I know it’s going to seem a bit odd but I’m starting my blog this week by telling you what I DIDN’T do over the recent Bank Holiday weekend.
I didn’t go to the T20 tournament at Edgbaston Cricket Ground – although on the Saturday I was 100 yards away at MAC arts centre attending the inaugural meeting of the Midlands group of the Society of Authors.
And I didn’t get out the barbecue on the Sunday or Monday because it teemed with rain, long rods lashing the trees around our house like a scene from Fifty Shades.
Most importantly, I didn’t take part in a buzzing cultural festival in North Lanarkshire where writers and thinkers competed in a fast-moving battle of persuasion, wit and poetry. Which is a pity because, despite my singular lack of grey matter, lyricism or crowd manipulation skills, I do (in the most loose sense) qualify as a writer.
The email which invited me to the fair town of Bellshill to participate in this Question Time-style duel of words assured me that the mere mention of my name would generate waves of excitement.
And that’s when I began to sense there was something not quite right here, because the last time I generated any excitement is when I turned up at a workshop bearing armfuls of doughnuts…
Reading on I realised that this was a classic – and for me, all too familiar – case of mistaken identity. Organiser Jane didn’t actually want to book penniless, Birmingham-based short story writer and competition judge Iain Pattison. She wanted Ian Pattison – TV scriptwriter, novelist, and creator of that comedy icon and towering Caledonian hero Rab C Nesbitt.
It’s an easy error to make – and I frequently receive misdirected invites to wonderful showbiz soirees promising bucketfuls of champagne and mouth-watering feasts. The confusion is compounded because Ian and I are both Glaswegians, both of a similar age and both write humour – him to great acclaim and me in a way that risks prosecution under The Trades Descriptions Act. And we both achieved fame around the same time – although mine extends merely for five streets around my home.
All was well at first. As Ian had one ‘i’ less than me in his first name the mix-ups were kept to a minimum. I’d sob as my agent returned the occasional large BBC cheque that was wrongly delivered to me. And I’d ensure no ambiguity at my end by asking anyone who booked me to confirm that it was actually ME they wanted. It did lead to my one fleeting moment of sex-symbol status as the organiser said: “Yes, it’s definitely you we want. You’re the one with the piercing blue eyes.”
But then slapdash journalists (are there any other kind?) wrongly started referring to my twin as Iain (two ‘i’s) and eternal chaos and confusion was guaranteed.
Now, I want to make it clear that I hold no ill-will towards my namesake – and hope he doesn’t hate me when people approach him with dog-eared copies of Cracking The Short Story Market and demand their money back. I love Rab C Nesbitt. I’d LOVE to have created a character so vivid, warmly regarded and memorable.
However, it did set me thinking. I can’t be the only writer who shares a name with a better known and more successful double. And a quick search revealed that different authors sharing the same or very similar names is more common than you might assume. So please join with me in offering commiserations to:
Geoffrey Archer – former ITN reporter and author of nine best selling thrillers. Not to be mistaken for that other story-teller, Jeffrey Archer.
Politics Professor James Pattison with three books to his credit, in no way connected to James Patterson the world-wide book writing and selling phenomena.
Iain Rankin – a musician admittedly, but easily confused in Google searches with D.I. Rebus creator Ian Rankin.
Paul Anderson, writer of the popular Woodwork by Design series, not to be mixed up with Poul Anderson, Sci-fi and fantasy legend.
And all the many others…
It’s a heavy burden we bear, cast forever into the shadows by our more esteemed doppelgangers. It leaves us with a heart-wrenching dilemma – spend the rest of our lives accepting invites and plaudits we know aren’t meant for us or adopt a pen-name, and forever deny our birth right. Personally, I’m sticking with my own moniker. It took ages sewing the labels into my underpants and I can’t see all that effort go to waste.
Incidentally, when I pointed out her mistake to Jane of Bellshill fame she told me she’d made it because my website looked so professional.
Nice recovery! Now there’s someone who should be a writer…
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