Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I remember being extremely chuffed a few years ago when I discovered that I'd been mentioned in the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Phrases and Sayings. The reference was for a modern usage of the expression "Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs", as used by DCI Stewart Tailby in BLACK DOG (apart from the immortality, it meant that someone at the Oxford University Press had read BLACK DOG really carefully).

Then there was the BBC radio interview following the publication of THE DEAD PLACE, when the interviewer complimented me on some expressions he'd never heard before, which he'd jotted down while he was reading the book. One of them was used by the undertaker, Melvyn Hudson. Referring to a less than bright employee, he says: "The wheel's still turning, but the hamster's dead". I suppose it's a version of the more familiar "the lights are on, but no-one's home". Well, I'm not sure I invented the hamster line, but I couldn't remember where I got it from, so of course I had to take the credit. :)

And then along comes the Progressive Network of Southeast Pennsylvania - a body new to me, but I'm sure they do wonderful work on behalf of the progressive community in that neck of the woods. Their website is full of inspiring and thought-provoking quotations. One page I stumbled across begins with ringing, memorable phrases from the likes of Barack Obama, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King. And then, down at the very bottom:

“Believe those who are seeking the truth, but doubt those who say they have found it.” —Stride, in “Dancing with the Virgins” by Stephen Booth [p. 273]

Now, Stride is a very caring and spiritual character, so I think he would want to own up to the fact that he borrowed this line from the French writer Andre Gide and improved on it slightly. So I'm going to own up on his behalf.

Nice, though, that a fictional character can earn his own little share of imortality.

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