZAC's of Gallipoli fame in the First World War.
By 1934, however, I had a loving and supportive Danish-Australian stepfather, Olaf, and we had all moved to Brisbane where my mother, Mary and Olaf established and conducted a very successful and burgeoning photographic studio - Murray Goldwyn - specializing in family portraiture. I can just remember watching ladies on the staff carefully colour-tinting black a white picture plates before the advent of Kodachrome colour photography. But even this remarkable photographic innovation of wide appeal, in the financially straitened times, was not widely used until after the 1939-1945 war. I still have some of the old colour-tinted plates and, as representations of their subjects, they were more than acceptable. The colour, even now, is still quite life-like.
Compared to Harry Patterson's privations in Leeds, my then Australian home with an abundance of flowers, trees and tropical fruits, was a paradise.
But my halcyon days of family bliss as a little preschool boy in a nice big 'Queenslander' - raised tropical house on stilts - with a big garden, grass tennis court and my own goat, Sally, and goat cart - were very short lived and brought to an abrupt end when my mother died just after a stillborn childbirth in the middle of 1935. Asking where my mother was, I was told 'she has gone to heaven'. For me, that closed the book on her for a long time.
Mortified, my stepfather cremated his young bride of 25, closed the thriving business, and left Brisbane to then, for a short time, become a social photographer on P & O Pacific cruise ships. I have a collection of his efforts which include fine photographs a New Guinea warriors in full regalia.
With my grandmother, I returned to Melbourne to be raised in the still economically distressing times of the late 1930's and early 40's. It was only after the declaration of war by Robert Menzies, the Australian Prime Minister, on September 3rd 1939, that the depression began to be finally overcome and years of buoyant prosperity began and continued for the next quarter of a century.
Although wartime years in Australia denied many luxury items, we were not under significant direct attack, and the population at large enjoyed a quite stable and sufficient standard of living with little or no real privations, unlike those of people living in Britain, let alone the cities of Occupied Europe.
But, although there were many changes and residential moves, and life was not always easy, there was always the continuing support of the rest of the family and my stepfather from afar. He rose to the rank of Major in the war, and won the military cross, MC, for valor in a charge against 'Desert Fox' Rommel's Army as one of the renowned 'Rats of Tobruk' in the North African Campaign.
As a photographer, too, Major Olaf Walsoe captured many unique pictures that are now in his regiment's collection in Sydney. I saw him from time to time on leaves as he went from Africa to New Guinea to London, where he worked in Whitehall as an advisor on jungle fighting tactics. He supported me through school and university and I kept in touch with him until he died.
My upbringing was in marked contrast to Harry's turbulent relationship with his unloving stepfather and need to make do, as best he could, with the world he knew. Where I had as much support and encouragement as I needed, Harry had very little, and it was only his own make up and inner strengths that enabled ultimate success to come about. Most of us, with lesser qualities would have failed. There were so many obstacles that needed to be overcome to succeed.
And my home environment, and that of friends and relations, was always book-rich and scholarship valuing. The Adams, Browns, Campbells, Goble's, Craigs, Norris's, Oggs, Palmers, and Pearsons, and others made all the difference with their many forms of nurturing and enriching opportunities. This encouraged and supported reading, full schooling years 1-12 and positive developmental living and wonderful holiday experiences.
For a time during the War I was evacuated into the care of a friendly family, the Cooks, who were plumbers. Thinking that they were doing the best for me, I was taken from ordinary school to attend a Junior Technical School at Swinburne, in Melbourne there to commence training as a plumber. This was short-lived however, as my stepfather Olaf, on leave in Australia, after the Siege of Tobruk, decided otherwise and sent me, as a boarder, to Trinity Grammar School. Had this not happened my career would have been very much different!
And after matriculating in science, ready access into the local University of Melbourne, which had rapidly expanded from 4 to 20 thousand students with influx of World War Two veterans in the late 1940's. It said much for the University that we all received a wonderful education, even though classes were very large and the staff was not increased.
I became a scientist as a natural progression from inquisitive childhood interests in mechanical and electrical things, such as bicycles and radios, and because science was then seen as 'the means for reconstructing the world to the benefit of all humankind'. It was a satisfying study option, with the prospect of becoming increasingly empowered to solve physical community problems of expanding complexity that required answers for the good of society.
For a time after the war, being a scientific boffin was seen to be working in a role of high societal acclaim. After all, we physicists even knew how to design and build atomic bombs! And those bombs had brought the Pacific War to an early close with the saving of many lives. Our brainpower was tops, unchallengeable!
