John DeLorean was a hustler. Brilliant and charismatic as any conman, he won massive subsidies to build a luxury sports car with gullwing doors to West Belfast. What followed remains one of the most bizarre episodes in automotive history. The fate of DeLorean’s doomed car company has been told many times before. But never like this.
In his new book, "Gull," Glenn Patterson novelizes the saga through the eyes of DeLorean’s fixer in Belfast, a traumatised Vietnam veteran, and of a woman who goes to work at the factory against her husbands wishes. It’s all a factual account of the DeLorean story, reimagined as fiction. Below is an excerpt from the two chapters. But first, a note from the author:
“I made this all up, apart from the bits you just couldn’t.”
On the morning of the day it all ended, Randall stumbled out of the elevator on the thirty-fifth floor of 280 Park Avenue to find Carole, DeLorean’s secretary, holding the outer-office fort on her own.
She came round from behind her desk as he passed at his best, jet-lagged version of a run.
‘You missed him,’ she said. ‘He left for LA forty minutes ago.’
Randall thought of the delay before take-off on the runway at Shannon, the longer than usual lines at passport control on landing in New York.
Another day he and DeLorean would have been standing here laughing at how close they came to missing each other. Instead their cars must have passed somewhere on the Van Wyck Expressway north of JFK.
‘Mr Hoffman called first thing to fix a meeting,’ Carole said, and Randall’s legs went from under him.
Already in Belfast it was mid-afternoon. Liz sat on her bed listening to the pips for the three o’clock news: one hour until the boys got home, two hours until Robert did, four hours, said the newscaster, until the deadline expired on the DeLorean Motor Company Limited. Either John DeLorean came up with £10 million by seven o’clock this evening or the factory at Dunmurry would cease to exist. Liz reached under the bed and pulled out a suitcase, dust all over the top. She set it sideways on the bed, snapped the locks (dust all over the bedspread) and began to pack. The last hanger she dragged up from her—left—side of the wardrobe had her spare overalls folded over the horizontal bar. She thought a moment then packed them too, DMC crest up. You had to have at least one thing to remind you. She pushed down the lid of the suitcase: snap, snap.
She was out of the room before she remembered she had left the radio on. She didn’t go back.
Randall leaned for support on DeLorean’s own desk, next to the bust of Lincoln. He had driven through the night to make the flight and had not closed his eyes between the first fasten-seat-belt sign and the last. He took from his inside pocket the envelope Jennings had given him before he left Belfast, dyed pink now from contact with his shirt, his sweat.
Here and there about the room, paintings taken down in the move from the forty-third floor were stacked against the walls. Only one had so far been rehung, next to the spade that forty-eight months before had broken ground in a Northern Irish field: a not-quite-life-size photo of DeLorean, kicking through the surf, holding his infant son’s hand. A caption ran along the bottom, Joni Mitchell, ‘Both Sides Now’, It’s life’s illusions I recall...
Commit all this to memory, Randall told himself: Lincoln, the photo, the ground-breaking spade, the stacks of paintings, the brass telescope in the corner, pointed at the ceiling, as though to track the distance already fallen.
He was pretty sure he would never set eyes on any of it again.
He had first set eyes on John DeLorean ten years before, at the 1972 Chicago Auto Show: the launch of the ’73 Chevrolet Vega. Randall felt an almost sentimental attachment to its predecessor, the ’72 being the car on the cover of the copy of Motor Trend that he had bought on the way to his interview at the auto pages of the Daily News (RIP). Pattie had spotted the ad. Randall until that moment had had no particular interest in cars. He did not even at that stage of his life own a car himself (a bone of contention with Pattie). But he had begun to drift a little, he knew that without Pattie having to tell him, and now there was a baby on the way and the Daily News auto pages was the first opening that presented itself, or that was presented to him, on the breakfast table, circled in red.
‘Tell them you used to write for your college paper,’ Pattie said.
‘About track, and even then I didn’t understand half of what I was saying.’
‘So? It was a paper. You wrote for it. Tell them.’ ‘Can you tell us,’ the chairman of the interview panel asked before Randall had a chance to say a single word, before he was even settled in his seat, ‘the name of the current Car of the Year?’
Randall hesitated, wondering if this was not in fact some kind of a joke, if the panel had not—don’t ask him how—watched him from the moment he stepped out of the drugstore on Wabash, all the way up here in the elevator, reading his magazine, stuffing it in the wastebasket only when he arrived in the corridor leading to the candidates’ waiting room.
