Friday, August 17, 2007

Edinburgh Book festval

So it worked ... the first ever event at the Edinburgh Book festival in which the subject of the book being presented was born, raised and married in the same venue as the festival - Charlotte Square.
The whole event was especially wonderful for me, as I started the morning in that very home of John Scott Haldane - 17 Charlotte Square. Now one of three buildings forming a law firm's headquarters, it has been lovingly, and expensively, refurbished. Most moving for me was to stand in the marble hallway and look up the flight on flight of the solid wooden staircase, up through the salons to the nursery floor from which the children looked down.
A fine and knowledgeable crowd turned up - well 'crowd' was stretching it but this was a plucky bunch. The fact that my event was left out of the programme, and that my own phone order for tickets the previous week was rebuffed with the erroneous information that the event was sold out, did not deter them.
The talk went well, the questions were incisive, and books finally appeared for the signing. They were found in the wrong author's box - the confusions around my talk intensified by the fact that the other Martin Goodman was giving a talk the following day (I know of people who went there by mistake).
Freshly arrived in the author's yurt, a lady jumped up to greet me. She was Rosemary, and was set to chair my talk. She had her questions prepared, drawing on the parallels between my book and present-day events in Israel and Palestine. Well, I thought, I'm sure we can come up with something. Haldane visited the Holy Land in the last months of his life, and worked on the oil wells in Iran and Iraq. He signed a petition arguing against the Nazi government's treatment of Jewish scientists in academia. At a stretch, we could bring in his involvement in the first concentration camps, saving thousands of lives by improving the rations in those Boer War camps. Israel-Palestine was not the most obvious line to take as regards Haldane, but then readers must find in a book whatever they need to find.
Then, the penny dropped. Rosemary thought she was greeting the other Martin Goodman, the specialist in Roman and Hebrew history.

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