On the 28th Oktober 2003 a dedicated fan, G.J. Eikmans, got the opertunity to meet Jack Higgins in person. this is his record of that encounter.
Lunch with Jack Higgins
The clock strikes four. Still night it is. All rise. At five we have to be on the road. Heading for Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. For years we have this dream of meeting the great man himself, Jack Higgins. Now the fulfilling of our dream is pretty close. A quarter after seven our plane takes off. There are four of us: my brother Victor Coenen, my sons Niels and Hjalmar Eikmans, plus myself. Our excitement shows. What if he turns out to be a nasty man? We drop that idea almost instantly. Impossible. Out of the question, we decide. So far we learned by hear saying he is lovely. From Gatwick we train to Brighton. It's almost freezing and the old train is not fit to deal with that. Windows welcome the outside temperature. This windy environment does not affect our good mood. We are getting nearer and nearer. Of course we arrive way too early. English breakfast in the Old Ship Hotel in Brighton with a view on the Channel. We eat a lot, which we blame on the early rise and our excitement. How does he look like compared to the various pictures on his books? We have all of them. What if?, is the basic issue of our conversation. Are we really going to meet him? Nothing went wrong? Can we talk with our hero? Or just shake hands and admire him from a distance?
It's almost three more hours to kill. Let's go shopping. We shop and visit some tourist traps. Nice, but our minds are set on someone else. Sheer excitement.
Again too early we're back in the hotel. My eyes catch an elegant lady. She must be one of the ladies I talked to, so I leave my chair and walk up to her. Is she? Yes, she is and even knows my name. Gert Jan I assume? Correct and again a big thank you for the invitation. Her name is Joyce and she dated Harry Patterson (his real name) many moons ago. That's how she was able to invite Jack Higgins for this special event: Women's Refuge Project Brighton and South Downs Area fundraising.
Yes, Jack Higgins knows about our efforts to come over and he seems to be delighted about it. He will arrive soon and she's there to welcome him. We take our strategic position and within minutes the BMW stops. There he is, accompanied by his charming wife Denise. He looks great. Nice outfit and everything under control. You only have one chance to make a first impression; it's excellent. Lovely character, nice and friendly, it looks from a close distance. First some photographing for the local papers and chatting with his elegant friend Joyce from the old days. Then he's leaving for a sanitary stop. Joyce comes up to our table. Harry Patterson would love to meet us before lunch and she will give us a sign soon after he's back. Total excitement flows our way: a private audience is far more then what we had hoped for. We feel like young kids on their first school trip.
There he comes. Friendly picking up a drink himself. The sign is given. We love Joyce for that from now on forever. We rise and off we march. The greatest moment has come. We shake hands indeed and he makes us feel comfortable instantly. This lovely man is well balanced, nice and in spite of all his successes and the money that comes with it, still truly flattered by a bunch of guys that specially came over from the Netherlands for him. Isn't that nice? We think so. His wife is very kind as well and we talk for almost half an hour. On top of that we get a private invitation to visit Dr. Harry Patterson in Jersey. Please do come, his wonderful wife adds to it when we leave for lunch in the great ballroom of the Old Ship Hotel. No doubt about that!
What did we discuss before lunch? Here is some of it. The alias Jack Higgins. Why this name? Well, Higgins is the maiden name of his mother. Being 50% Higgins by birth is a good reason picking this alias. Jack is the name of an uncle. The other aka’s were chosen for a more or less commercial reason. In the early days Harry Patterson had to feed a family and so he wrote quite a lot. Publishers don't like that, so in a way he was forced to publish under different names.
The two missing books in my collection I'm looking for many years are Judas Gate and Cretan Lover. Do they really exist? No, they don't. Cretan has two meanings Dr. Harry Patterson explains. The second meaning might be offensive. Therefore the publisher decided to change the title into Solo. Something similar happened to Judas Gate, which was changed into To catch a king. So I do have the whole lot and a clear explanation from the author himself.
One other thing that bombs my mind. Do I really own the one and only authors copy of Eagle has landed in which Jack Higgins wrote his changes and other instructions? I show the book and hand it over to the writer. No doubt about it. I really am that lucky. How did I get it? We'll talk about that late in Jersey. The lunch with the speech of Dr. Harry Patterson was a delight as well.
To be continued!