I Have Heard You Calling in the Night

Overview

It seems now like a different me, the years I spent with Martin, a Doberman dog, and before he came, another me; and it is a new me now, once again, writing this. I would have been dead long ago had I continued to live the way I had before he came.

I think someone would have murdered me, given how I drank and the dives that I drank in and that I was an aggressive, angry man. I had no money and no friends. I ...

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Overview

It seems now like a different me, the years I spent with Martin, a Doberman dog, and before he came, another me; and it is a new me now, once again, writing this. I would have been dead long ago had I continued to live the way I had before he came.

I think someone would have murdered me, given how I drank and the dives that I drank in and that I was an aggressive, angry man. I had no money and no friends. I didn’t care, I couldn’t have.
 
Thomas Healy was a drunk, a fighter, sometimes a writer, often unemployed, no stranger to the police. His life was going nowhere but downhill. Then one day he bought a pup—a Doberman. He called him Martin. Gradually man and dog became unshakable allies, the closest of comrades, the best of friends. They took long walks together, they vacationed together, they even went to church together.
 
Martin, in more ways than one, saved Thomas Healy’s life.
 
Written with unadulterated candor and profound love, this soulful memoir gets at the heart of the intense bond between people and dogs.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
There's a rich variety of literature celebrating the intense bond between people and their animals. In just the past year we've "discovered" numerous such books: Chosen by a Horse, The Good Good Pig, and the runaway bestseller Marley & Me. Such company Healy never expected to rub elbows with. His calling was not to dog ownership but to the day-to-day business of drinking, fighting, and occasionally putting pen to paper. Unemployed and no stranger to his local pub or jail, he found a friend in Martin.

A Doberman pup, just "a poorly bit of fur and bone," Martin seemed an unlikely companion. But as time passed Healy and Martin became inseparable, and the years slipped by with surprising speed. Eventually, time began to take its toll on Martin. The comrade who stood watch patiently as his master slept off another hangover was growing frail, and his passing would send Healy into a downward spiral from which he feared he would never recover.

But recover he does, and his memoir beautifully conveys the healing and redemptive joys of owning a dog -- a gift from God, he later calls Martin, his last chance to stay in the world. Written with candor, anguish, and not a little love, I Have Heard You Calling in the Night is a testament to the profound kinship between people and their dogs that for Healy was both miracle and salvation. (Holiday 2006 Selection)
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR I HAVE HEARD YOU CALLING IN THE NIGHT

