I go to too few book readings and I suspect this is as much to do with the weakness of the local writers’ grapevine as it is with ivory tower syndrome. It’s also more of a rarity in my neck of the woods. Today I go over t’other side off t’Pennines to an author reading at The Gallery. Enough of the colloquialisms already. Slaithwaite is 5 miles south-west of Huddersfield on the A62. I use satnav – I know how to get to Slaithwaite but my route will involve getting lost on the A62 plus a brief tour of the inner ring road in Huddersfield – I’ve been lost there before so once I gravitate there at least I’ll know where I am, and possibly an excursion to discover if pie shops in Huddersfield open on Sunday. But I haven’t the time, so it’s the M62 and a switchback route down steep, single lane roads. I am early so there’s plenty of time to locate the reading room which is in the café in the basement floor. The event is graciously hosted by Wendy Beattie, Gallery Owner. Pretty soon I realise I am going to blog this regardless of the fact I’ve come unprepared. Evidence:
Reading time approx 15 mins each. Say 1.2k to 1.5k words.
Chris went first. She introduced Cuckoo in the Chocolates (set in a Manchester suburb) as dark with brief moments of comedy. Given the spate of revelations about the Westminster sex-pests, its subject matter – sex, politics and a government minister, is opportune. I noted how a simple action or words brought the differing narratives of her characters back down to earth. Add northern wit to the mix.
In keeping with the idea that we might ask questions later, I planned to go along the lines of: What inspires you to write, and do you have a writing pattern? The event didn’t go in that direction but I later got an opportunity to talk to Chris. We chatted about the how southern facing the publishing machine felt. Writers wanting to bring their books to the attention of potential readers do face hurdles. She mentions work with the Kalahari peoples. I think of the San and ask if she’s come across the works of Doric Lessing – she of the Sufi connection. I readily confess to not having read enough of Lessing’s African stories – always more interested in her Space Fiction. Our discussion ends prematurely, time marches on.
Facebook page: Chris L Longden
Tim had 3 readings. Mindful of the changes from the Arab Spring and the recent collapse of regimes through revolution, Revolution Day looks at the plots surrounding the ailing dictator of an unnamed South American country. – I took a video clip of the second reading: The dictator, Carlos, attends a commemoration in honour of those who died in the revolution that brought him to power. In later discussion he tells me it examines how power changes people (I can attest to that).
The YouTube link is here:
(link is at: https://youtu.be/212xNnMa8yM)
Tim also said that there could be a follow on work to his first novel, Zeus in Ithome. This work recounts the struggle of the Messenians to free themselves from the yoke of Spartan rule. I read this some time back and I would be interested in where Tim takes Zeus in Ithome. He has a good understanding of Classical Greece. Tim is a member at Holmfirth Writers.
Angela (which I initially misspell as Anjela) like Tim, says little about herself – so many of us follow the view that our lives are unremarkable. Merle is book 2 in a series following the life of Jacques Forêt, gendarme turned investigator. Book 1 is Messandrierre. the series begins in the Cévennes, a range of mountains in the south-east of the massif-central, and hence south-east France. Her reading puts me in mind of a BBC Radio 4 story where the story elements are drip fed carefully in. After, I ask about her interest in France. She talks of the languages. Yes languages. Where is the fault line between d’oc and d’oil? I don’t ask, too caught up in talking maps, but I will find out. Then there’s the French departments (instituted by Napoleon) yet the geography of the pre-Napoleonic Ancien Regime still persists in the people… I am fascinated and would have loved to have heard this in Q & A form. I want to know what impels her to write but badly managed enthusiasm lets me down.
Chris attests to the difficulties of making readers aware of your work… of course, that’s outside the technological tricks used in Amazon and other places.
I’m interested in what Tim sees – he did philosophy, right?
Angela conveys her love of France and her books sound an interesting read. Our discussion prompted a peep at my ageing circa 1944 vintage) World Citizen’s Atlas .
I drive the long journey home. The early mildness 11º C becomes 5 º C and in parts falls to frost level. Thoughts continue to press. It has been long since Burnley had a bookshop. The links that bind writers together are weak. How do we know what others are up to? What can we do to bind our initiatives to a greater whole? For now it’s look for events to fill our calendar.
Sometimes you see the heart of a piece and know it is true. The fates haven’t been kind or I would have acquired more books today. I made do with Tim Taylor’s 2nd novel. The sun is in my eyes most of the way back. I’m taking the Shaw Road. It dips and turns on the moor tops and somehow, refuses to turn from the light. For long stretches I squint under the sun visor, cautious of oncoming traffic. At first there are a few road walkers and even the odd cyclist – the latter are the most concern. That apart, 11 miles of road is empty. A motorbike follows me a sensible distance behind. Eventually we drop into Saddleworth and with the sun out of my eyes I can reflect.
I’ve always wondered about the French view of the Anglosphere. Given chance, would they take steps to cut it down or even eliminate it (a central component of my first novel A Guide to First Contact). A missed opportunity to get Angela’s views.
It would be nice if the great and the good were to afford more space to events up north – can’t see the likes of the Guardian ever doing that… perhaps there are literary diaries and I am looking in the wrong places. The days of getting an article in your local newspaper and then preloading a couple of books in your local bookshop are pretty much done. The death knell was when Resale Price Maintenance ended, good for supermarkets and bad for the rest. Supermarkets have made a good job of hollowing out local communities; hand-in-hand with this, BBC local radio and the internet have ravaged local papers. In my home town of Burnley, population 70,000, the bookshop closed about 15 years back; the offices of its paper, the Burnley Express, are now whittled down to nothing. *
What if supermarkets paid more than lip-service to Social Accounting (leave nothing nasty where the public can see)? Imagine different store layouts so local authors, or any self organising local artist, could have a chance to show the community what they’ve been up to. It wouldn’t need to be shackled to supply chain mechanics. Supermarkets more than an in-out experience? I’ve talked to supermarket managers – they don’t have the say-so and ultimately the question is: What’s in it for them? Yes they’re instrumental in de-culturising communities but they’re just box shifters. People are expected to come, buy and get out. The likes of Tesco and ASDA have enough on their respective plates dealing with the food hygiene fallout from 2 Sisters. What can they offer? Nicer place-boards advertising local builders and decorators. That’s about it.
The motorbike takes off in a different direction and I head for my office.