After World war Two, A.S.I.O., the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, was founded and upon completion of my science course in 1950, physicists were amongst the first professionals to warrant an A.S.I.O. file and mug-shots were taken and security numbers assigned. Our career moves were tracked for quite a time. Several times over my life, the 'spooks' have checked my dossier. Several appointments have required national security clearances.
With the passage of time however, prospects of a science-lead Prosperity for All Revolution, faded quickly. More than 'scientific rationalism' was needed to produce a better world. And a generation later, the shibboleths and mantras of 'economic rationalism' and globalization are failing too.
So, from vastly different upbringings and experiences to date, the two disparate sociology finals candidates converged on Bradford Polytechnic that fine summer of 1961. And even though the meeting can be recalled 'as though it were yesterday', over 40 summers, good and bad, have passed since our memorable two weeks of social intercourse. And both of us are now into our early seventy's! We have both attained, in lives reflecting markedly different kinds of success, without severe overall adversity, the cherished three score and ten! But all that in a world now facing increasing dysfunctions, threats and uncertainties and entering the Age of Prolonged World Terrorism.
Harry and I met again just after the end of the sociology degree examination period, but before the results of our efforts were known. Harry then presented me with an inscribed copy of his first book, published in 1959, Sad Wind from the Sea.
Sad Wind is an exciting book about the adventures 'in Macao and China of Mark Hagen, smuggler and gun-runner, and Rose Graham, a strange and beautiful eighteen-year-old Eurasian girl and Chinese criminals. In a lonely lagoon, deep in the Kwai Marshes, Hagen dives for gold with the Communists in hot pursuit. It was a first-rate novel of suspense and fast action, told by a young author who can write an adventure-thriller with all the skill and economy of an experienced storyteller'.
My copy, which was personally given to me by Harry, has a dedicated inscription which reads:
To Allan Skertchly from Harry Patterson 17th July, 1961
Happy memories of Bradford June 1961
It had taken Harry some 15 years of relentless disappointing effort before this landmark book was published and for which he received the payment of 150 pounds. This book has recently (late 1990's) been reprinted in paperback.
One Sunday morning in September of that year, having driven some one hundred miles from the holiday village of Milford-on-Sea opposite the Isle of Wight, where I had been staying with my family, to London, I parked beside the University of London's Examination Results notice boards. I doubt that it would be so easy these days! I looked at the Bachelor of Science (Sociology) results, standing in a little group of similar result-seeking people. In those days full names were published, as public exam results were seen to be just those, public matters that the whole world had a right to know about.
In the Bachelor of Science (Sociology) External Students list of 19 successful candidates no candidate gained a First Class degree. Both Harry and I got lower honours awards. 4 people gained Second Class Honours (Upper Division); 3 people, of which I (Candidate Number 19870) was one, gained Second Class Honours (Lower Division); and Henry Patterson (Candidate Number 19861), was one of a group of 12, who obtained Third Class Honours.
'The date of the award of the Degree to the above candidates is 1 August 1961'. So now Harry and I have been sociology honours graduates for over forty years!
Of those who passed and became professional sociologists in that pioneering cohort of avant guard social scientists, only two (c. 10%) were women, both with Third Class Honours. Five, including Harry and myself, around a quarter of the group, were recorded as preparing through 'private study'; and 75 % had obtained some form of institutional tuition. Most of those who studied formally had done so at The Polytechnic, Regent Street, London. All candidates appeared to be British and resident in the United Kingdom.
The regulations for Degrees in Sociology for External Students stated that 'a candidate who has obtained an Honours Degree in Sociology is permitted to procedd to a Higher Degree of Master or Doctor'.
The boy who left school at 15 for a series of lowly jobs as circus tent-hand, tram conductor and G.P.O. driver's mate, before qualifying as a teacher at around the age of thirty, although later expressing disappointment that he hadn't done better, had achieved his first complete university honours degree, and it was most important in relation to facilitating his full-time teaching livelihood at the time.
But little changed in Harry's life over the next decade. He had a full time job as a teacher and spent his spare time and holidays writing and writing, and hoping.
'For ten years he taught, six years of Drama, English and History, at school, and then four years as a Senior Lecturer at Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Metropolitan University), and wrote on the side. Finally, in 1970 he was earning enough with his writing to quit his day job and retire'.
By 1970 I was in mid-term of an academic leadership appointment as Foundation Director (currently called Vice-Chancellor) of what is now called Central Queensland University, CQU, in Rockhampton, Australia. Establishing a brand new institution of higher learning was demanding and exhilarating, and the foundations then laid ensured its development into the thriving entity it is today with multiple campuses and a fine array of arts, business, education, engineering, humanities, information, mathematics, and social, biological and physical sciences programmes ranging from undergraduate to doctoral levels.
