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Vanessa Gebbie is Gozzi the Gunsmith

The Day of the Jackal

Writer Vanessa Gebbie spent much of her childhood in Wales, and can still sing hymns and swear in Welsh. Her debut novel The Coward’s Tale tells of an unlikely, but moving friendship between a young boy and a beggar-storyteller, whose tales recount the interlinked histories of the inhabitants of a small mining community before and after a tragic mining accident. EITHNE FARRY

Please can you wave your wand and turn me into Gozzi the Gunsmith in the original and never-to-be-surpassed 1973 film The Day of the Jackal (based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth) as played by the late great Cyril Cusack? Thank you.

I now have a chilling detachment, which will be interpreted by the majority as mildness, in the assumption that I, a somewhat benign-looking character, must be quite harmless. I will speak quietly, and cultivate mannerisms that betray this detachment in a calculated masking of my true character, fuelled by a constant quest for perfection, and unfettered by the weight of anyone’s moral code but my own. And my moral code is indeed unique.

Thank you for resurrecting my extraordinary creative powers, my ability to craft something complex but utterly perfect, following no templates. I can of course think laterally – a useful skill indeed – and I trust nobody. I might therefore borrow something from the original work by Mr Forsyth, if you are in agreement, and leave incriminating evidence with my lawyer following any suspicious interactions – I will of course ensure anyone who double-crosses me regrets it for a very long time. Oh yes. But I will do it so nicely, possibly wearing a black armband in your memory…

I shall speak a little like a medical specialist faced with a complex problem, seeking the correct diagnosis. I require precise information, so I will ask questions viz: ‘Over what range will you fire?’ ‘Will you go for a chest or head shot?’ and most indicative of all of my own lack of class, ‘Will the gentleman be moving?’

I shall be on screen for not many minutes. After which you may not like me, but you will respect me for my utter professionalism. Come to think of it, you may well know me better than I know myself.

The Coward’s Tale is published by Bloomsbury.

Vanessa Gebbie

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