‘The Chevrolet Vega?’ he said.
The chairman looked to the men sitting on either side of him. His left eyebrow curled itself into a graphic surtitle of disdain, for everyone, it seemed, bar Randall himself. ‘You would not believe,’ he said, ‘how many people coming through that door today were unable to tell us even that.’
Randall shook his head: the chairman was right, he could not believe it.
And so there he was, four months on, an Auto Show virgin in the vastness of McCormick Place, beyond Ford and Dodge, their Pintos and their Demons, looking over the shoulders of more seasoned reporters at the dais on which the ’73 Vega stood, still under wraps, while before it a comedian who had had a couple of Hot 100 novelty hits in the early sixties tried to wring every last drop of drama out of the moment. (He had already, judging by his patter, given up on the humour.)
‘Folks! Folks! I know you are all as impatient as I am to see what is under these covers, but bear with me, bear with me, I guarantee you, you will not be disappointed.’
A flashbulb ignited, perhaps prematurely, but the comedian turned on it anyway his once instantly recognisable slantways smile.
‘This is a truly special car,’ he said to that particular quarter, ‘and a truly special car deserves a truly special person to perform the unveiling. Folks, will you please join me in welcoming out here the head of General Motors’ Chevrolet Division, Mr John Z. DeLorean!’
And now the cameras flashed in good and earnest as he strode out, pale grey suit, sky blue shirt, blacker than black hair, frowning, as though burdened by the increased weight of expectation, a very tall young woman—with heels, nearly as tall as him, which was saying something on each arm.
A reporter in front of Randall took the cigarette from his mouth to bark into his friend’s ear beneath the whistles and the cheers. ‘What year would you say they were, ’53, ’54?’ The friend closed a red-rimmed eye, assessing. ‘Fifty-two at the outside.’
The young women stationed themselves on either side of the car while DeLorean raised his hands to still the audience. ‘Thank you, Bob,’ he said with a backward glance (the slantways smile turned sheepish), then facing forward once more, ‘and thank you all.’ The voice was deep, drawly, the mouth from which it emanated a little downturned towards his slab of a jaw. ‘A head of division is really only as good as the team he has around him.’ The friend of the reporter in front of Randall cupped his hands about his own mouth and earned himself a few laughs, hollering, ‘Come on, John, don’t be getting all modest on us.’
Up went DeLorean’s hands again. Up briefly went the corners of his mouth. ‘No, no, it’s true, I am blessed with a great team at Chevrolet who have all been hard at work with me the past twelve months trying to improve on the ’72 Vega. Now, some companies with a Car of the Year on their hands would be content with a tweak here and a tweak there, but at Chevrolet we don’t believe in resting on our laurels—I believe that’s the polite word for it—we keep looking to the future, and for the brand new Vega my team have come up with—wait for it—three hundred improvements, friends: three, zero, zero.’
All around Randall reporters were scribbling in notebooks, although he had not heard anything yet that could not be carried in the head.
‘But what am I talking for?’ DeLorean said, hamming it a little now. ‘Why don’t you have a look for yourselves?’ He half turned to the young women. ‘Will we show them, ladies?’
As one the two of them bent low, grasping opposite corners of the sheet covering the car, and as one they rose again and with three steps backwards laid it bare. Coupé. A blue so metallic it was practically neon, the body’s long, slow slope up from the trunk breaking like a dune at the top of the windshield, falling sharply to the hood, which curved away between raised headlights to the grille.
In style, in other words, not a whole lot different from half a dozen other cars on display elsewhere in the Convention Centre and—bar the finish and perhaps the depth of the bumper beneath the grille—to Lucas’s eyes pretty much identical to the photo on the front of the Motor Trend he had discarded on his way into the interview at the Daily News.
The reporters were writing faster, the photographers pressing closer to the dais. DeLorean was still talking.
‘Now I recognise a lot of the faces here at the front—you’ve been in this business nearly as long as I have. You boys remember what we did with the Pontiac back in the sixties. The Old Lady’s Car, isn’t that what they used to call it? Well they weren’t calling it that by the time we were through with it.’ No one ribbed him this time about that modest ‘we’, although they would have had greater cause to. Sure, there was a team there too, but he, John Z. DeLorean, more than any other person, had remade the Pontiac, and more than any other car the Pontiac had made his name. Even Lucas knew that. ‘The Vega’—DeLorean had changed register again, this was the sales pitch—‘is going to be for this decade what the Pontiac was for the last. Take my word for it.’
The audience took it: hung on it.