Although early in life Harry's abilities had been recognized and he had at one stage had gained a scholarship to Roundhay School (the equivalent of a high school), that environment had not been a happy one and, as we now know, he left well before completion of a normal middle-class schooling, which, had he been motivated, we now know would have been readily within his grasp.
For later, while serving in the British Army, Harry's IQ had been found to be 147, putting him in the cohort of the highly gifted; mine, at school, had been calculated at 130. Harry's mind was, and is, an alpha, a 'pearl of the first water'; mine was, and is, a beta, as described so well in the 1930's in Huxley's Brave New World. Later, in Australia, I was fortunate to come into contact with and employ one of the then three most intelligent people in the world, Chris Harding. This trio all had I.Q.'s over 200, well off the Stanford/Binet scale!
The intelligence tests given in those days, and sometimes still used, such as the Stanford/Binet, reflected a narrow, threefold, range of intelligence facets. These were general thinking and problem solving abilities, arithmetic/mathematical abilities, and word/linguistic abilities. They reflected the qualities required to understand science and technology, and to do well academically at school and formal higher learning. These were, and are, important competencies for sound human performances in many fields in modern life. But they are incomplete.
Had Harry enjoyed a better supportive and enabling family life and pursued a standard full time schooling and university education, there is no doubt his performance and achievements could have been outstanding earning him many accolades and a great career in whatever field he was committed to.
In Harry's case, the military tests indicated that he had the potential to do well in many core areas of human endeavour. And his very high score in the British Army's traditional approach to intelligence testing has been reflected in his mastery of the writer's craft and fine use of language, and of his precise understanding of matters scientific and technological, and of his decision-making and problem solving skills, in his exacting and prolific writings.
These days, the competent assessor of overall human intelligence would add assessment of a number of other intelligences to his test battery, so that comprehensively, he/she would obtain scores in the multiple intelligence domains detailed by Howard Gardner as intrapersonal intelligence (self-management), interpersonal intelligence (management of relationships), linguistic intelligence, logical/mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily kinesthetic intelligence (movement), musical intelligence, and naturalistic intelligence. In Harry's case, although the additional intelligences were not formally assessed to form a Comprehensive Multiple Intelligence Profile, Harry's writings attest to superior scores in a number of them.
The reader may confirm this by discerning reading of the books by Jack Higgins in the spectacularly successful Sean Dillon series.
Also, today, in order to best predict human performance over a wider range of environments than we did in the past, it is now necessary to assess emotional intelligence as well. Daniel Goldman's book in this field is a good starting point. This is particularly important in leadership and military areas. Harry's life in general attests to his possessing a robust emotional intelligence as well. And his special agent Sean Dillon also manifests this all-important intelligence markedly, coping so well in many taxing situations where most would crack.
Harry's 1961 formal academic performance of gaining an honours degree reflected a quantum leap upwards in scholarly achievement over the 15 diverse years since leaving school, and variously working as circus hand, tram conductor and council worker; and part of which involved an influential and life-goal changing period as National Service soldier in the Household Cavalry-the Royal House of Guards- serving as an NCO in England and Germany.
' It was really the army that changed me. I was in a very famous regiment?the most elite regiment. They were also fighting soldiers, very elite. I earned a place in the Cavalry's sharp shooter squad. My squadron leader was the Duke of Wellington. They also used to give psychology tests and that alerted me to the fact that I had an ability that had never been recognized by other people'. 'He served in several regiments and got acquainted with people who worked in S.O.E. (Special Operations Executives). They were all amateurs. They weren't the usual intelligence people. They were university professors, lecturers, women, men, and some were Americans working for the British.'
Many of these experiences and contacts are reflected in Harry's dramatic stories.
'The Army gave me a sense of what I was capable of, and I thoroughly enjoyed serving on the East German boarder during the Cold War'.
At the same time as Harry was in the Occupation Forces in Germany, I was training to be a pilot in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve R.A.F.V.R. motivated by my desire to do military service (I had been too young for WW2), become a fighter pilot, as had many reservists just a few years before, and fly Spitfires or Hurricanes in a victorious battle, as had so many who had been R.A.F.V.R. pilots, had done in the Battle for Britain, just a decade before.
Getting into the R.A.F. in the first place, even then, was an exacting exercise. Two days of exhaustive physical and psychological tests and flying simulations.
