Luck and being lucky

My most recently published book is ‘Lucky Portbraddon’; as you might guess Lucky Portbraddon is the name of a character, however, he doesn’t actually appear in the novel except as a portrait hanging in the family home up on the moors. As old Mrs Portbraddon explains to the new girlfriend of one of her grandsons: “Lucky Portbraddon… a rather rascally ancestor of my late husband, or so family legend has it, was a favourite friend of the Prince Regent, apparently, but Lucky made, not lost, his fortune…

The family does in fact seem ‘lucky’ – as they get together for Christmas they reflect that each is more or less successful in his career, and they all have happy marriages with kindly wives and lovely children.

This is the rest of the ‘blurb’:

A few days before Christmas, as the Portbraddon family gathers at their grandmother’s big house up on the moors, the last of the cousins drives through a blizzard to join them.
…There was a severed dog’s head stuck on the gatepost. There’d been a few seconds pause in the driving snow and in those few seconds, lit by their headlights, she glimpsed the wolf-like creature, maw gaping, tongue lolling, teeth bared in one final gory snarl. Then the blizzard obliterated the stone beast and everything else in a seething maelstrom…
A near-death experience does not seem an auspicious start to their family get together, but the cousins determine to celebrate as they always do.
However as the old year ends and the new begins it seems their good fortune is about to run out. An unexpected death, a descent into madness, betrayal… and as the year progresses other things befall them, a stalker, attempted murder, a patently dodgy scheme for selling holiday homes in a dangerous part of the Caucasus… Maybe the Portbraddons are not so lucky… except there is also love, a new home, reconciliation, a spiritual journey, music.. .
One thing remains true, whatever difficulties arise between them, whatever happens, family is family, family first… “They’re like a big bunch of musketeers, all for one and one for all!”

man_18_2 (2)

So the idea of luck and being lucky has been on my mind since I have been so immersed in writing the book and the story of this family. A couple of days ago there was an interesting interview on a radio programme called ‘Thinking Aloud’ with  Laurie Taylor; he was talking to Robert H. Frank, Professor of Economics at Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management, in a feature called ‘Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy’. They talked about the role luck in life’s successes and failures. Professor Frank argued that chance is much more significant than people give it credit for. Lynsey Hanley, a writer and the Visiting Fellow at the Research Centre for Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University also joined the discussion, and if you are able, try to listen to the podcast:

It was a very intellectual argument put quite clearly in this programme, and I’m interesting in getting the Professor’s book. He was discussing whether some people are ‘lucky’, or whether success is attributed to hard work, perseverance etc. If I understand it, he was saying that few really ‘lucky’ i.e. successful people, have achieved their eminence without really hard work, but there is an element of chance which allows one hard-working person to succeed more than an other equally hard-working person. He interviewed many successful people, and if he asked them if their attainment was due to luck, they mostly said no quite strongly and said it was because they worked hard. However, if he went through their different steps to success, then they might admit that a lucky chance had sent the to a certain school, succeeded at a particular interview, met the right person at the right time, and so looking back in that way, then yes, they were lucky.

As the golfer Gary Player said: ‘People ask if I’m lucky, well, yes I am, but do you know what is very strange, the harder I practice, the luckier I get!

Here is a link to ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ and you can read about the changing fortunes of the Portbraddons:

Here is a link to Professor Frank:

… and his book:


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