- 18 Apr 01
The books of author PATRICK McGRATH depict insanity and psychological breakdown with a detail and accuracy that are second to none. LIAM FAY meets the mental hospital worker-turned-writer to discuss the very particular nature(s) of madness. Pic: CATHAL DAWSON.
It wilL come as no major surprise to those who have read even one of his books that Patrick McGrath grew up amid and around the confines of a high-security psychiatric institution. From the age of five, the boy who would one day become the master contemporary chronicler of psychological disintegration lived close to Broadmoor Mental Hospital, in London, where his Irish-born father was Medical Superintendent.
The McGrath family were very much part of daily life within that institution. During the 1950s and 1960s, the administrative, security and therapeutic aspects of running such a hospital were less clearly defined. So it was that, throughout his childhood, Patrick found himself, alongside his parents, his sister and two brothers, attending drama productions and sports days and regular Sunday mass inside Broadmoor.
Women who had butchered their own children were permitted to ooh and aah over little Patrick. The quiet, inoffensive men who gave him jockey-backs and played football with him were multiple murderers, sadists and psychopaths.