One such, physical one, of 'bailing out at 20,000 feet and holding one's breath for a minute', as simulated by holding a mercury column up with one's breath, a test the old Doc said had failed more people than any other single test, I still recall vividly. As were the intense and precise mental and psychological demands of being confronted with an aircraft instrument panel for the first time and noting what the dials read, to interpret what the aircraft was doing in a series of increasingly complex manoeuvres. Then to front a large and impressive panel of Air Force brass for an hour of questioning. The chairman of the panel finally looked directly at me and to my intense pleasure said 'You're the kind of man we want. Welcome into the Royal Air Force!'
These days, of course, selection processes for high technology operations are even more demanding. They have to be. It costs millions to train front line combat pilots! And much, much more, for astronauts.
Flying out of Yeadon, the joint Bradford-Leeds aerodrome, as soon as you were airborne you were above Ilkley Moor and the Bronte's country, of Heathcliffe and Kathy's Wuthering Heights fame, and then soon high above the Yorkshire Dales National Park and James Herriott's All Creatures Great and Small rolling green countryside of Wharfedale with all it's exquisite delights and vistas. I got to know it well from the air.
Seeking out Fountains, Jervaulx, Rievaulx and Ryland Abbeys, and many other notable historic sites, such as York Minster, the largest mediaeval church in northern Europe, me and my Canadian De Havilland Chipmunk climbed, twisted, spun and recovered from stalls, in the pure air over a most beautiful part of England, which had not been much impacted by the Industrial Revolution which had lead to the emergence of such 'muck and money' cities as Bradford and Leeds.
And flying training then, as always, has its risks. One of my young colleagues failed to recover from a spin and crashed into the grounds of Harwood House killing himself. Later when I returned to Australia on the Arcadia, one of my fellow travelers was the last member of his aircraft carrier squadron alive. He quit soon after and became P&O's Pacific Cruises Director.
Sometimes, when flying on a clear day, one could see in the distance the aerial towers of the Fyllingdale Early Warning Radar Towers, perched on the North Yorkshire Moors near the village of Whitby, of Captain James Cook fame.
The prominent radar towers faced Russia and gave the United Kingdom population 3 minutes warning if I.C.B.M.'s (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) armed with nuclear war heads were heading Britain's way! Such possibilities were taken very seriously and many people, such as my then wife, attended Civil Defence courses on How to Cope with A Nuclear Attack.
Such concerns and tensions, as the above, have informed many of Harry's great novels. And it is because so many of his readers have directly experienced many aspects of his characters lives and plots, that his books have struck such an immediate acceptance and resonance. The whole of this period provided, and continues to provide, rich sources of material around which to craft stimulating stories, such as those of Harry Patterson in his many guises.
I left the R.A.F.V.R. rated as an 'average pilot' which, had I moved into the R.A.F. permanently, would have meant flying bombers, transports, and doing reconnaissance sorties, all on the 'straight and level'. No such adrenaline surging flying as in the Battle for Britain or flying as my heroes, pilots such as the German Adolf Galland and the Brit, 'Bluey' Truscott, renowned fighter aces, did, for me!
But Harry recaptured such glories for me in his Flight of Eagles, in which two brothers, one in the Luftwaffe and one in the RAF, are in exhilarating combat against each other in the Battle for Britain.
Into the 1970's I kept my interest in flying up by occasionally, and illegally, taking the controls of a friends light plane, and where I could, I gained invitations to fly in military aircraft (fixed wing and helicopters) on sorties to the Army's training reserve for Vietnam War draftees at Shoalwater Bay In Central Queensland.
My British military service, had followed on from and earlier stint when a schoolboy in the Army Cadet Corps in Australia, the highlight of which was seeing the movies Battle for Russia and Malta Invicta¸ learning to use a .303 rifle and Bren gun, and march through Melbourne in our distinctive Boer War style breeches and polished leather gaiters in the 1946 Victory March!
In both services I was in the most junior ranks, unlike Harry, whose potential had early on been recognized in his promotion and service for two years as Non Commisioned Officer - N.C.O., on the East German border during the Cold War. In both countries we were militarily supportive and aware citizens.
Harry was a typical 'late developer', in the institutionalized academic credentials sense. But as a person, he had already experienced many facets of a difficult upbringing and possessed manifestations of maturity which were to stand him in very good stead as firm foundations for much of his writing, by the time he had attained his sociology degree, was a professional school teacher.
By comparison, my education had been straightforward, indeed 'privileged', having completed a full schooling and then straight into a first degree in physics and mathematics at the then only local university, Melbourne, there gaining a BSc; and then abroad, as was the approach at the time, to Leeds University for higher degree studies, first an MSc, and then finally being awarded a coveted PhD in 1960, the year just before my brief encounter with Harry. Harry's equally well-earned personal doctorate had to wait until 1995!
