Last week, BBC Radio 7 did a repeat airing of series 1 of the Father Paolo Baldi stories. Episode 2 had Father Baldi investigating the murder of an academic who was about to deliver a lecture on one of Ireland’s famous literary figures, a writer named Jack Matthews. I knew the work was fictional (incidentally, Simon Brett wrote the episode), but I decided to google “Jack Matthews” anyway.
And I found … Jack Matthews! Not from Ireland but from Ohio, and a writer who is also a professor of English at Ohio University. And I am now reading a book of short stories — “Storyhood As We Know It” and Other Tales (1993) — unfortunately out of print, but my local university library never ceases to surprise me with what it has in the stacks.
My attention span has become shorter and shorter the older I get — it’s a good thing I became a doctor when I did because I certainly couldn’t do all that reading now. I must admit I am not “connecting” with too many of Jack Matthews’ characters, but I suspect the problem is a function of where I am in life right now. But I keep reading because as the author once said, “Great fiction is a celebration of the simple mystery of how one thing leads to another.” There is of course nothing simple about Jack Matthews’ writing; his short stories are marvels of construction, prose, and dialogue. And if I can’t always sympathize with his characters, I can admire the craft of a master.