If you were a kid in South Australia in the 1980s, then the name Max Fatchen will mean something to you. Much like Colin Thiele, he wrote stories set in and around South Australia. His prose was easy to read and his characters were ones we could identify with. And, more importantly, he didn’t treat his readers like idiots. As I got older I discovered his columns in the Advertiser newspaper, and he has always been my favourite columnist. I have the book of columns the paper put out, as well as a book of my own favourites I cut out and kept.
Today, Max Fatchen passed away, aged 92, at his home in Gawler, north of Adelaide.
I owe Max Fatchen a lot.
You see, in 1982, I was in year 7 at primary school and we had a visit from Max Fatchen. Only a certain number of kids were invited along to meet the great man and hear him tell us a few stories. I was lucky enough to be one of the ones invited, and also I was chosen to give him a thank-you gift from the school (a cookbook, if I remember correctly).
Afterwards I got a chance to talk to him briefly and he asked me what I wanted to do when I left school. I said a doctor. He looked at me and smiled and asked what I really wanted to do. I said I really wanted to be a writer. He ruffled my hair and said that he knew I would make it. But, he went on, don’t let anyone tell me I can’t. If I want it, I’ll get it. And then he thanked me and went on his way.
I met him again a few years later, in the 1990s, at the SA Writer’s Centre at some function there. I went up to him and started to remind him who I was. He looked at me and smiled. “So you became a writer?” he asked.
“Not yet,” I said.
He shook his head and smiled. “You’re here, you’re a writer.”
A truly great man, a truly great South Australian, and the world is a lesser place for his passing.