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Showing posts from 2013


A year of books with research, re-reading, new fiction and nonfiction finding its way into this mixed up, muddled up selection. One way or another, these are the books that made a mark for me in 2013. Spring
RUSS LITTEN – Swear Down; ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE – The Hound of the Baskervilles (Pulp! The Classics edition); TED LEWIS – Jack’s Return Home, Plender, Billy Rags; JOHN McVICAR – By Himself.

In Swear Down, Russ Litten’s heartfelt and thoughtful take on the crime story there’s a murder – at least one –an ambitious cop, unsympathetic bosses and an investigation. Litten created and subverted the classic odd-couple partnership in a single sweeping journey. In May, I reviewed the novel for LITRO Magazine and the close reading revealed layers of storytelling and character that placed Swear Down up there with the best of British fiction. The new collection of classic novels in pulp fiction covers, old style orange-edged paper and tongue in cheek blurb are a great addition for Sherlock Holmes c…

"You knew what I'd do, Albert."

By way of an update and a final reminder of this Wednesday's show for the Humber Mouth Festival: the evening with Mike Hodges includes a screening of the film Get Carter, followed by Mike in conversation with yours truly. After which we'll open up the Q&A to the audience.
Mike Hodges is best known as a filmmaker (Get Carter, Pulp, The Terminal Man, and more recently, Black Rainbow, Croupier, and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead). He has written and directed for BBC Radio (Shooting Stars and Other Heavenly Pursuits, King Trash) and the theatre (Soft Shoe Shuffle).  His first novel, Watching The Wheels Come Off, was published in 2010. [the book was reviewed along with an interview with Mike on Electric Lullaby back in 2011]. He’s recently contributed a short story to Venice Noir.  The theme of all these works is a bleak and blackly humorous take on the world as he sees it.  His lighter contributions to the cinema include Flash Gordon, a classic Sunday afternoon 'disco sci-fi'…

Reading Event/New Fiction - 'Freeman Street'

“… like me dad used to say, when the absent friends outscore those who’ve turned up, it’s time to call it a day.”
Freeman Street is a new short story (at least I think it's a short story) commissioned for this year's Great Grimsby Literature Festival.
Although its foundation is partly in research carried out for the social history book The Women They Left Behind in 2008/9, Freeman Street tells the entirely fictional story of Julie, once the wife of a fisherman, who finds herself on a pilgrimage to Grimsby after thirty years away. As the trip unfolds and once familiar streets roll by, Julie is increasingly haunted by an episode from her past.
I’ll be reading Freeman Street for the first time at Grimsby Minster on Friday 25 October as part of Local Life, a lunchtime (12.00-1.00pm) reading session for adults, alongside other new pieces of work commissioned for the festival.

HUMBER MOUTH 2013 In Conversation with Mike Hodges/Get Carter Screening

In the Observer review of Get Carter, written on the film's release in March 1971, you get the feeling the reviewer is in something of a quandary. He dubs it his 'commercial film of the week', but seems to feel a little ... dirty about it. He writes of the film's dubious morality and, whilst finding it impossible not to identify with Michael Caine's anti-hero, Jack Carter, 'a very unpleasant thug who goes up to Newcastle to find out who murdered his straight brother...' he is less easy with the way he 'kills or screws anything that moves'. In a week where the other main commercial release was Love Story,  the reviewer finally admits his 'shameless enjoyment', concluding that Get Carter is like 'a bottle of neat gin swallowed before breakfast. It's intoxicating all right, but it'll do you no good'. All of which is a roundabout way of announcing I'll be in conversation with Get Carter director, Mike Hodges for this year'…

Great Grimsby Poetry Relay - Reader 51

There was something rewarding being Reader 51 for half an hour or so this morning for the Great Grimsby Literature Festival and National Poetry Day poetry relay. Leaving the laptop for the morning and taking a walk to the bridge, I found the east walkway closed, so schlepped under to the western path. The further onto the bridge, the more pronounced the thunders and rumbles of articulated lorries. They feel close, really close.

The noise, the movement, the vibration, the grey-brown river churning up sandbanks - it's a long way down. In place, just beyond the Barton side pier - some 500 metres from the shore - in time for the 11:44 reading. I said the words. A brief extract from Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sail'd softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze -
On me alone it blew.
O dream of joy! is this indeed
The lighthouse top I see?
Is this the hill? Is this the kirk?
Is this mine own countree?

