Origins of The Falcon Dirk — Part Three

English: Picture is of St. Kevin's Church and/...

The Long Room
The Long Room (Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons)

I have a great admiration bordering on a passion for old, rare books–emphasis on old. Rarity is impressive, but age, survival through decades or centuries by even a common book is equally impressive to me. The value of a book is the product of edition, condition, and scarcity. Those criteria apply whether talking about a copy of John Milton’s Paradise Lost or a copy of Marvel Comic‘s Amazing Spider-man. It isn’t the value that attracts me, however; it’s being able to hold an old book in my relatively young hands and have a sense of the time that has passed since it was first made, first held. There is something about the smell of aged paper and ink, the delicate state of the pages, and the voice of the printing carried across the decades or centuries.

When the plot for The Falcon Dirk was forming in my head, I knew it needed to center around ancient things. I once had the privilege of visiting Trinity College in Dublin. Dublin itself has an abundance of antiquity, not the least of which is found within the walls of Trinity which was founded in the late 16th century. The most magnificent sight I beheld there involved books, ancient and abundant. Within a very secure and controlled area of the library is the famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript that dates to the 9th century. But the most spectacular sight for me was walking up the few, unremarkable steps into the Long Room library which houses approximately 200,000 volumes of old and rare books.  The Long Room is aptly named for its 213 foot length with rows of alcoves, shelves of books towering up two open stories under a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of rich dark wood. The sight is a book lover’s dream.

All the ancient books that play a part in the plot of The Falcon Dirk do exist. Researching their history was a satisfying bit of work. If you haven’t read the novel, I won’t give it away, but I hope all who do read it will do a little digging into the history on their own.

Also intriguing were the ruins at Glendalough, Wicklow. My use of the location in fiction was not the first. At least two movies shot scenes near or on the lakes. My characters tramped the same grove of trees that were used in scenes of Braveheart. I enjoyed that knowledge as I put my characters in the very spot.

I began by saying it was my appreciation for old books that helped me mold both characters and plot. If I can not have a warehouse of old books, I can at least enjoy that Matt West does. If I can not search the shelves of the Old Library Long Room for ancient books, at least…well, perhaps that is saying too much. Let me just say that there is a good deal of truth in my fiction. That’s the great thing about books. As you hold them, they often hold you. There is an old, framed cross stitch piece above my mantle. It is of an old sailing ship. Below the ship is a verse that sums up my point.

A ship is a breath of romance

That carries us miles away

And a book is a ship of fancy

That could sail on any day

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3 Comments on “Origins of The Falcon Dirk — Part Three”

  1. Wendy Klix says:

    Interestingly I also have a old cross stitch framed piece with the very same ship verse and I wondered if you happened to know of the origin of this verse? My piece only lists the initials of who I can only deduce made the cross stitch along with the initials of who it was for. Just curious if you might know!

    • Dutch says:

      Alas, Wendy, I have searched but haven’t been able to find the origin of that verse. I have seen several photos of cross stitch pieces that have all or part of it, and no two I have seen are the same depiction. Mine is quite old, though I don’t have a date. One source attributed it to a “family linen embroidery, Ireland 1840,” but it may be older still. Whatever the genesis, it is a favorite of mine–I wish I had thought it up. Thanks for commenting!


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