Dedicating books is one of the few ways an impecunious writer can do something nice for people. Publishing around 80 books has given me ample opportunity to acknowledge family, friends, helpers and people I’ve admired. Not that every book of mine has a dedication; about a dozen just get straight down to business.
A few of the dedications are in the ‘to the memory of’ form – to my four immigrant grandparents for an historical novel; to my uncle Philip for my history of boxing; to my father Tom Corris for my attempt at an Australian ‘western’; to critic and writer Bob Brissenden who gave me most flattering review ever and to J W ‘Jim’ Davidson, my former professor, for a book with an historical flavour.
Pursuing that theme, I was struck by the fact that five of the people I’ve dedicated books to have since died – Peter Kerr, an academic friend; James Hall, who published the first Cliff Hardy book; ophthalmologist Fred Hollows; historian Bob Gollan with whom I shared early morning drinks in the wild days; dear friend and writer Jan McKemmish and to a former partner so reticent she would only allow her initials to appear in the dedication.
Overwhelmingly, most of the dedications are to friends I’ve made over the writing journey. Most of these, I’m happy to say, remain friends, although, inevitably, I’ve lost touch with some of them. At least the books provide a connection. One thing all the dedicatees have in common is that they are all readers. There’s no point in saluting non-readers
There are, of course, professional acknowledgments. The names of publishers James Fraser, Tom Thompson and Patrick Gallagher appear and James Hall crops up twice in recognition of his getting the whole thing started. I’ve drunk with them all, played golf with one and table tennis with another. Relations between writers and publishers tend to morph towards friendship, except, perhaps, in the case of poets.
Also acknowledged twice is Jean Bedford – in my first novel The Dying Trade and later in Aftershock, the first book written after we reunited following a seven-year separation.
Like most writers I’m greatly indebted to the agents who’ve helped me navigate the choppy waters of a scribbler’s career. I’ve dedicated books wholeheartedly to Rosemary Creswell, Lesley McFadzean and Gaby Naher.
Three books are dedicated to sets of doctors – first to those who saved my eyesight through correct diagnosis and then skilful use of the argon laser, then to those who saved my life after two heart attacks and last to two more eye-doctors helping me keep blindness at bay.
Less seriously, I’ve dedicated books to writer Roger Milliss and Illawarra mate Bill Barnetson. The dedication both times reads, ‘a sharer in the pains and pleasures of golf’.
I dedicated my third Hardy book to my three daughters Sofya, Miriam and Ruth when they were very young. Now they are all parents, providing me with five grandsons. I’ve acknowledged the three older boys but haven’t given the nod to the two younger ones yet. Better write more books.