It's not surprising that river…

HEADS UP FESTIVAL: So You Want to be a Crime Writer?

What struck me about the four writers of crime fiction who came together yesterday afternoon under the banner So You Want to be a Crime Writer? was the degree of consensus that emerged as to what it takes to write a crime novel that engages readers and keeps them reading.
In the appropriately surreal setting of The Other Space – the live performance area for Ensemble 52’s innovative theatre piece City Sketches – David Mark, Nick Quantrill, Luca Veste and I undertook our own investigation into the writing process. Each of us read an extract from, and discussed aspects of a book (just the one, mind) that has influenced our writing.
David Mark, author of Dark Winter and Original Skin. Inspired by Jim Crace’s Being Dead.
Nick Quantrill author of Broken Dreams, The Late Greats and The Crooked Beat. Inspired by Ian Rankin’s Standing in Another Man’s Grave.

Nick Triplow author of Frank’s Wild Years. Inspired by Graham Swift’s Last Orders.
Luca Veste author of Dead Gone [Published by Avon, Janua…

Great Grimsby Literature Festival

It's festival time again and first up is the newly-retitled Great Grimsby Literature Festival. A feat of organisational wonder by Charlotte Bowen and Jo Gray of The Culture House, the festival is spread across October (with one or two of the events continuing into November). Beginning with a splash on National Poetry Day, 3 October, with the Great Grimsby Poetry Relay. A unique event that will see 72 readers each reading a couple of stanzas of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner at locations across the region. For the record, I'll be on the Humber Bridge at 11.44. On Friday 18 October I'll be delivering a lunchtime Q&A session at Grimsby Minster on the do's and don'ts and perils and pitfalls of writing and publishing. Kicking off at 12.30 (there's a closed session for Grimsby Institute Writing Degree students in the morning), I'm hoping participants will bring their own experiences to the party. I'll do what I can to offer solutions to this n…

Frank's Wild Years - FREE kindle edition

It's a deal, it's a steal, it's Frank's Wild Years and for this weekend only it's cheaper than chips. I'm not askin' a tenner, not even a fiver. Put your money away ladies and gents. This weekend only, it's FREE. Click HEREfor the link.

PINK MOON ... and clouds, lakes and river

My regular walk along the Humber bank and surrounding countryside sometimes throws up surprises. You think you've seen all each season has to offer and then on an evening like this, you witness the natural world putting on a show.

The outdated camera phone I use barely does justice to the incredible orange/pink wash that tinted the landscape for about 20 minutes this evening, but you get the idea.

And, because every film needs a soundtrack, but mainly because this was running through my head all the way around ...


“Sometimes you say things in songs even if there’s a small chance of them being true. And sometimes you say things that have nothing to do with the truth of what you want to say and sometimes you say things that everyone knows to be true.” Bob Dylan - Chronicles I’ve been haunted by James Varda’s new album The River And The Stars for just over a week now. First time I played it I sat in silence for a long time afterwards. I wanted to listen to it again, but couldn’t for a day or so. I had to wait until someone else was around.  You wouldn’t think that The River and the Stars is Varda’s first new music in nearly ten years. Or that here was a folk singer, poet, songwriter, guitar player whose first album – the John Leckie produced Hunger – was released 25 years ago. Since the success of Hunger, Varda has essentially avoided the commercial grind of the music industry. Its belated successor In The Valley was released in 2004. But as he told Time Out’s Ross Fortune at the time, ‘I never stopp…

INTERVIEW: Tony Fletcher in conversation at Hull Central Library for Head in a Book

Recently I was invited to host the HEAD IN A BOOK event at Hull Central Library with Tony Fletcher, author of memoir Boy About Town. As a reader and one time contributor to Tony’s fanzine ‘Jamming’ at the dawn of the 1980s, there was a degree of common ground and the following are edited highlights of a conversation about Tony’s life and music that could have continued all evening. Tony began by reading a couple of sections from the book, focusing on the early years of Jamming, meeting Keith Moon and the response to a speculative letter he sent to Paul Weller back in 1978. I asked Tony about the emergence of the 1970s fanzine culture.
What was it that inspired you to start and – based on the premise that, at that age, we all start things that don’t last – what kept you going?
The inspiration was a Jon Savage feature in Sounds about the fanzine culture. I totally remember we’d get the music papers and swap them around and read them in school. I remember thinking: this looks a lot more fu…