Wednesday, 2 December 2015

FACE VALUE: Northern Crime Short Story Winner/FRANK'S WILD YEARS: New Edition/TED LEWIS: Update

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Northern-Crime-One-stories-northern-ebook/dp/B018MZY7H6/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=00B3KZBP208NF77JVH8Z


"From rural noir to urban terror, high concept drama to blunt force trauma, Moth Publishing presents its first collection of prize-winning short stories."
 
2015 is about to end with a result. My story Face Value is a winner in the inaugural Northern Crime Short Story Competition. With the winners' anthology released on Monday 7 December in paperback and E-book, it's a great way to sign off after a hard-working but not always the most productive of writing years. I'm especially pleased Face Value made the grade.
 
This week also sees the publication of a new edition of Frank's Wild Years. I'm grateful to publisher, Caffeine Nights, for the opportunity to put right a few of the things which have bugged me since it was originally let loose on the world, and for continuing to show faith in the book. The altogether sharper Frank's Wild Years will be available online, in bookshops and at WH Smiths travel stores from 3 December.
 
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Franks-Wild-Years-Nick-Triplow/dp/1907565140
 
 
This year I made a conscious decision to focus on finishing my longstanding and well-overdue book about Ted Lewis. Fiction writing, blogging and a lot more besides have gone by the wayside, but it's ready for that plunge into finding an agent who fancies it, and a publisher willing to back a book which tells the story of one of the most influential British crime authors of the 20th century. The research has taken me to some brilliant, sad, funny, enlightening and strange places, the writing process to some even stranger ones. Watch this space.
 
 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

James Varda: Chance And Time - One Year On


On his ABC (Australia) radio show The Inside Sleeve last week, Paul Gough introduced a couple of tracks from Chance And Time, the last album from James Varda who died in June this year. He introduced the section with a few words about how he came to know Varda's music in the late 80s through the John Leckie-produced LP, Hunger. He spoke about the strength of the songwriting and how the record had stayed with him over the years. He played Beside The Sea, the haunting penultimate track on Chance And Time, and Only Love, which, in a sense is the centrepiece, closing the Chance section of the album. For me -  and I've listened to the album many times - there was something different about hearing the songs on a radio programme broadcast from thousands of miles away. It lacked the static and hiss of an old time analogue radio show, but felt no less distant.
 
It's a year since Chance And Time was released and nearly five months since James died. He would, I'm sure, have been pleased to know his songs were being played and that there were people listening to his music. These songs are too beautiful and moving not to find a place in the world. A year on they have lost none of their life-affirming power. Varda's achievement in creating a lexicon for cancer in line with his own experience, and one that refuses to resort to cliché, is inspiring in itself. But listening now, what comes across is just how much this is an album about life and love of life. The writing is honest and true; the playing and performances exquisite. The sentiment seems only to deepen as it becomes weathered by time. I'm sure I won't be alone among those who knew him and think about him not just today, but every day, to raise a glass tonight. Chance And Time is a great record. Pass it on.
 
 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

JAMES VARDA



JAMES VARDA: PRESS RELEASE

Small Things Records are sad to announce the death of James Varda, one of the most distinctive singer songwriters of his generation, at his home in Sheringham, Norfolk on 12 June, 2015.

James had lived and worked with a rare form of cancer for some time. He had known this day would come and until a few weeks ago was reading and listening to music, as always inspired and inspiring in equal measure. On 2014’s astonishing album, Chance And Time,  James turned his songwriting talent to chronicling the experience of confronting illness and death, and in doing so, created a unique language and music of love and pain, family, landscape and loss. It is undoubtedly his best work.

 
James was the rarest of musicians, always and only making records on his own terms. His 1988 debut, Hunger, marked him out as the original indie acoustic outsider. His gigs in those days were an electric experience and led to invitations to appear on Channel 4’s Night Network, appearances at the Reading and Cambridge Folk Festivals, and a support slot on tour with Roy Harper.

His later work, the stripped down acoustic In The Valley (2004); and The River And The Stars (2013) showed a writer at peace with the landscape, and with an instinctive feel for nature. With his gifts as writer and guitar player to the fore, he aimed for perfection and, on Chance And Time (2014), he knew he had made a record which could not be bettered.


And let my place be a sound, the colour of a church
With windows lit in deep blue light, flooding sky and earth
And let my place be a rhythm, supple and assured
On which a melody can build and rise and words can find their worth
Let my place be a chord, that echoes through the years
Let my place be an affirmation, a handshake, a ‘Yes!’


                                      Let My PlaceJames Varda 2014

There will be fuller tributes in due course and, if there’s any justice, his work will find long-overdue wider recognition in the weeks, months and years to come. But for the moment our thoughts are with James’s wife and sons, family and friends. We will all miss him terribly.