"The tone is searingly honest and direct, calm and clear-eyed. The subject, however, is explosive. It concerns the battle of an exceptionally talented man with a damaged spirit for survival in a hostile universe. It dramatises the battle between the use of alcohol and violence as props and the search for love, however it can be found. In the end, Thomas Healy has written a deeply tender book, which is likely to become a classic of its kind."—Colm Tóibín
Publishers Weekly
Novelist Healy was a raging, brawling drunk until, on a whim, he adopted a Doberman pinscher puppy he named Martin. He nursed Martin through illness and wounds; Martin in turn stood guard over him while he lay passed out in fields. Their bond, and the slight but persistent duty of caring for Martin enabled Healy to very fitfully begin to recover from his alcoholism and propensity to violence and gently nudged him toward an understanding of himself and God. Healy embeds the story in a memoir of his life in the slums of Glasgow, his relationship with his parents, his conflicted attitude toward the church and his many loves, from a youthful encounter with a whore with a heart of gold to a mature affair with a boss who fired him after he makes clear that Martin is more important to him than she is. "It was not right that a man should need a dog as much as I had needed him," Healy acknowledges, but he makes no apologies that "for whatever reason, my best pal possessed four legs instead of two." In Healy's heartfelt prose, this eccentric friendship becomes the core of a moving meditation on the mysterious nature of redemption. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Part Angela's Ashes, part A Million Little Pieces, Healy's memoir of sin and redemption through dog companionship tells a story far larger than its 208 pages would indicate. As a young man, Scotsman Healy seems headed for prison or violent death owing to his drinking and brawling. But then he meets Martin, a Doberman Pinscher pup that he pays 50 pounds for on a whim. What Healy receives in return from this extraordinary dog is invaluable. Not only does Martin help Healy regain some dignity and regard for his own life, but he also helps guide him through a series of adventures and romances. Even in death Martin helps Healy grow to be a better person. Healy sometimes brags about the women he beds, but mercifully his tale is free of explicit sex or violence. And while his is not a humorous book, it offers some amusing moments. More important, Healy's memoir manages to do what all the best books do: leave you wanting more. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/06.]-Alicia Graybill, Southeast Lib. Syst., Lincoln, NB Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Glasgow-based novelist Healy makes his U.S. debut with an ode to his dog, "a gift from God, to keep me in the world."The author spent his early adult years roaming around Scotland, drinking, brawling, writing short stories, drinking, generally batching it, and, oh yes, drinking. Then, on a lark, he adopted a Doberman named Martin. This slender volume, marked by blunt, unadorned prose, is a paean to the dog whose devotion and dependence transformed his life. Healy got serious about earning money, so that he could pay Martin's veterinarian bills, and he gradually ditched the bottle. Though he wouldn't get sober until after Martin's death, Healy credits the dog with starting him on the path to sobriety: "I wanted to keep him and I could not have kept him had I continued to drink the way I had." The author and his elderly mother bonded over Martin. He began attending mass as a result of their more comfortable relationship and, over the years, gained strength from his Catholic faith. (The book takes its title from a Christian psalm.) Healy even embarked on a ten-day silent retreat at a monastery. The silence proved challenging only when he ran across a monk who used to tend bar at one of his hangouts. Dog-lovers who found Marley & Me too saccharine will welcome this darker-hued appreciation of a canine friend.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780151012596
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/2/2006
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

THOMAS HEALY grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, in the 1950s. He left school at fifteen and worked as a shunter in a railway yard and a security guard at a meat market, among other things. He lives in Glasgow.

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Read an Excerpt

It seems now like a different me, the years I spent with Martin, a Doberman dog, and before he came, another me; and it is a new me now, once again, writing this. I would have been dead long ago had I continued to live the way I had before he came. I think someone would have murdered me, given how I drank and the dives that I drank in and that I was an aggressive, angry man. I had no money and no friends. I didn’t care, I couldn’t have.

 How this state of affairs had come to be I don’t know, for I had been a friendly if timorous boy and had managed to dodge violence until I was twenty, when I had a run in with a man named Bull Flannigan. By that time I was working for the railway as a shunter in a yard in Springburn in Glasgow. The job was shifts and there was lots of overtime and I remember that I was able to save four pounds a week, which was a lot of money in 1964. You could buy eleven or twelve pints of beer for one pound then.

 I had got into the habit of an occasional pint in a pub that was just under a bridge from the shunting yard. Springburn was a tough district, full of scarred and battered faces: teenage gangs and individual hard men. The man with the hardest reputation was Bull Flannigan. If you were in a pub and he was there, you looked the other way.

 When I was working in the shunting yard I would have jumped if a girl had said boo. But I was a good enough shunter and worked all the overtime I could get, and I always had money. I was good for a loan, a couple of pounds to a fellow shunter until payday. I sometimes gave a loan inside the pub, which Bull Flannigan might have noticed, clocked up. Or someone might have told him. There are always people who want to keep on the right side of a fellow like Flannigan in Glasgow pubs.

 Flannigan was in his thirties and had a close-cropped, too-big head. He was low and squat and wore a buttoned-up black crombie coat. Most of the time he was with two other men who also wore black crombie coats. But not that night.
 I had been alone at the bar when, out of nowhere, he was standing next to me. I felt weak to fall by his very presence: a super hard man. I was told to buy him a whisky, and given a push on my chest so that I got the message.

