Three decades after his first book was published in England, James Herriot's charming tales of life as a country vet in Yorkshire continue to delight readers. His nine original books have inspired television shows, children's books, and special collections. All told, his works have sold more than 60 million copies and been translated into 20 languages. As his son observes in this heartfelt, affectionate memoir, Herriot wrote with such warmth, humour, and sincerity that he was regarded as a friend by all who read him. Wight assures readers that his father was every bit the gentleman they thought him to be, a self-described run of the mill vet who remained completely modest, even during the height of his success. The author recalls one evening when he and his father were having drinks with two farming friends. Although Herriot had been to Buckingham Palace the day before, he never once mentioned his audience with the queen.
James Herriot was a pseudonym used by James Alfred Wight, who graduated from Glasgow Veterinary College in 1939 and soon began his practice in the farming town of Thirsk (better known to readers as Darrowby). He would remain there for some 50 years, immortalizing a bygone era of veterinary medicine that he described as harder, but more fun. First as a small but very proud assistant, and later as a colleague in his father's practice, Wight met many of the characters evoked so beautifully in Herriot's books. Wight describes these real-life personalities fondly, with a flair that recalls his father's remarkable storytelling abilities. Readers will delight in Wight's portrayal of the mercurial, charming, impossible Donald Sinclair, aka Siegfried Farnon, whose advice to him included such aphorisms as Paint a black picture! If you say a case is going to recover, you could be in trouble if it doesn't. As research for this memoir, Wight reread all his father's books, looking for writing tips. Instead, he found himself being drawn into the stories. I always end up in the same state the book on the floor and my head back, crying with laughter, he says. What better tribute could his father have asked for? Beth Duris works for the Nature Conservancy in Arlington, Virginia.