 

Monday, 3 November 2014

New Music: James Varda - Chance And Time


If last year’s The River And The Stars was the sound of James Varda’s artistic reawakening, the new album Chance And Time (2014) - released today on Small Things Records - finds him playing with the grace and flavour of an English Elliot Smith. On every level, this is an extraordinary piece of work.
Varda has said that things have ‘fallen into place’ on this album. Always a great guitar player, he's on virtuoso form. Every careful arpeggio and minimal lick gives the song what it needs and no more. To paraphrase Townes Van Zandt, Varda has always had to ‘sing for the sake of the song’. Bringing together many of the musicians who played on The River And The Stars, there’s a powerful sense of a band coming together who buy into that ethos. Special mention to Johanna Herron whose vocals melt perfectly into Varda’s on Our Love Will Never End, Fliss Jones whose piano on Beside The Sea is a piece of understated brilliance, and Nick Harper who makes an appearance with some great playing on One Thing After Another.
Chance And Time carries a sense of things that need saying: from the sweet melodies and rare moments of May This Moment Ever Glow and Let My Place, to the cold reality of The Doctor Spoke and Only Love, Varda creates series of exquisite and unique soundscapes. Pass It On delivers a love song to England, to love, to life and everything that is precious – the natural landscapes of East Anglia and the coast, and the music that sustains him. Varda spins a universal truth from the intensely personal and there are moments on this record that come back to you long after the last note’s echo.


Writing and recording entirely on his own terms with little, if any, recognition from the mainstream music media – it was something of a minor victory for Mark Radcliffe to play Our Love Will Never End on the Radio 2 Folk Show a few weeks back – Varda remains the acoustic outsider with indie sensibility.
 
Chance And Time is an astonishing album. As a chronicler of life, landscape, love and pain, Varda is unmatched among British songwriters. His writing has never been more precise or delivered a more telling emotional punch; as always taking on the broadest of influences – New York new wave to Dylan and Philip Glass, the poetry of Jane Kenyon, the photography of Robert Adams, and dozens more besides. He’s always made very good, thoughtful records with well-crafted lyrics and great guitar. But here’s the skinny: 26 years on from the John Leckie-produced Hunger, the lyrics, melodies and musicianship on Chance And Time are as good as you'll hear. James Varda plays, writes and sings better than ever and, in doing so, has produced the most powerful work of his career.

This is a kosher, solid gold, five-star record.


Chance And Time is available from: http://www.jamesvarda.com/Shop or via amazon and other outlets.
For more info, news and updates, follow @JamesVardaMusic on twitter or the James Varda facebook page.
 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Ted Lewis at the BBC Written Archive

BBC Written Archives Centre - 'bigger on the inside'

You feel the BBC Written Archives Centre ought to have some kind of grand entrance, an archway in the shape of a 1940s wireless, something deco to welcome the visitor with hushed reverence. Then again, a bungalow just off the B481 near Reading is as good as anywhere. What matters are the treasures within. Somewhat ironically, it’s bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside.
Researching and writing a book about Ted Lewis, I’ve long realised there is no complete record of anything, anywhere. It is a process of assembling fragments; holding onto clues and pursuing leads. Verification and connection. A file in the BBC archive is as close as I’ve come to documenting a thread of Lewis’s life in a single place – dates, times, official letters on flimsy corporate memo paper.
And that's the wonder of such a comprehensive archive; as a writer/researcher there is nothing that quite compares to primary source material and new discovery. And this during a period in Lewis’s life where I think his writing for television equalled, if not exceeded, his fiction output for quality and relevance. What I find in the archive certainly wears its badge of truth in some striking ways.
Add to the experience the interest and support from staff who go above and beyond to help – for which many thanks – to locate documents, files and microfilms of scripts. The archivists and researchers are genuinely interested – shortly after a conversation explaining which programmes I was researching and who Ted Lewis was, I hear Roy Budd's Get Carter theme from a distant computer speaker.
The work continues.
 


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Jack Carter novels by Ted Lewis - Reissued by Syndicate Books



It's been a long time coming, but Syndicate Books is about to re-publish the three Ted Lewis novels featuring Jack Carter. The first, originally published as Jack's Return Home in 1970, was later re-titled Carter, then Get Carter, in the wake of the 1971 film, adapted from Lewis's novel and directed by Mike Hodges. Notably, the film substituted Newcastle for Scunthorpe, Lewis's unnamed 'frontier town'.
 
With Carter dead at the end of the movie, Lewis returned to his main character in 1974 and 1977 for the prequels Jack Carter's Law (retitled Jack Carter and the Law in the USA) and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon.
 
 
Syndicate has created a must-have package with great design and excellent layout. I was pleased to contribute a biographical afterword for Mafia Pigeon - the novel which, in essence, brings the story to the point at which Get Carter begins. Lewis's style - his prose is unremittingly bleak and brutal - has influenced generations of crime authors, many of whom, most notably David Peace, have lined up to offer their appreciation in book jacket comments. Mike Hodges has written a new foreword for the novel that launched his feature film career.
 
 
 
The books are gaining momentum with some great coverage, the most recent - a piece written by David L Ulin in the LA Times - marks Get Carter as the point at which contemporary 'British noir begins'. It's hard to argue otherwise. Ulin maintains that Get Carter 'sums up the hard boiled ethos' as well as anything he's ever read. What is certain is that, after Get Carter, the British crime novel darkened; TV crime became tougher and, for  Lewis, nothing would ever be the same again. 
 
 

 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Water's Edge on an August Morning

Waking early this morning, I walked the route I used to take with the dogs. 
 
 


The river and the Water's Edge lakes were still, the sun just breaking through a bank of cloud.
 
 
 
Sometimes, we need time to think, an uncluttered space to resolve the things that woke us early in the first place.
 
Or to think of nothing at all, just let the film play.