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My Meeting with the ‘Thin Man’ – a life-altering experience

[photos courtesy of:]
©Shers Gallagher 2012

I’ve been in love with the concept of husband/wife sleuthing since meeting William Powell at the Hollywood West Hospital, which had then been owned and operated by a friend of my father’s. And when I met the famous actor – who’d starred in The Thin Man series along with Myrna Loy – I was all of 11-years-old and had just gone through an emergency appendectomy, leaving me hospital bound and gleefully missing a week of school. Looking back, I recognise what special treatment I got from the head doctor and the small, hand-picked staff of his private hospital, which are few and far between these days. In fact, I don’t believe Hollywood West Hospital still exists. At the time of my brother and my births, it bore the name of La Brea Hospital, adjacent to LA’s infamous tar pits. I don’t know why the name was later changed, but perhaps it was a question of etiquette. I mean, who wants to associate their hospital with a tar pit? The name remains on my brother and my birth records; and, along with stating that we were born in Hollywood, its reference has been a source of interest that has included a few amusing asides. At the age of eleven, however, the hospital remained a place of wonder where one could bump into just about anyone in the halls who they might also see on the Silver Screen. I’d been too young to associate what had happened to me with the near death seriousness that I’d almost died in ops. I only remembered the special treatment, which included a handsome male nurse taking me for daily walks and meeting William Powell, a then ageing actor but still so very handsome and genteel. The charming man had imprinted such an impression on my then little soul that I later bought all his detective series on video, which I have to this day and am planning to convert to CD. There have been a few attempts to bring back ‘couple teams’ of private investigators, such as Stephanie Powers and Robert Wagner in ‘Hart to Hart’ TV series. I viewed this as a fake attempt and paltry comparison to the wit and sass, the natural elegance of Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man.

When I began writing the Felly van Vliet mystery series, I reminisced on the down-to-earth relationship of Nick and Nora Charles, which wasn’t really ordinary at all. The ‘ordinary’ appeared in its approachability, though the more refined Nora was often exacerbated  by the line of scruffy characters calling themselves Nick’s friends. Felly, of course, isn’t at all like this. She’s a young, intelligent career woman suddenly tangled up in murder knocking at her door. As happens with life, one incident can throw it off kilter and forever change its course. And, for Felly, this appeared in the flesh—when Kieran McNeela an inspector from the Irish Guard—came round to investigate and she invited him in to her houseboat for a tea and more.

Now about to publish the 3rd novel of the Felly van Vliet trilogy—from Murder On The Rocks! to Death By Chopstick to *name still to be revealed—Felly and Kieran have gone full circle with their sleuthing, completing the adventures from Holland to Ireland to China to Holland and Ireland back again. And to think it all started—the seed being planted by a little girl in hospital recovering from a then unrealised near death and meeting with the charismatic William Powell.

Aisling Books


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