As two people with the then common interests in academic sociology and human communities, we could hardly have come from more diverse backgrounds. And as with so many goal-directed achievers, there were, for both of us, later social costs. Our dedication to our professions and preoccupations resulted in first marriage breakdowns. And both of us married again to wives initially about half our ages. Harry's second wife was 25 years younger than he is; mine is 22 years younger. He now has three girls and a boy; I have four girls and two boys.
The years passed by with little or no direct knowledge of Harry Patterson, but his book survived many moves and was never passed on to others. And then?
Some years ago, in 1986, my mother-in-law had just returned from a trip to England bringing with her a recent copy of The Illustrated London News, and, therein, was an article Queen Tops British Wealth List.
The text read 'The Queen is the only women in the survey?and included in the list are pop stars, media barons, advertising executives, race horse owners, and an author!' So starting with the Queen at the top, there included was Harry Patterson, by then living in the low-tax haven of Jersey in the Channel Islands! As Harry later said: 'Like so many famous Brits before him, he fled England to escape the high taxes'.
The June 1986 I.L.N. article had reported that 'Mr Patterson, also known as Jack Higgins, Martin Fallon and Hugh Marlowe, is a tax exile worth 7 million pounds.' I knew then that he had achieved his goal, and then, from time to time, read some of his books.
Then, just the other day, for the first time, and triggered by my son's move, I did a Web search for Harry Patterson?and found a biographical and literary goldmine! Under his quintessential pseudonym of a.k.a. Jack Higgins at:
is a treasure trove of the multi-millionaire author's rags to riches 'life and times', including details of some of his 65 odd, often best-selling books, such as The Eagle has Landed, Savage Day, Storm Warning and Toll for the Brave, and a number of most informative and revealing interviews with the author about his life and craft. This paper itself, inter alia, draws upon these sources.
At 45 years of age, Harry's best-selling 1976 book, The Eagle has Landed, about a German attempt to capture Winston Churchill, was published, and has subsequently sold 5 million copies in England alone and 50 million worldwide. He wrote it 'on paper by hand in eight weeks. Then somebody typed it and I went through it again and made all the alterations I wanted. But the research took me months and months and months'. And it was made into a highly acclaimed film'
Unlike many writers, Harry has pursued a number of approaches to his writing. For example: 'I used to write at night, starting around 11 o'clock until about six or seven the next morning. I developed that routine when I had terrible trouble with a story line. One night when the family went to bed, I had a cup of tea and started going through my notes and realized then what had to be done. I didn't want to use the typewriter because it would have wakened the children, so I found a pen and started writing on a legal pad. Next thing I knew it was around five in the morning. I had written 15 or 16 pages, which were quite good, I thought. The next night I did the same thing and finished the book that way. These days I vary my routine and write quite a bit during the day as well'.
So engrossed in his writing does Harry become that he often forgets to eat! "for the last five years or so , I've been writing in a restaurant. I go in at lunch time, do two hours work and then I'll eat. And then in the evening, I'll do three hours. I write by hand and I get so absorbed and it doesn't bother me if the place is full or the music is playing. It is common, particularly at night, for waiters to come up and say 'Look, it's ten o'clock and you haven't had anything to eat yet'!
So he writes everything in longhand saying 'that there is a connection between him and the pages. I think it is a personal thing, like painting, The contact of pen or pencil on paper is physical; it's you!'
What I adjudge to be my most important and elegant piece of writing, to date, is 'A Unified Structural Theory for Wool Keratin', published in the world's most prestigious scientific journal Nature (1964). The article would have been read and appreciated and understood in fine detail by perhaps several hundred people at most. Its importance lay in the wider field of fibrous protein structure, wool production and the associated textile industry. When I first met Harry in 1961, I was just over the halfway mark towards the completion of this scientific research project
My best scientific writing effort was the outcome of 10 years of intensive specialist reading, laboratory experiments, conferences and discussions. There were other earlier papers and documents. But the ultimate encapsulating outcome of all this intensive skilled scientific endeavour was but some 4000 words of cogent scientific writing, peer-judged to be of sufficient merit to be published in the world's most prestigious journal Nature. However, the actual writing of the paper would probably have taken two days.
For interest, the writing of this document, of 13,000 words, has taken twelve days, spread over three weeks! I had an operation in the middle of it!
By comparison, Harry could, typically, in a mere six weeks, or less, produce an 80 thousand-word book, and a world best seller to boot! For this actual writing task, the word production rate (WPR) would be 1.32 words/minute. The Eagle was written even faster. Harry's average prime output over the last 40 years would be around 100,000 words a year, or a WPR of 0.19, i.e. 1 eminently saleable word in a little over 5 minutes over this extended period! 'I'm quite happy if I can get a good book done each year. But sometimes I'm fortunate enough to do two. For instance, back in 1979 I did To Catch a King and Solo as well as a complete film script'.