The young women had opened the car doors and were perched sideways on the front seats, long legs elegantly crossed.
‘So,’ said DeLorean, ‘does anyone have any questions?’
The first one came from so far to the right it was practically in Dodge territory.
‘Is it true that you’ve been promised the presidency of General Motors before your fiftieth birthday?’
‘Hey!’ DeLorean’s eyebrows rose theatrically. ‘Let a guy get used to being forty-seven before you start talking to him about fifty.’
‘But it’s only a matter of time, right?’
‘The birthday or the presidency?’ The comedian, banished now to the sidelines, could not have bettered it for timing. ‘But what about this beauty here behind me, anything you want to ask about that? Yes, at the back there.’
He pointed straight down the room, straight at Randall, who was as surprised as anybody, looking up, to find that his hand was indeed raised. He cleared his throat. ‘It’s not a question so much as an observation. I hear what you say about looking to the future, but the only thing that looks different to me from last year is the depth of the bumper.’ The reporters immediately in front had turned to look at him—to scowl—and the reporters in front of them and in front of them again. Randall faltered. ‘I mean, is that the most we can hope for from the future?’
DeLorean held his gaze, jaw set. It was a weapon, that jaw. (Randall later learned that he had had reconstructive surgery on his chin. ‘The people who say it was vanity don’t know the pain I used to be in.’) He kept it trained a moment or two longer then smiled. ‘Well, you see, it was a question after all,’ he said and when the laughter had died down turned to address the audience at large as though Randall had been a mere plant. ‘Like I said, there are three hundred improvements and if you care to come on up here I am sure these two delightful ladies would be only too happy to point them out.’
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than there was a rush towards the dais. Randall, still smarting from the put-down, took advantage of it to lose himself in the Auto Show crowd, or that at least was the idea.
‘Hey! Hold on there!’
He looked over his shoulder to see GM’s president-in- waiting striding towards him. The stride was something else he had in his armoury. The stride and the height—six four or more to look at him, closing fast—that powered it.
‘What’s your name?’ ‘Randall. Edmund Randall.’ ‘What do your friends call you, Ed? Eddie?’ ‘Pretty much everyone calls me Randall.’ DeLorean nodded (hair could not grow that black) as
though it were a marketing matter they were discussing. ‘I prefer Edmund,’ he said and before Randall could respond had offered his hand. ‘John DeLorean.’ Randall’s hand in comparison was like a child’s. ‘You’re new to this, aren’t you, Edmund?’
‘Well, if you mean what I said back there, I didn’t mean to offend, but I thought it was my job to ask questions.’
DeLorean rocked back on his heels as though amused at his innocence then snapped forward again, bending at the waist and speaking out the corner of his mouth. ‘Your job is to print the lines the manufacturers spin you in return for getting your cock sucked.’
Randall pulled his head back out of range. ‘What makes you think I want my cock sucked?’
(A woman passing too close put her hands over her grade- school son’s ears.)
‘I never met a man yet in this industry who didn’t.’ DeLorean drew himself up to his full six-foot-four-or-more and glanced back at the Vega stand. The reporters on the dais were paying as much attention to the very tall young women as they were to the car. His eyes slid round on to Randall again. ‘Actually, there is a party later, ought to be a blast.’
‘Thanks, but I have a review to write.’
The weapon of a jaw shifted to one side then the other. Another nod. ‘I should probably be getting along myself. I’m expected back in Detroit for dinner.’
This time it was Randall who called after him. ‘What about the party?’
DeLorean barely broke stride to answer. ‘Oh, I only like organising them.’ He waved above his head, his voice already three strides fainter. ‘Be kind!’
‘I’ll be honest,’ Randall shouted, though whether it reached its intended target is anyone’s guess. Still, plenty of other people heard him, and after that, well, what else could he be?
‘What is this crap?’ the auto pages editor asked, handing him back his copy. ‘Three hundred improvements and all you can talk about is the bumper?’
Two days later a memo landed on his desk informing him of his transfer, a week Monday, from autos to real estate.
‘At least I am staying in the building,’ he told Pattie.
‘John DeLorean.’ ‘This is a surprise.’
‘For now you are,’ she said.
They were both beginning to realise that they had maybe married in too much haste. The marriage counsellor they had started seeing dwelt a lot on the timing of their meeting, a mere month after Randall’s return from his tour of duty. She had seen it before, she said, with vets. Despite all that they had been through over there they missed the heightened emotions... ‘They used those exact words?’ Randall asked. ‘“Heightened emotions”?’ Maybe not those exact words, but the point was they would do anything, some of them, to make the colour flare again, even for a single (wedding) day.
