The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Mac Carty

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The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Mac Carty


Summary: Sue found The Vagaries Of Swing (Footprints on the Margate Sands of Time) by Mac Carty thought provoking and she loved the humour. There was quite a lot she wanted to discuss with the author when he popped into Bookbag Towers.
Date: 26 March 2013
Interviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee

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Sue found The Vagaries Of Swing (Footprints on the Margate Sands of Time) by Mac Carty thought provoking and she loved the humour. There was quite a lot she wanted to discuss with the author when he popped into Bookbag Towers.

  • Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

Mac Carty: At our age, best not to close your eyes at all. You either find you've nodded off or worse still that you're standing in a queue for some celestial Border Agency. I hope I can imagine readers of all ages quietly chortling and occasionally laughing out loud. Mind you my kids can't understand that when we grew up almost everything was closed on a Sunday and some of the references leave them a little bemused.

  • BB: And television was only available for a certain number of hours a day!

For our generation awareness that violence against women was as deeply wrong as any other violence was a little slow in coming. It was something women had to put up with. What was the turning point for you?

MC: I've been a volunteer adviser now for eleven years so I was very quickly exposed to the extent of the problem. The first time though that I really became aware of it personally was actually around 1965 when a woman told me that a guy was hitting her. The second time she told me I challenged him, but his explanation was very plausible. This was a guy who was capable of great acts of kindness and cared and fought for others in his occupation, yet even before he died told me that women always needed a backhander or two to keep them in line. It seems to be part of a sad instinct to control.

One of my friends has actually just come back from New York where she was on the Commission trying to produce a resolution on violence against women. At least one of the national delegates apparently threatened the rest of the team with eternal retribution, you know the sort of thing, because apparently civilisation will end if we stop beating women. When I set out to write The Vagaries of Swing, it was just a collection of cricketing stories, but the murder drew me into a different thought process. Now I think that men have to begin standing in line alongside the women in order to try to expose the shame. I don't want a society that is politically correct or that lacks humour but we have to change the culture.

  • BB: It's only relatively recently that the police have taken any action other than just writing it off as 'a domestic'.

To paraphrase Voltaire, if cricket did not exist, would it be necessary to invent it?

MC: I am surprised that a lady of your literary quality would even envisage such a possibility. You may well have read over the weekend of the detection by the Alpha magnetic spectrometer (AMS) of dark matter, more specifically the particle neutralino which barely ever interacts with ordinary matter. I have friends like that. Analysis has shown part of the dark matter to be fragments of Kookaburra (the cricket ball, not the kingfisher). The Big Bang may well have been created by the ball hitting the Great Creator's coal bunker in his back garden with such force as to cause an enormous explosion. GC, as we humans know him, had a pretty lethal forward drive when practicing.

  • BB: Over the years I've experienced a lot of particles which barely ever interact with ordinary mortals, er, sorry, matter.

Do teenagers today have as much fun as we did?

MC: Yeah, yeah yeah.

Mind you most of the young girls I see on the streets must catch pneumonia fairly frequently. Initially all we could ever hope for was a glimpse of stocking, although at least the miniskirt then opened up the main highway. This is also a generation which relies on technology - mobiles, apps, blackberries, notepads, satnavs. If the Chinese hackers ever do launch a war and everything goes black, then we oldies at least will be able to find our way home. In addition some of the innocence has gone and of course no one has to wait for anything. Just use your credit card. Part of the problem, of course, and why there is a debt problem and not just with teenagers.

  • BB: And if you wait, you might find that you don't want it - and how much fun would that be?

For me the sixties was THE decade for pop music and you brought back some wonderful memories (as well as a few I'd been trying to suppress...) Does music matter to you? Which is your best decade?

MC: They were great times, weren't they? The late Sixties were simply the best. Good friends and very little responsibility. But from even earlier, just hearing the chords from Apache or Walk Don't Run causes the adrenalin to rush. So many good bands and groups. We're talking about my generation here, and yours. Flower power, flowers in your hair, strawberry fields forever. Were we so naïve to think that the world would inevitably be a better place? Why couldn't mankind just embrace the music.

  • BB: It's always seemed like a missed opportunity to me.

Where and how do you write? With or without music? How long did it take you to write The Vagaries of Swing?

MC: I write at the computer, often just with the racing commentary as background (and no, I don't make any money). In addition my handwriting is so terrible now that you would struggle to read it if I tried to write long-hand. I have been helping people fill in disability forms now for some ten years and there must be some poor sod in Blackpool at the DWP who must be thrilled about the new system coming in, as he won't have to try to decipher what I have written. The Vagaries took me about three months in all.

  • BB: I'm sure there's a story behind your choice of nom de plume. Care to share it?

MC: When I began to write what is basically a set of affectionate stories about the people I grew up with and the town, I wasn't sure I would be any good at it. So I decided to write under the nom de plume of Mac Carty - my mother's maiden name was McCarthy. I thought that way anyone who read the book would have to work out who the characters were, so it would not cause too many difficulties for any of them.

  • BB: What are you reading at the moment? Do books matter to you?

MC: Books have always been close companions, mainly historical novels. I've always loved history. I was lucky to study at a college which is always considered to be the very best for that subject but it has to be said that my application at the time was lacking. There was sport to be played and a social life to be experienced. I've just re-read Winter King by Thomas Penn which is outstanding and am currently struggling with the 1000 pages of detail in John Sugden's Nelson.

  • BB: You've got one wish. What's it to be?

MC: It incorporates a number of powerful world leaders, both politicians and religious heads, and largely revolves around a cart-load of cricket stumps.

  • BB: Can I help?

What's next for Mac Carty?

MC: I would like to think that there is one more book about growing up in Margate to be explored. Juvenal, the Roman satirist, has also sent me a couple more scripts and interestingly they are now all in dictylic hexameter. Mind you, if we men do begin to stop controlling and beating up women and civilisation really does come to an end, then we'll all be up there vying for a place in the celestial cricket team. Well that would be a funny thing, to paraphrase Max Miller.

  • BB: Well, that leaves me stumped. Thanks for chatting to us, Mac.

You can read more about Mac Carty here.

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