Harry is not at all worried about 'writer's block' and as he says, 'in fact it's only happened to me once in 40 years'. Not for him the excruciating notion of Gene Fowler that 'writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead!'
His interest in films is intense and he wishes 'more of my books were made into movies, simply because I'm a buff and have a great cinematic knowledge. I love movies and am perfectly happy even watching the bad ones that come on after midnight. To get involved in more movies myself would be a great joy, indeed'. Several of his books (five from the Sean Dillon series) have been made into miniseries such as Day of Reckoning and Midnight Man. And of course there are the films such as Prayer for the Dying and An Eagle has Landed. Some twelve of his books have been made into movies. He is Patron of the Jersey Film Society and in 2001 sponsored and introduced Casablanca saying it is the movie 'which many people consider to be the best film ever made'.
The secret to Harry's high and sustained WPR lies in his extensive background knowledge and the extensive research that he undertakes most of the time. His success has 'depended upon imagination and a breadth of experience'. Keeping any documentation such as tickets and bills obtained during trips, staying in the same villa as used by Mikali, the assassin, and being familiar with the Island of Hydra as in Solo, and for the long 400 page book, The Eagle has Landed, researching intensively over an extended period.
The Eagle has Landed projected Harry, by his mid 40's, into the Hall of Literary Fame and with wide critical acclaim, he became a millionaire!
Theory for Wool brought me, for a short time, to the top of my miniscule field of science, and no one since has improved upon my wool keratin structure paradigm! But all it yielded was research acclaim, a tenured senior university job and twenty free reprints of the article from the publishers! And the Soviets, who then subscribed to but one copy of Nature, from which they illicitly reproduced thousands more copies for distribution to scientists in the USSR, kindly sent me a note of thanks for the work and a translation into Russian!
My overall career provided many inner and external satisfactions including two rewarding marriages, and community and professional life. It has been a life with scholarly, evidence-based foundations for action, both within and without academia. Since 1961 my interests in the social sciences and society have continued with the gaining of four further degrees in the field and a variety of applicable knowledge positions in the public service and higher education.
My social sciences bent was towards more scholarly learning and understanding; Harry's bent the application of fundamental social psychology and sociology to legitimate and credential his outstanding creative and imaginative writing and story telling.
By 1966 I had completely left the field of hard science and technology in which I had gained my doctorate and risen to the rank of 'professor' and achieved international recognition from the small community of scientists in my field.
These narrowly focused scientific endeavours had occupied some twenty years.
For the next twenty years most of my subsequent endeavours embraced administration and management, both as a practitioner and 'teacher' thereof.
My schoolboy interests in people and a good and just society endured. In my 60's I qualified as a psychologist, a so called 'social scientist' in the field of human behaviour and performance, and am now a registered practitioner, living and working in tropical Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia. The 'social sciences', such as psychology and sociology are very different from mathematics and physics, of my early preoccupations and manifest quite different and softer people-oriented 'world views'.
Some of my, and my daughter's, interests have embraced seeking to make human communities safer places in which to live. In this connection she and I together have undertaken a number of project studies and publications and been the recipients of awards acknowledging our work from Emergency Management Australia.
As I write now, the latest of our papers Thredbo Disaster Coroner's Inquest, about the New South Wales Coroner's findings about a fatal landslide at Thredbo in the Australian Alps, has just been published, in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management which ahs a circulation of about 5000 around the world counter-disaster professionals.
I still read some select science and technology books, as well as general literature. But clearly my career has been one of multiple interests, contrasting markedly with Harry's major pre-occupation with writing.
Harry Patterson's life is highlighted by many literary accolades, and the massive demand for his writings from the consumer-driven Western capitalist economies, with all the attendant material and other benefits that the high fliers therein attain. Right from the earliest of times, through to the present, he has pursued his bent and passion for words. His has been a single-minded questing for success and recognition in the world of writing thrilling creative literature. Only the need to secure the necessities of life had, early on, contingently, diverted him from his core business. And through sheer slog and determination he won through to the top. And in his genre, he stands at the pinnacle.
His success is a wonderful testimony to what can be achieved, from an atypical start, under one's own aegis and self-management, on the basis of a unique personal profile embracing a gifted inherited intelligence, coupled with a powerful on-going circumstantial drive, and the well-informed exploitation of self-made opportunities.