‘Talk about being wise after the event,’ said Pattie. ‘And what was your excuse?’ he asked her. ‘Don’t,’ she said. ‘Just don’t.’ So when a few years later the phone rang on his desk early on the second Wednesday in June—the middle day of the middle month of the middle year of the decade—Randall was a recently divorced father of a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Tamsin, who he had to go through a lawyer to see.
He picked up the receiver on the third ring. ‘Apartments and Condos?’
‘Edmund?’ said the voice. ‘So this is where they have you hidden away.’
‘Who is this?’ he asked, though he already knew the answer: no one had a voice quite like that, and no one, other than his mother, called him Edmund.
‘Is it? I was thinking we might have lunch.’ ‘You’re in Chicago?’ ‘Detroit. If you leave in the next forty-five minutes you can make the eleven-thirty flight. There’ll be a ticket in your name at the desk. Tell your editor you are comparing prices in Kenilworth and Bloomfield Hills.’
Randall pushed his chair back from the desk. The motion only added to his feeling of light-headedness. ‘Sure,’ he said. ‘Where will I meet you?’
He spent thirty of the forty-five minutes before he left in the microfilm library, figuring that whatever John DeLorean had been doing in the years since he had last seen him it was unlikely to have gone unreported.
He did not have far to look: 1 April 1973, resigned from General Motors, walking away from a $600,000 salary as well as that promised presidency, becoming instead president of the National Alliance of Businessmen in Washington with a pledge to increase the number of young black kids in America’s largest corporations (‘I started on the same side of the tracks as them’); same month married for the third time, to Cristina Ferrare, a model whom he had fallen for after seeing her photograph in Vogue. (The story got cuter: he had torn out the photo spread and carried it in his wallet until he met her in person at a Gucci show where she was modelling the fall range.) Both articles reported his dream of setting up his own motor company. ‘One day,’ they were quick to add. ‘One day.’
Last thing Randall did before walking to the departure gate was buy a tie, tweed-knit: he was going for lunch with John DeLorean.
There was, besides the ticket at the desk, a man waiting for him at the other side—from that day on there would always be a man waiting for him at the other side—who led him, this first man of many, to a car that drove him the thirty or so miles to Bloomfield Hills. They passed the Country Club, they passed any number of likely and inviting-looking restaurants and hotels. (Randall, for all that he was nervous, was beginning to feel very hungry too.) They stopped finally before a concrete and steel triple-decker of an office building, the name Thomas Kimmerly, Attorney at Law, prominently displayed on the lawn sloping down to the road.
‘Is this it?’
The driver, who had not spoken more than half a dozen words in the forty air-conditioned minutes he and Randall had spent confined to the car together, nodded. ‘This is where I was told: 100 West Long Lake Road.’
For a fleeting instant Randall imagined some retrospective action for his temerity at the Auto Show.
The driver turned in his seat. ‘I have somewhere else I am supposed to be.’
He let himself out into midday, mid-year—who knows: mid-decade, maybe—Midwest heat and walked up the winding path to the door where he hesitated again, checked back... but the car was already gone.
The receptionist had been monitoring his stop-start progress. She had one hand on the phone as he entered. ‘I was hoping you could tell me where to find...’ Randall began, but got no further. ‘Hey, you made it!’ DeLorean was leaning over the first-floor stair rail, gone greyer than seemed mathematically or biologically possible, and looking somehow younger for it, dressed in a denim shirt and jeans, finished off with a pair of tooled silver-on-black cowboy boots. The receptionist took her hand from the phone. Randall put his hand to the knot of his tie. ‘Come on up!’
By the time Randall had reached the top of the stairs DeLorean was already halfway along the landing and was holding open a door—Suite 206—for Randall, when he had caught up, to pass through. The only thing about him that did not always seem to be in a hurry was his voice.
‘Tom is letting me have the use of a couple of hundred square feet here until we have the prototype ready to show investors.’
Inside, Suite 206 was part office, part workshop, with drawing boards and flipcharts between the desks and file cabinets and a full exhaust up on one table as though for dissection.
So it was true. ‘You’re really doing it? You’re making your own cars?’ ‘GM and their cronies at Chrysler and Ford will probably do everything they can to stop me, like they stopped Preston Tucker, but, yes, I am, even if I have to go somewhere else to do it.’
