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Monday
Mar212011

A Weird Story, But True

My dentist is a conjuror. Perhaps sitting in his surgery this morning is what brought Doctor Katterfelto back to mind. A number of years ago, I was writing a book called 'The Red Judge', whose villain was a conjuror too. Whilst researching the history of the subject I came across an eighteenth century practitioner who went by the name of Doctor Katterfelto. His tricks were just the sort I imagined the conjuror in my book playing, and his personality was just as extrovert, so I wrote him in and thought no more about him.

Later, however, a further piece of research turned up in which I learned that, having fallen on hard times, Dr Katterfelto was forced to give up his theatre in Picadilly, London, and tour the provinces. He even made it to my town, apparently - but that wasn't all. As I read down, I learned that the selfsame conjuror that I'd written into my book had ended up a prisoner in our town's old eighteenth century debtor's gaol which happens to be my house.

In other words, all the time I'd spent at my desk bringing back to life a character from history, unbeknown to me that self-same character had once inhabited the basement immediately beneath my desk.

But that's not where the weirdness ends. Last summer I was down by the river with my family, watching the local carnival going by.  My asthma became a problem and I went home for my inhaler.  Arriving outside my front door, I found a man ringing our doorbell.  He'd been put onto us by our neighbour, he said.  Was it right that our house had once been the old town gaol?

I said it was, and the man explained that he was an historian, down from the North of England researching for a biography about a man who'd  done time in the cells beneath our house.   Immediately I knew what was coming.  What was this man's name, I asked.  'Doctor Katterfelto,' my visitor replied.  'You haven't found his signature, have you?  It's meant to be down there somewhere in the remains of the old cells.'

I've never found that signature, though I've looked, but I do have a complimentary copy of my visitor's finished book, which he kindly sent me.  'Katterfelto: Prince of Puff' it's called, and I recommend it as a good read and only hope it's author - David Paton Williams - thinks 'The Red Judge' is a good read too.  

The serendipitous nature of the writer's life has always struck me, but never more than here.  I so nearly could have missed that historian on my doorstep, just as I so nearly could have put some other conjuror  in my book.  Why these things happen, I'll never know, but everything has significance, I guess.    It's just that we don't always see it.       

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