Before The Eagle, Harry wrote 38 books and many other things besides, and since he has written many fine and highly successful books. As he says 'writing is a compulsion'. And after attaining financial security he was able to realize his goal of addressing the Irish Question in books like Savage Day, which is set in his birthplace Belfast, Prayer for the Dying, Pay the Devil, The Violent Enemy and The Whitehouse Connection. However, of Ireland he says 'I think the problems in Ireland are just too difficult to solve'.
His prescription for his writing is that 'characters come first, not plots. You must have what American crime and thriller writers call a Magmuffin: a key object or document which is the main spring of the plot, the object of the race against time, like the Maltese falcon, for example'.
His further words of advice to aspirant writers includes the discounting of formula writing, the importance of the impacts of settings on the development of characters and plots, and the 'ability to get into the feeling, sense and smell of the thing, without actually having done it myself?the writer like a good actor, is able to get under the skin of the character and play the part'. And he says that 'it is important to me to get things right'. For if he doesn't, 'large numbers of people are going to keep writing to my publisher to tell me I'm wrong'.
As Harry says, 'You've got to be obsessive, prepared to stick at it, to spend enormous time and effort and then still get nowhere. I spent years learning my craft, writing all sorts of things. Short stories, radio plays, unpublished novels. It's a bit like acting. You need a touch of luck as well. The right person reading your manuscript the right time. You must never stop learning. And remember, above all, there is no secret to success save persistence.'
Harry's success story vividly attests to the importance of mastery of language as the key to breaking out of the shackles of poverty, so convincingly portrayed in the University of Leeds, Chair of English, Professor Richard Hoggett's captivating and insightful book Uses of Literacy (London: Penguin Books) a generation or so ago.
A careful examination and assessment of the bases for Harry Patterson's exceptional success as a contemporary writer affirms the following attributes:
Harry Patterson's Principal Characteristics
The above phrases profiling Harry Patterson's principal characteristics reflecting his profile as a writer have been obtained from his published works, past interviews and personal observations. Apart from his Intelligence Quotient I.Q., they are did not draw upon any standard psychological assessment tools, the use of which would allow of a much more robust, hard evidence based, assessment of his personal qualities and Performance Achievement Profile P.A.P.
As they stand, the phrases should be taken as clusters of words in regular usage broadly summarizing important personal characteristics which are held to be relevant to the superior prosecution of Harry's craft as a very high performance contemporary thriller writer. To be more useful requires detailed and measurable performance indicators associated with each notion. And it is important to tease out contributions of the hereditary, inherited and unchangeable, and environmental, learned, components of the factors as well.
In the future I will attempt to categorize and rank these indicators and ascertain and tease out further their specific dimensions. For the present caveat emptor. Use the phrases as being indicative only of capturing Harry's quintessential writing skills. There is much more that needs to be done here. And for writers, be mindful that knowing about a factor that might enhance writing skills for one person, does not necessarily mean that others can gain that factor by progressive learning. Each writer is a unique human being. Some things cannot be changed; but some can.
Whilst Harry's many gifts are unique to him, their study is invaluable to all writers.
It is not possible for any writer to emulate another. But it is possible to read about successful writers, such as Harry Patterson, and be inspired by their lives. He has been described as 'a one-man industry' and is an international best-selling author and scriptwriter who stills enjoys writing in longhand on paper.
As an engaging case-study of a writer who finally made it into the top league of hugely successful contemporary authors after very humble and adverse beginnings, a visit to JACK HIGGINS HOMEPAGE and associated Web sites, will repay the time spent in exploring the many literary faces of Harry Patterson, handsomely. The sites themselves are fine testamurs to a remarkable man.
When I first met Harry we were both young men on the cusp of our thirties. Just a few of his early novels were on the bookstands at British Rail and both he and I knew little of what the future might hold.
Upon reflection, the two examination periods of highest stress in my life were those two weeks of unrelenting mental pressure in Bradford, and a decade earlier, in Melbourne, the end of school 'matriculation' exams which you had to pass to get to university in the first place!
In both cases, success in examinations required thousands of hours of dedicated, structured study and reading. Although my close direct encounter with Harry took place over but a couple of weeks, we had both been mentally close and closing over some years before that, as we both read, explored and mastered the discipline field of sociology that was then was our common interest. And both our mindsets were then altered to reflect a common sociological orientation, which continues on to this day. As I read Harry's works, I feel a strong sense of affinity with the writer.
Both intense examinations periods yielded their special rewards. I was later told by one of the examiners (Professor Grebenek, at Leeds) that I had done best, at the level of Second Class Honours (Upper Division), in Ethics, Social Structure of Modern Britain, Social Policy and Statistics. And that several people failed.