He strode through the room, indicating as he passed it a large platter of fruit—‘This is lunch, by the way, help yourself’—stopping finally before a table, just along from the exhaust, on which stood a model—balsa wood, Randall wanted to say—maybe twelve inches long. He picked it up with the fingertips of both hands.
‘And this is what they are all afraid of. This will change everything. We’re calling it the DSV—DeLorean Safety Vehicle, the world’s first ethical car. Forget the minimum requirements, this car will have, as standard, features no other company has even thought of before, or if they thought of them it was only to say they were too expensive: airbags for a start, on both sides, side impact strips, copper facings on the brake discs for fade resistance, rustproof stainless steel, and an integral monocoque structure — that means the chassis and the body are a single unit — spreads the stress in the event of a collision...’ (‘Integral monocoque structure,’ Randall repeated to himself: there could be a test after this for all he knew.) ‘It’ll be light too: two thousand pounds. We’re using a brand new process, ERM, stands for Elastic Reservoir Moulding.’ (Randall’s brain had reached the limit of its own elasticity.) ‘I’ve bought exclusive rights in it... Here.’
He held out the model to Randall whose first instinct was to fold his hands behind his back.
‘I have to warn you, I come from a long line of klutzes.’ ‘Take it.’ And how could he refuse a second time? The lines were sleeker than the Safety Vehicle name suggested, sportier. He was conscious as he turned it about of DeLorean’s eyes on him.
‘It’s... It’s... Wow,’ he said, a different kind of ineptitude.
DeLorean nodded nevertheless, accepting the compliment on the model car’s behalf. ‘How much do you think a car like that ought to cost?’
There was no getting a question like that right, not that DeLorean was inclined to wait for an answer. ‘Twenty, twenty-five thousand, would you say?’
‘About that.’ DeLorean smiled. ‘Try twelve.’ ‘Twelve thousand dollars?’ Randall didn’t have to feign
the astonishment. ‘Within reach of two-thirds of American households.
Cheap to run too.’ ‘The People’s Sports Car,’ Randall said and thought as
he did that he caught out the corner of his eye a decisive movement in that formidable jaw.
‘It stayed with me,’ DeLorean said, measuring the words, ‘what you said in McCormick Place about wanting more from the future... Oh, don’t get me wrong’—the thought had barely had the opportunity to form in Randall’s head—‘I had been contemplating something like this for a while, a long, long while. The thing is, I am putting together a team here. I want you to join it.’
The model slipped in Randall’s hand. He righted it at the second attempt. ‘You know I have no experience in this business? I didn’t last six months on the auto pages.’
‘You have something better than experience: you have a nose for bullshit. That ’73 Vega? You were absolutely right, the only new thing about it was the bumper. It’s a year on year racket to part people from their money.’
‘I spent twelve months running supplies in the An Hoa Basin,’ Randall said, out of embarrassment as much as any- thing. He almost never spoke about that time to anyone who hadn’t been there. ‘If you didn’t have a bullshit detector before you went there you sure as hell had one by the time you left.’
DeLorean seemed to assess him differently. ‘Don’t tell me, the further up the chain of command you went the worse the smell got?’ It sounded like another potential trap of a question, but no. ‘I did a couple of years myself: ’43 to ’45,’ DeLorean said. ‘Never made it out of the US. I kept telling them ways they could improve their basic training, they kept sending me back to take it again. They hate it when they can’t make you exactly the same as them. I guess that’s why we’re both here.’
Randall looked at the model again, not knowing where else at that moment to look. Suddenly he frowned. ‘I hope you don’t mind me saying, but there is one slight problem with this.’ He gave it back: ‘No doors.’
DeLorean’s own frown lifted. He ran a finger along the model’s undercarriage, pressed something... pressed again, a little more firmly. A portion of each side of the car rose up slowly, coming to rest finally in perfect symmetry, like the wings of a bird riding a current.
‘There are your doors,’ DeLorean said.
That was it for Randall; that was the moment the flame was lit. It flickered at times; it was all he could do at others to protect it, such were the winds whipped up, not least by DeLorean himself, but it never, ever, until the very end, went out.
On his way back from the airport he had the cab swing by Pattie’s place, her parents’ place once upon a time. He had shaken her father’s hand on this porch: sealing the deal, the old man said. A week later he was dead. Brain haemorrhage. A week after that Pattie and Randall were married. He wasn’t the only one who had issues then, or now.
She opened the door to him, a smile on her face from whatever she had been doing in the moments before he knocked, which withered on the instant.
