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Showing posts from 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 o…

Ted Lewis at the BBC Written Archive

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, …

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.

A Farewell to Dora Bryan

Something about Dora Bryan's appearance in a film was a guarantee of a particular kind of authenticity. Her performances in films like The Blue Lamp and A Taste of Honey  added colour and character in the days of black and white. In THE WOMEN THEY LEFT BEHIND (2009) we told the story of Rita, the wife of a Grimsby fisherman. An offer of a trip to London in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph in 1969 had given George and Rita their first chance of a weekend away.   'The lady over the road said she’d look after my kids and we went to London. It was the first time George and I had been away together without the kids and it was the first time I’d been to London. We went down on the train and stayed at the Green Park Hotel. I remember going to Petticoat Lane and walking around Piccadilly Circus on the Friday evening; I wanted to see the lights and the ladies of the night. On the Saturday we went to a show with Dora Bryan at the Prince of Wales Theatre. We went into this pub for a drink a…


With Syndicate Books taking on the re-publication of Ted Lewis's novels, beginning with the three Carter novels, there's a very good chance this overlooked British crime author will, at last, get some of the credit he deserves. As Syndicate's Paul Oliver says, Lewis's influence on popular culture is to the second half of the 20th century 'what Hammett and Chandler’s was to the first half.' The full text of Paul's piece is available on the SOHO PRESS WEBSITE.It's a great pen picture of Lewis's significance to crime writing. Get Carter is re-published in September, 2014. Click HERE for further information.

TED LEWIS - Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) first approached me shortly after Lewis's Return Home, 2012's Radio 4 documentary about Ted Lewis. Today sees the publication of the latest update of the ODNB, which adds biographies of 99 men and women who shaped British history from the 13th to late-20th century. The May update includes a special focus on the history of British cinema, from the silent films of the 1910s to 1970s thrillers such as Get Carter. The update marks the fiftieth anniversary of three celebrated British films, Mary Poppins, Zulu, and Becket with biographies of the actors, directors, and cinematographers involved with these works. It includes, for the first time, an entry for Ted Lewis which I wrote last year. On the road to greater recognition for one of Britain's literary innovators and author of arguably the best crime novel of its era, it's a signpost. But in context with the beginning of the re-publication of Lewis's novels by Soho P…


Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

T S Eliot, The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock
‘You’re looking for a place to live, a new home. You write down a list of the things you need – the essentials mainly, then the things you’d like. You see a few places, none of which fit the bill. Reluctantly, you agree to view a house which, on paper, has none of the things you wanted. The moment you walk in, you feel you know this place and it knows you. It’s like an embrace. There is an instinctive sense that speaks of home.’ Lightlines, Gill Hobson’s new exhibition, sets out to explore the intuitive resonances at play between us and the spaces we live in. Developed from a project comprising more than 5,000 photographs of her own home taken over a three-year period, Lightlines includes photographic, film and installation approaches which tease out some of the complexities of our relationships with our spaces of dwelling. Th…

SHORT STORY COURSE - Grimsby Minster, February/March 2014

It's taken a while to get together, but things are finally sorted for the first of what I hope will be a series of creative writing courses at Grimsby Minster. This six week programme is aimed at anyone with an interest in writing short fiction and looks to build on some of the ideas tested in last year's 'story lab' sessions. The focus here will be on participants’ own work. Although writing experience isn’t essential, a commitment to write and read short stories is. Over the six weeks, I'll introduce various aspects of contemporary short fiction, creative nonfiction and flash fiction through reading, discussion and a range of writing exercises. Each participant will have the option to have their work read and critiqued as part of the course, as well as receiving up to date information on writing competitions and routes towards publication.
The course costs £60 and takes place: Thursday  20th Feb, 27th Feb, 6th March, 13th March, 20th March, 27th March between 7-9pm