It’s a Dog’s Life: Paul Howard on Triggs

Triggs_coverAs his new book launched, Paul Howard attended Writers’ Week in Listowel to treat audiences to a reading of Triggs: The Autobiography. Written from the perspective of Roy Keane’s infamous and much-loved pooch, this is no ordinary football biography. A highly entertaining and original look at one of football’s biggest legends, particularly during the turmoil-filled post-Saipan days, Triggs is certainly in a league of its own and set to become a bestseller.

From the outset, it was clear that Paul Howard’s reading was an event to be savoured and enjoyed. Paul kicked off (excuse the pun) with a reading from the opening of Triggs – the Autobiography. Cue Roy Keane’s dog discoursing on death’s imminence, contemplating how ‘time is as generous as a drunken uncle when we’re young’, thanks to a wrong headline in The Sun that states Triggs is dead…

Paul told a packed house, “Triggs was published yesterday and this is my first time reading any of this in public; thankfully I heard some chuckles so it means that there are some laughs!”

Original, hilarious and at times bizarre, where did this work of genius come from? In Paul’s own words, “the idea came to me in 2002 when Triggs first leapt into my consciousness, and that of others as well, during the world cup. I was in Saipan, Japan, spending a huge amount of time looking at footage of Ireland’s best player walking his Labrador down a laneway. Triggs absolutely fascinated me and during long boring nights in the hotel, I started writing conversations between Roy and his dog…I wondered what would they say…? I had this idea that Roy would come home and vent and Triggs would look at Roy with big eyes, pleading Roy, get the lead; let’s go!”

To pull this book off, to create a work that requires the reader to adopt suspension of belief as well as factual recall, is a huge feat. And the factual element is the key underlying strength of the novel.

“Central to the book is the relationship between Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy. So much of that relationship was confusing, I thought it would be best to write about it from a dog’s perspective; it seemed all macho and territorial. I thought it was probably something a dog would understand better than us.”

The success also lies in the amazingly funny characterisation of Triggs – an observant, opinionated dog with attitude – but how did that come about?

Paul revealed, “My imagined version of Triggs knew a lot about football too, so I was interested in writing Triggs as a metaphor for Roy’s genius. Triggs’ death was originally reported in September 2010, 18 months earlier than it actually happened, so I thought it would be an interesting starting point and the perfect chance for the dog to tell her own story. Of course, it’s a fictionalised dramatisation of events, with much of it based on real occurrences.”

Will there be more books?

“I don’t know if there would be anything similar…I only ever thought of Triggs as a single book. Triggs was an iconic animal. When her death was reported for real a few weeks ago, it made all the headlines. I think the reason was, that time after Saipan, the country lost perception of what had actually happened; it was all about the fighting. Triggs was an amazing player in the story; when Roy Keane was besieged by the paparazzi and he was out walking the dog, it was an act of defiance. Triggs seemed the only player that seemed like she didn’t care that Roy Keane wasn’t going to play in the World Cup. I loved the clichés footballers and sport reportage used – wouldn’t it be funny if footballers really did talk like that! But there’s definitely only this book about Triggs.”

And what does Roy Keane think about the book?

“I don’t know; it never really crossed my mind to call him and tell him I was doing it. It’s a satirical book and if you let people in on that, it’s no longer satire. I didn’t want to be in the situation where people look and say – you can’t say that. But Roy has a great self-deprecating sense of humour, dark sense of humour, which people don’t get to see enough.  I aimed at a warm, forgiving portrait of Roy.”

If you’ve read Triggs: An Autobigraphy, I’m sure you’ll agree that Paul Howard accomplished his aim. If you’ve not yet read the book, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a major football fan, the comedic writing and unusual voice makes it a compelling read.

(Please note: This was originally written for the Writers Week festival blog and also posted on Writing.ie)

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