‘You’re supposed to give me forty-eight hours’ notice,’ she said from behind the screen door.
The TV was on. He could see over her shoulder the back of Tamsin’s head, dark against the scalding oranges and yellows and pinks of her cartoons. Pattie shifted her weight, from left foot to right, closing off the view. That’s what they had come to.
‘I’m thinking of moving to Detroit,’ Randall said. Pattie’s eye narrowed. ‘With work, I mean.’
She shrugged away any suggestion that it mattered to her what he was going for. ‘Well that ought to make things easier for everyone.’
Randall made the same left-right switch in his weight, gaining momentary advantage. Cartoons, Tamsin’s head. ‘Do you think since I’m here...?’
‘I don’t think that would be a good idea,’ Pattie said.
Word got around pretty quickly that the editor had told him not even to bother working his notice, but to collect his things and go: the last thing this paper needed was someone working there whose heart wasn’t in it.
Randall was clearing his desk when Anderson from the business pages wandered over and leaned his not inconsiderable bulk against the partition between Randall’s desk and Hal Lewis’s, though Hal had, in the time it had taken Anderson to get from one side of the room to the other, made himself scarce. There was another man with him, soberest of sober suits, hair going white at the temples. Anderson did not introduce him but instead lit himself a cigarette and stood for a moment watching, smoking.
‘So,’ he said at last, ‘you’re going to work for John Z.’
‘That is correct.’ Randall pulled open a drawer. Paperclips and thumbtacks. He pushed it shut with his thigh.
‘Going to make your fortune.’ ‘All we talked about was making cars.’ ‘Cars, of course.’ Anderson let that sit a moment then jerked his thumb. ‘This is Dan Stevens. Dan started in Chrysler when Walter Chrysler himself was still running the show, 1935. He knows the industry better than any man alive.’
Dan Stevens inspected his fingernails during this brief encomium. He looked up now, blinking against the smoke of Anderson’s cigarette. ‘I suppose Mr DeLorean was telling you that Bank of America has already pledged eighteen million dollars.’
‘It came up in the conversation,’ Randall said, ‘yes.’
To be precise it had come up as they walked downstairs to the lobby at the end of lunch (an apple, a banana and three lychees), Randall’s mind already made up.
‘And Johnny Carson, I’m sure... half a million?’
‘That came up too.’ And Sammy Davis Junior, Randall did not say, and Ira Levin, and Roy Clark. Hee Haw!
Anderson smiled, practically licked his lips. ‘And did it also come up that John Z was arrested back when he was at college for selling stuff that wasn’t his to sell?’
Randall couldn’t help it, he froze.
‘Advertising space for the Detroit Yellow Pages. An old scam. Lucky not to do time for it.’
Dan Stevens frowned. His entire demeanour suggested that unlike Anderson he took no pleasure in communicating any of this. ‘The way I hear it his departure from GM wasn’t quite how he has been describing it. The board had his letter of resignation ready and waiting for him to sign when he went in looking for a showdown.’
Anderson took another draw then crushed his cigarette in the ashtray Randall had just that moment emptied. ‘The man is a liability. He loves the limelight too much. Nobody in the industry will touch him any more.’
Randall stared at the last of the smoke drifting up from the butt then he tipped it into the wastebasket and shoved basket and ashtray both into Anderson’s arms.
‘Bullshit,’ he said, and with a nod to the other man as he headed for the door, ‘A pleasure meeting you, Mr Stevens.’
That was the summer that Liz and Robert bought the orange Morris Marina. Only four years old and less than seventy thousand miles on the clock. They took it a day here and a day there over the July fortnight: Ballywalter, Castlerock, Whitepark Bay, the Ulster American Folk Park, which was as close, Liz had thought, walking around its reconstructed settlers’ cabins, as they were ever likely to get to the real thing. They had talked about a package holiday on the continent—Torremolinos, Benidorm—had gone as far as making an appointment with Joe Walsh Tours in Castle Street the first weekend after Easter, but even at their rates, what with the new car and everything... No, it was just too much of a stretch. Maybe next year, they said, just as they had the year before. Instead, the next year Liz buried her brother, Pete, and felt guilty enough those first few months just breathing in and out, never mind lying sunning herself somewhere on the Costa Brava.
Anyway, a day here, a day there... Meant you weren’t tied, didn’t it?
Glenn Patterson was born and lives in Belfast. He is the author of nine previous novels and three works of non-fiction. He also co-wrote the screenplay of the film Good Vibrations, based on the Belfast music scene of the 1970s.