But, overwhelmingly, Bradford's very special hallmark was, for me, meeting Harry Patterson! For Harry, it was the gaining of his first and only honours degree until his honorary doctorate over thirty years later! The study of how people best realize their potentials, 'success psychology' became afield of special interest for me. Both Harry and I evidence most interesting biographies of achievement and the overcoming of potentially inhibitory factors.
In order to best benefit from this brief introduction to two achieving people and the contemporary and future world, it is valuable to attempt to summarize some of the overall findings. These generalizations are presented next:
Success Enabling Factors
Not waiting for the world to come to you; making it happen yourself.
¨ Responding expeditiously to the unexpected and Providential events.
Success Neutral Factors
Success Inhibiting Factors
¨ A inadequate or malfunctioning genetic inheritance; the sheer absence of a biological legacy insufficient to allow of the meeting of (misguided) aspirations. Mature attainments must match inherent possibilities. 'You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear'.
Characteristics of Successful People
Th above characteristics of successful people, and of some of the other factors that may support or hinder their productive performances, emerges from a brief examination of two lives. Harry's and my lives, are both good case studies on human achievers, and of how both inherited and environmental factors combine to make us what we are.
Interested readers may care to consult John Clausen's American Lives, for a much more detailed account of the characteristics of a diverse sample of real people, evidencing varying degrees of success, over their lifetimes.
For Harry Patterson, six core factors appear to be fundamental to his success. First, his superior level of literacy; second his ability as a storyteller; third, the topicality of his stories; fourth, his creative imagination; fifth, realism and veracity; and sixth, mastery of the art and craft of marketable writing.
Overall, Harry's publications reflect the work of a superb writer who has honed his exceptional capabilities to the very highest of levels. He is simply a wonderful spoken and written-word storyteller, as I can personally attest through my wanderings with him in Bradford in mid 1961 just before I returned to Australia at the end of that year.
Jack Higgins is undoubtedly a master craftsman. His writing is cool and measured, his technical control seems effortless. Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Had I remained in England, we might have continued our relationship as we both then lived in Leeds just a short distance apart. That was not to be. But I hope that one day soon we can meet again and spend time together.
I rejoice now in his outstanding personal achievements as a master of the action-packed thriller genre. Some 250 million of his books published in 45 languages have been sold and his books are widely available throughout the world. 'You'd be hard pushed to find an airport anywhere in the world that isn't selling one of Jack Higgins novels'.
Looking at the comprehensive list of his published books affirms his standing as one of the world's most successful contemporary writers.
On many occasions he has been the guest of honour at literary functions. After one such event he recounted: 'I was at a publisher's dinner last night in my honour. They wanted make a big fuss so we went to the Ritz? There's posh for you and you pay the most obscene sums of money'.
Harry is a 'self proclaimed champion of plain grub' and so enjoys an 'old fashioned roast on the trolley' at one of his favourite restaurants on Jersey, La Capannina. Thus his culinary tastes are simple, enjoying, for instance, Betty's Hot Pot, Irish Stew, Jersey Bean Crock, Shepherd's Pie, and ubiquitous British fish and chips. When asked what would be his choice of 'prisoners last meal' he said 'Ulster Fry'!
His captivating latest, Midnight Runner, following on from Edge of Danger, in the highly acclaimed British agent Sean Dillon's undercover enforcer books, is the tenth in the series which also includes Day of Reckoning, The White House Connection, and The President's Daughter, has just arrived in my local bookstore, in the isolated small city of Darwin, Australia and in Book Club lists.
In Midnight Runner Kate Rashid, one of the richest and most dangerous women in the world, and hell-bent on vengeance, vows to take revenge after undercover agent Sean Dillon forces her family to 'pay the price for their murderous intentions'. As one reviewer puts it: 'Higgins has been leaving readers on the edge of their seats for over 30 years, and this will thrill his huge readership'.
Buy and read it, and you can confirm for yourself what a fine writer Harry is.
Entered now into his eighth decade of life, and his fifth of professional writing, what future adventure and mystery masterpieces are in store for his millions of avid worldwide readers? He looks fit, So, hopefully we can expect more treats.
And I much treasure Harry's personally signed gift copy of the first edition of his very first book- Sad wind From the Sea . It, for me, is one of his best, as it is the one that launched him on the road to fame!
In the very near future I hope to be in a position to write more fully on Harry's unique writing capabilities and expertise and re-establish direct contact with the man himself.
My prediction is that he will be knighted by the Queen of England for his extraordinary contributions to English literature, film and culture.
Highly acclaimed, Harry Patterson, alias 'Jack Higgins', life, is indeed a wonderful 'master of suspense' writer's richly absorbing tale!