Here’s the speech I read out at the launch of Tinderbox, my first book, nearly a month ago in old London town, a mere 24-hour flight away. Folk keep asking me if I am going to do something here in New Zealand to launch Tinderbox and the answer is yes, maybe, early next year. Stay tuned. In the meantime, this is, more or less, what I said.
When I was writing Tinderbox I occasionally read things out loud to my partner. Then I asked: Does this sound stupid? Does this make sense? Is it boring? So if you have any complaints with the aforementioned areas direct them to Richard Crane. And by that I mean thank you, honey. (You just came to Copenhagen with me so I could attend a conference about mermaids. No one can say you’re not liberal.)
People in New Zealand keep saying to me I can’t wait to read your novel. And I say it’s not a novel. The first thing you need to know about Tinderbox is that I laughed while I wrote parts of it. (In front of the TV, at night.) The second thing you need to know is, it’s a book about a book. The good news is that book is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I didn’t intend to write a tribute to Fahrenheit 451, any more than I intended to write about my career as a chain bookseller. But combining the two struck me as just the right kind of wrong idea. However, when I tried to take over the female characters in Bradbury’s book things went a bit off the rails…I am sure Bradbury never imagined a book like Tinderbox would happen either. He died on June 5, 2012 and I can only hope tonight he isn’t turning in his grave. I wrote Tinderbox because I wanted to think deeply about the future he posited in Fahrenheit 451 – a future where books are banned and burned. And firemen burn books instead of putting fires out.
It’s a future I am sure no one in this room wants and its one that feels closer to home tonight than we’d like.
I wrote Tinderbox also because I loved the idea of the book people in Fahrenheit 451 – who live on the outskirts of society, in the woods and have memorized their favourite classics. They are freedom fighters. Outlaws. I thought I might be one of them. I am sure Sam and Elly are the book people too. And pretty much everyone in this room tonight…
So I hope you’ll understand if I get all misty-eyed and sentimental and say I am looking forward to going home to New Zealand and putting this slim elegant and slightly wild book onto my Father’s bookshelf where it will be keeping good company across the ages.