Thursday 23 February 2012

My Grampy's wartime diaries...

Something that I’ve found myself doing over the years is critiquing friends work - I must be quite good at it, because Sue Moorcroft and Gary McMahon keep coming back - and I enjoy it a lot. I get to read new work in flux, sometimes my suggestions get taken up and I often get a nod in the acknowledgements (always nice).

On Monday, my Dad asked me for a favour. He’s spent the last couple of years - doing a few hours a week, when he could find the time (my Dad is the kind of bloke who, upon retiring, is now busier than he’s ever been) - transcribing and editing my Grampy’s diaries from his stint in the war.

I loved my Grampy, he was a wonderful man but like most people of his generation, he rarely talked of his wartime experiences (and certainly didn’t with me, though I do vaguely remember a story about him clonking a German on the head with the handle of a spade once). When he died in 1997, as my Dad and my uncle were sorting through his things, they found some exercise books filled with handwriting. Some fifty years after his experiences, Grampy had decided to write them down and as the years went by, Dad decided they should be saved. I think he was right.

The diaries are now all transcribed - some 21,000 words of wartime reminisces by a man who wasn’t even a father when he was drafted and was almost thirty years away from becoming a grandfather. Dad has asked me to read through them and critique them (he’s worried, I think, about repetition) and I’m thrilled to be doing it. I miss my Grampy (and have kept a diary myself since 1981), so the opportunity to discover parts of his life that I never knew whilst he was alive is a tremendous draw. I have made the resolution that, unless a sentence simply doesn’t work, I won’t change anything because I want to preserve his voice, as much as Dad has, because that’s the whole point.

I started work on it this morning and I’m already enthralled. I won’t be posting passages of it here because it’s not mine and I’m not sure what my Dad’s plans are for it, but I will share this. I think Grampy wrote this on the first page, as an explanation. I’ve called it the preface.

This narrative may seem disjointed as it is over fifty years since it happened and some names and places are now vague. I was never a hero but had several near misses including being machine-gunned by aircraft, losing two of my trucks, being hit in a snowstorm by an American armoured car and overturning in a forest.
I was always lucky and always felt detached from danger even though some of my duties seemed dicey.

from “Experiences of the Second World War 1939–1946: 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment, South Wales Borderers” by Private Raymond (Gus) West No.4080807

This is one of my favourite photographs of Grampy and was taken in 1985 at the bungalow he & my Grandma shared. He’s explaining something to my kid sister Sarah, who would have been three, as my other sister, Tracy, looks on.

Monday 20 February 2012

Insight to "In The Rain With The Dead"

Dude & I went into Waterstones on Sunday and he picked up a copy of my book. He read the acknowledgements (where he gets a mention) then said “I can’t read this, it’s too long for me.”

“It’s too gory as well,” I said, “plus there’s a lot of swearing in it.”

He looked at me, open-mouthed, then said quietly, “You put swears in your story? Oh Dad, that’s naughty…”

Friday 17 February 2012

"Fog On The Old Coast Road"

Woo hoo, I’ve just had news of my second acceptance of the year (which will appear in a limited edition hardback from NewCon Press at Fantasycon), that I'm really chuffed about. Even better, I’ll be doing a reading of it which will be filmed by those good folk at Unbound, a Leicester based group run by Adele Wearing.

My story is called “Fog On The Old Coast Road” and follows the misadventures of Tom and his six-year-old son Jack, who are driving from Skegness to Boston, to pick up wife and Mum Clare. I was asked for a very spooky tale and I think I’ve delivered - there are some scary set-pieces and I had a lot of fun writing the piece.

The book will be tied in with an evening of readings (see the press release below) and there will be five of us all told - Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan, who I’ve known for years through the Terror Scribes; Ian Whates, who runs my writing group and Amanda Hemingway. Yes, that Amanda Hemingway. I’m both nervous and excited about meeting her, but it all adds to the fun.

Unbound: Hauntings will be held at the Staff Of Life pub in Mowsley on Sunday 11th March 2012 from 5.30 - 11pm.

Here’s the press release:

UBVE are working with NewCon Press on this one, with the live readings starting the evening and then later we will be recording the dramatic scenes for the episode and doing a round table interview with the authors about ghost stories and their lasting role in fiction.

After the event the readings will be posted on our YouTube channel while we turn the video footage into something awesome (you saw zombies right?) and then the episode will be released. Later in the year. NewCon will be publishing a limited edition hardcover of ghost stories, sharing the title “Hauntings” with our event and including the stories featured. The anthology will also be available as an ebook.

For more details, check out the website

More news as I get it, but this evening promises to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait!

Thursday 9 February 2012

Johnny Fields makes his debut...

Tonight, I am attending the February “We Are Most Amused” comedy night, held at the Victoria Inn, Poole Street in Northampton. I’ve been a few times now - it’s hosted and run by my friends Donna Scott and Neil Bond - and it’s a good laugh, with comedians trying out new material to a crowd who get in for free.

However, this evening’s show is a bit more special as my friend Johnny Fields is making his debut stand-up appearance (regular readers will be aware of him, though under his real name - see my comedy page for more details).

Jon & I got together the other Friday and co-wrote the script for the basic set, which he has since revised and refined. I had a great time writing it, us two sitting in my dining room trying to make each other laugh - we both turned up with plenty of notes - and it was a true collaborative experience that was very enjoyable (I just don’t write enough comedy these days).

I’m sure he’ll do a grand job, just as I’m sure the 5 minute slot will zip by in the blink of an eye and I’m really proud of my fine friend, really proud indeed.

Me (on the left, with beard) & Jon, 1993. The picture was taken at The Rising Sun pub in Kettering, where The Committee and, by extension, The Fields & Wild Experience, was founded.

The boy done good.  With snow falling steadily outside, Johnny Fields took to the stage and ran through his set and for a debut, he stormed it!  Roll on the next one.

(I do wonder what the waiters in the Indian restaurant beforehand thought though, as he ran through his set over the remains of our lovely curry, with me laughing and prompting)

And sorry for the poor quality of the pic (it's from my mobile), but here's Johnny in full flow.