Then Be Sure to See Colin Falconer
By Renee Melchert Thorpe
Ernest “Papa” Hemingway was the hot topic of a memorable night at the Bar Luna some time ago. Local literati and readers gave lively readings of his work, competed in a bloodthirsty Hemingway trivia game, and ventured into the unendingly fun debate about the man: was Hemingway really a world class writer, or was he just a hack who happened to live one of the most fascinating lives of the last century?
Fans of Modernism, like this reviewer, can get fairly ecstatic over his early work. In those short stories and novels, his spare writing lifts to elegant purity all his macho tales of hunting, war, and the wounds of adventure. But his later work is so repetitive and narrow, so maddeningly solemn, a hilarious annual contest for badly written Hemingway-esque short passages declares open season on the novelist/big game hunter himself. Such good natured attacks only win more readers and admirers, so iconic is the man.
Scores of admirers would give anything to have a conversation with such a worldly, dauntless man’s man, a prolific writer who flourished before literary festivals were part of every novelist’s career.
This October, we are hosting a writer with some compelling similarities to Hemingway the man. Get ready for West Australia’s English import, Colin Bowles (widely known as pen name Colin Falconer), a headlining guest this year. Like Hemingway, he’s paid his journalism dues, made Spain his playground and a supreme inspiration, been at sea with sharks, driven an ambulance, and ruined a few good women along the way. One key difference is how Bowles has dealt with setbacks. Unless it’s research for a new book, you won’t find a “gone fishing” sign on his door.
Both men proved tireless and dedicated to their craft, but Bowles shows less restraint in his writing and manages more courage when it comes to revealing himself as less than magnificent. He has authored quite a number of humorous books, with titles like I’ve Been Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart: 100 Worst Songs Ever and Cheat’s Guide to Golf (one copy online has the intriguing asking price of over $20,000).
He’s also been successful at young adult fiction (surprisingly one of the hottest topics at UWRF) and historians may someday uncover his teleplays, advertising work, and magazine journalism.
Many writers base a book or two on life experiences, but how many of them today are living life to the fullest, maddest, and most adventurous on a regular basis, making a lasting career out of the spoils? Just for starters, two of his funniest books, Flying Hazard and Flying Blind, chronicle the wild life of a flying doctor in the outback. These books make the reader a virtual copilot of that Australian icon of proud service and unorthodox heroics. Perhaps only a man with a love of danger, inventive sense of humor, high tolerance for tedium, and a thirst for the unknown could delve into that type of research.
Under two pseudonyms Bowles has found fortune and notoriety. As Colin Falconer he seemingly churns out miles of popular historical fiction, titles available in over 20 languages. To Europeans, Falconer’s up there with John LeCarre and Frederick Forsyth. So don’t be surprised if eastern European attendance establishes record audience numbers in Ubud this year.
As Mark D’Arbanville, Bowles penned a bestselling page turner about a disastrous love affair based entirely on his own experience. The Naked Husband is out of print and you’re not likely to find an Australian willing to part with his or her copy. But try Kindle. The tell-all book that fascinated a nation kept Bowles on the Australian chat show circuit for months.
Whether turning to face his demons, or going to the ends of the earth to research some thriller set in the Levant, Colin pursues the authentic.
Armed with a lust for life and a craftsman’s pure ability, Bowles parallels Hemingway but goes a few steps further. Perhaps his finest work is his account of walking Spain’s Camino Santiago for pilgrims, The Year We Seized the Day. It’s a hilarious, touching, and inspirational collaboration with fellow Australian and chance hiking companion Elizabeth Best. A limited number of copies should be available at the festival, but it might be best to find one now, if audience enthusiasm at other festivals is any prediction of demand. Find it authored by Bowles.
One insider reveals to the Bali Advertiser that Bowles won her admiration, “because he writes with passion and with heart. And when that might fail him, with dogged professionalism and determination. I would say he is a writer because he writes when it’s a joy, he writes when it hurts. He writes because he is a writer and that’s what writers do.”
There is simply no debate about the integrity and courage of Colin Bowles. He’s rested neither on personal setbacks nor professional laurels. Those who want to know what an active writer does, thinks, and finds valuable, should plan now to attend this year’s festival. Stay up-to-date with his website http://www.colinfalconer.net/ which links to his blog.
Don’t miss Colin (Bowles) Falconer at the Ubud Writers Festival, October 3-7, ubudwritersfestival.com.