 The barman and some customers were looking on. The young railway man and Bull Flannigan: a small drama. I was as frightened as I had ever been, but at the same time I did not see why I should buy him a whisky. The easy way out would have been to have bought the whisky and got the hell away from Bull Flannigan. There was nobody who would have looked down on me had I done that, but I could not. Everything in me said no. This bullying hard man in his crombie coat. I told him to buy his own whisky.

 A pause. I saw a first doubt in Flannigan’s eyes. They were blue, for what that matters. I was taller than him, but he was thicker. They did not call him Bull for nothing. And an insistent bull, that I buy him a whisky. I was now seeing red. Flannigan made to push me again, and I punched him on the nose. Hard. I felt the bridge smash. He stumbled back, his nose ruined and his crombie coat bright with blood. Was this me, the trembling boy of a moment ago? I was a wild man now, hitting Flannigan. It was one-way punches. The first blow on his nose had done for him. And it had done for me, the boy I had been till then. When I left that pub I was a changed person. More a man? I thought so. But I wish now that I had never had that fight, for looking down the years, it did not change me for the better.

From the time of that first fight with Bull Flannigan until I was thirty-nine, I was seldom out of fights. My life was a blur of alcohol, flights of fancy, wild, drunken brawls. It is no use kidding here about my drinking habit. I was a paid-up alcoholic. I think the drinking game got out of hand when I was twenty-three, on holiday in Amsterdam. A tour round the bars, the red-light district. I did not feel right until I had had a few Amstel beers. I soon discovered a much stronger brew, stuff that came in small bottles, like half-pints. And no wonder: you could get drunk on four or five of them. This was the summer of 1967. The world was swinging. I was rolling, falling down. And I would go on falling for many years to come. No matter how much I drank, there was never enough, that was the way I was.

 In 1983, with forty approaching, I thought to begin anew, to remove myself to London. I had no idea what I would do there, but the place appealed to me, as, over the years, it has appealed to a lot of lost and lonely men. I was assisted in this plan by the offer of a film deal on one of my short stories. I was a writer—not that I was doing much writing then. But in March of that year a man named Martin Harrington offered to buy the film rights to a story of mine. We had spoken on the telephone and agreed to a sum of money. Some hundreds. I thought it enough to get started in London. A couple of days later I got an early-morning train, a one-way ticket. I had no intention of returning to Glasgow.

 I met Harrington in Euston Station. He had a bald head and a big black beard. We went for a drink, and, really, it was no big deal—I had won more money on the horses. Harrington struck me for a cagey guy and I can’t say that I liked him. A mutual feeling, I am sure. But I got the money, a bunch of notes in a pub. I had a good drink in me, and I forget how I got rid of Harrington—or how he got rid of me. So far as I know the story was never filmed, or, if it was, it must have flopped. The next I remember I was in the West End, the bright lights.

 My new life? It had no chance, there was another fate awaiting me.

 I had expected a whale of a time in London, but that night I took a taxi back to Euston and a night train back to Glasgow. I’m not sure why. On the train I was in a queer, blue mood. I knew I had been this way too much, too often in my life. In the morning, rumpled and hungover, I walked from the Central Station to St Enoch Square, where I got a number 7 bus. It no longer runs, not from St Enoch.
 I was staying in my mother’s house. Only a mother would have put up with me, for I could swing to violence easily, on a wrong word. I drank morning and night and through the night, and in this dismal state I hated myself for what I was, what I had become, and I had unreal fears and I felt not a little lonely.I would have won a sissy competition, the boy I used to be. In the Gorbals, when the Gorbals was the Gorbals. About the worst place in the whole damn world for a sissy to grow up in. I got teased mercilessly, because I much preferred to hop and skip and play with girls than rough and tumble with the boys, which did not please my father. He was an old-school type of man and, unlike my mother, who used to laugh at it, he did not think it funny that girls should come to our door asking for me to go out and play with them.

 
Copyright © Thomas Healy 2006

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/ contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2006

    Pretty good

    The flow of the book seemed a bit disjointed - and I had a hard time beliving some of this biography -- wasn't my favorite book by far.

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