Fitzalan at the garden party

Finnian Fitzpatrick Writing as Michael Fitzalan

My taste for writing started with my English teacher Mr Hinchliffe. Even though we were only eight, he introduced the class to The Hobbit, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as class readers. It did allowed us to respond in pictures, words through creative writing and through comprehension. I began to enjoy English more than history and French which was great fun, responding to a cartoon character. We never learned Hinchy’s first name.

After Hinchcliffe we had a brilliant English teacher, Mrs Gregory. Again, we did not learn her first name, but she taught us grammar and proper sentences. Spelling as well as introducing us to Stig of the Dump and a myriad of other characters. Mike Thomas took us on and introduced us to Pygmalion on stage. It was a gripping play about submariners, and he also read us beautiful passages from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, brimming with alliteration and metaphor. He taught us as if we were young adults and were keen to learn. My prep school English teachers were truly inspirational.

At my senior school, The Oratory Michael Hunt actually allowed me to write a book after I took my English exams early. Thanks to him I was inspired to become an author. The top set for English, which thanks to Gregory, Hinchcliffe and Thomas, I remained in, were allowed to take their ‘O’-Level English Literature and English Language, in the September term. We studied The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene and Henry V by William Shakespeare. After that Michael Hunt read books to us such as Goldfinger by Ian Fleming and other modern writers. I asked him what work we would be doing. His reply was glibly that we could write a book if we wanted to, so I did.

The book which he marked, and I edited, My three sisters, Catherina, Georgina and Fiona typed up, and photocopied the manuscript and I sent it around publishers until the three manuscripts were lost. I still have my first rejection letter from Macmillan, dated 1977.

‘Never give up’ and ‘If you want to do something badly enough’ are words that echoed through my childhood. I put my writing to one side, I kept honing my craft but only whenever I could spare the time. However, running a brewery was a seven-days-a-week occupation and left little time for indulging myself. Monday to Friday, I worked 5 am to 11pm, helping to brew the beer and then going onto see customers right up until closing time Saturday was working from 11 to 7pm, and Sunday was just 7pm to 10.30 pm as Sunday lunchtimes were too busy for managers to talk to me. Of course, I also avoided the city pubs on Friday lunchtimes, preferring to see them when they had deliveries at 7am, 8 am or 9 am.

When I moved to New York, I was able to make more time for writing, but it was not until I went to university, at thirty, that I could devote large swathes of time to my craft. Then, it was a case of writing non-stop and success. My first book, The Taint Gallery was a great success and was followed by Waterwitch about my brother and i sailing around the coast of Spain and Portugal and Switch, a dark thriller about a driver dreaming of his own demise.

My journey was a long one but worthwhile. I remember being rewarded for my creative writing by being in the termly school magazine at Moor Park. The school featured in ‘Harry’ and those were generally recounts or poems. My first attempt at a novel was at about ten. A friend, also featured in ‘Harry’, Philip Crosthwaite-Eyre and I started the first chapter of a book.
We set the events in East Germany, far away and obscure enough for us not to worry about getting details about. Started on a rainy day, we never developed the story, school Ife and exams got in the way. A Writer’s Journey

My next attempt was more successful, writing a novel Vive La Difference, set in France, where my middle sister, Georgina lived. I could write to her for details and a school trip to the Le Mans 24-hour race, helped me to get a feel for France.

The book was written over two terms, my sisters, Catherina, Georgina. Fiona typed up all 200 pages and we sent it off to publishers after photocopying it painstakingly. A rejection letter and kind praise from Macmillan fuelled our enthusiasm, then the project died. At fifteen, I was ready to start the life of a writer, but school and ‘A’ levels stymied the sequel.

Leaving school, I wrote a few plays and even took up acting briefly. A proper job came along in the guise of working for the brewery that Patrick. My middle brother had started in 1977. Coming back from sailing with my middle brother Anton, I worked my way up from drayman to sales manager until the brands were sold to Gibbs Mew. Then, I left to help run a company in New York. Sadly, Gibbs Mew sold their brewery, which became a car park.
Returning to England at the birth of my first son, I went to university and retrained as a teacher. I written The Taint Gallery and Waterwitch followed by Switch, all of them published by small independents and I have not looked back since, writing when I can.



Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

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