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About the Author
What People are Saying About This
Dublin with its pubs, its drinkers and its flaneurs, provides a fascinating sentimental education for a young man on the make, tough, but with too much sensitivity to do a great deal of harm.
My mother used to say, "It's better to be born lucky than rich." My instant reply was, "Ma, if you're born rich, you are lucky. You start out with both things going for you!"
As I write the Preface to this edition of Goodbye to The Hill, I know just how lucky I've been, to have had the story happen to me… to have been a part of the process of watching it come through, while the fingers tapped it out on my first-ever typewriter. It still seems like a beautiful adventure that happened to someone else, with myself privileged to get a peep in on the scenario as it unfolded.
Incredible how this lucky, simple story became my "riches." It has been the springboard for a whole career which, with all its up and downs, was exactly the life I would have chosen beforehand, had I had any say in the matter.
So the title of this short story had landed like a dove on my shoulder, thanks to that seed I unknowingly, luckily, planted on those mornings riding to work. The paper-round to pay for the bike, until the day my itchy feet and inherent madness carried me away from my office job and home and the project-style buildings I called The Hill. I was moving out on the trail to god knows where, carelessly convinced things would work out okay, simply because I was me. And you know what? It sorta did; though no highway is free of the kind of holes a person can fall or dive into. No matter, as long as we haven't forgotten how to climb out again.
The work, or my involvement in the process, took six weeks of four-hour evenings at the end of my days’ toil cabbing in the twin cities of London and Westminster. The words tapped out on a cheap portable, the very first typewriter I ever owned, at the kitchen table in the Fulham flat I shared with my beloved wife, Jean, R.I.P.
Please understand that I knew nothing about writing. I had been blessed or cursed (take your pick) by the urge to write from the age of seven, never resisting the push because I believed it wouldn't do any good. Whatever reared its head -- family derision, sarcastic opinions from people who assumed they knew things about me that even I didn't know – no matter what confronted me from those first tottering moments of thinking I was going to be a writer -- nothing came between my will and that simple vision.
This includes working to keep body and soul together. My many jobs were my idea of stepping stones to the real McCoy, the writing and the somehow living I intended to make from it for me and the family that I was also dreaming about one day having, in a house of my very own.
I worked as a clerk, gardener, dish-washer, truck driver, actor, singer, stand-up comic, waiter, cocktail bartender, and London cab driver. During the six-year stint as a cab driver, Goodbye was bought. At that time, I swore I'd never work for anybody else again, no matter what I had to do to survive. Not necessarily a smart petard on which to hoist yourself, but then, reason and I had never been bosom buddies. I was far too emotional to let common sense get between a good living scenario, one with its share of drama and sacrifice (what you might call bullshit) in it, and myself. This often included living on my wits, but the way I saw it -- isn't that what God gives you wits for in the first place? And so far, I haven't died a winter yet, thank God.
Goodbye to the Hill was published in October 1965 by Hutchinson in London, and to my total amazement, was granted the Book of the Week slot in the Evening Standard. It got a brilliant review from Richard Wrottersley who also wrote as T.C.Worsley in the Financial Times. In no time, Arrow bought the UK paperback rights and I was on TV doing my best to keep viewers awake while I tried to hammer the name of the book into their minds. Then Houghton Mifflin of New York and Boston bought it (not doing much to promote it, I have to say) and Ballantyne bought the paperback rights. Pretty soon after that, I got a Hollywood movie deal.
The film Paddy, based on my screenplay, was banned because we got a flash of Maureen Toal's left breast as she got into bed with an actor called Des Cave. That was it. You got a flash of breast, right profile, she got into bed and Cut. The fact that in the same year, 1970, I had suggested that the current Pope had to be nuts to reject the recommendation for birth control by the great minds of Catholicism, probably didn't help. In Ireland, if they don't get you one way, watch your back. I had already lost my Evening Herald newspaper column over that article. The movie ban was maybe the icing on the cake for the reactionary Archbishop McQuaid, who busied himself with trivia while the nation’s forgotten children were being abused in state institutions the length and breadth of the land, by those who should have known better.
Goodbye to the Hill has continued to sell, down through all the years of its 36-year life span to date. Some of even called it a classic, and referred to it as one of Ireland's favourite books. In the early 70s, Vincent Smith, an actor pal of mine, suggested to me that I turn the story into a one-man-show for myself -- make it a nice little earner that I could perform anywhere at any time without the expense of a theatrical production. I sat down to tap out the One Man, and after a very long weekend, found myself reading a first draft of the stage play. I directed this myself in the Eblana theatre, which is under the bus station in Dublin -- the only toilet in town with its own theatre!
The first night reception for the play confirmed my belief that I had a hit show on my hands. And when a popular columnist Con Houlihan (a man I love to this day) walked out at half time, heading his review (of half a play) with the immortal words: "Goodbye To Lee Dunne At The Interval!" --Vincent Smith and I (who has played Harry in the show more than a thousand times!) rubbed our egos in glee. We knew that by Friday we'd be jammed. And we were, for 26 weeks -- which was a phenomenal run in Dublin at that time!
More recently, I produced the play in the Regency Hotel Theatre on the fringe of Dublin where it ran six nights each week for almost three years, with an audience capacity of 280 seats. I know people who have seen the play 14 or 15 times. One lady came by cab once a month for the entire run. To have seen the play six times became quite ordinary, and three times, commonplace. So, you see what I mean when I said earlier how lucky I was to have it happen to me.
And now Goodbye is set to be made again as a motion picture, from my new screenplay. This time it will be set in the 50s, a detail the 1970 version lacked because the producers didn't think it was all that important. (For this, read: it would be too expensive to shoot it like that.)
This time it will be done right, which the story deserves -- not because I think it's wonderful, but because it has brought such joy into the lives of ordinary people like myself. Ordinary people who don't have to be educated, or know about writing, or whatever.
The story has been such a godsend to me and to so many people around the world, I feel privileged to have my name on it. I don't mean this in the ego sense. It all has to do with just feeling lucky that it's been so good for me. And if you, too, feel it's been a good read, I'll settle for that with a glad heart, because it means I'll have done my job well. And you deserve no less.