Sunday, 30 September 2012

ME AND MY MOTOR - Frank Neaves

Cortina MkIII 2000E - Frank's Motor

Earlier this year, the nice people at the Hull Daily Mail asked me to contribute to their 'Me & My Motor' section. It didn't start well. I told them my first car was a knackered Vespa 90. 'That's not a car,' they said. 'Stick to four wheels, preferably one at each corner,' they said. 
So I gave them my list of second-hand crates: the 1977 Datsun Cherry, the Fiesta with holes in the floor, the Volvo with stuff growing in it ... I could've gone on, but the look of Clarkson-style contempt suggested they'd got the message. Which was when I pulled the chair a bit closer and leaned in, 'Tell you what,' I said, 'if you're interested, I know a bloke who might have what you're looking for.' 
I can't say Frank wasn't happy about it. He's keeping a low profile at the moment, but once I'd managed to find him, he came round. He usually does. 
1. What do you drive?
Last thing I owned outright was a Rover 75, maroon, leather seats, walnut dash, but that was a while back. It got a dent in it. These days if I need a car I tend to borrow one.

2. What was your first car?
A Mark II Cortina 1600E, metallic silver. They used to say you could break in with a lolly stick, which apparently someone did. Never saw it, or them, again.

3. What was your best car and why?
A Mark III Cortina 2000E. Midnight blue with a vinyl roof and an 8-track player for me Motown Chartbusters. 

. . . and your worst car and why?
When the first Cortina got pinched, I had a Hillman Minx for a while, bought it for £20 from a bloke in Catford. Felt like a right dick, you could do nought-to-sixty in about three weeks.
4. Do you consider yourself to be a good driver?
Back in the day I was solid. Not the best, but I never got caught, put it that way.

5. Have you ever had a crash? If so, what happened?
Not a crash exactly, there was one time though about three in the morning on the south circular, but that was more what you’d call an ‘enforced stop’.

6. What do you keep in your glovebox?

A first aid kit and a bible. If the first one don’t work, always handy to have the second one.
7. What drives you mad behind the wheel?
Drivers with no manners.

8. What music do you drive to?
Strictly a classic soul man these days. Mavis Staples for the quiet days and crank it up with some Otis or Wilson Pickett.

9. Who would be your perfect passenger?
One who knows how to keep his trap shut.
10. What’s the craziest thing you have ever done in a car?
Give a ride to someone who didn’t keep his trap shut.

11. Who cleans your car, and how often?

When I’ve got one, I do. Back in the day when I was driving for a living, chauffering for Mr Schiller I’d do it every day. Inside and out. Spotless.
I'll be reading from Frank's Wild Years and talking about Ted Lewis, crimewriting and social-realist writing across the Humber region along with Mr Nick Quantrill (The Late Greats and Broken Dreams) in THE HUMBER BEAT at Ilkley Fringe Festival this Tuesday, 2nd October at Ilkley Playhouse. We're on at 9pm.

Frank's Wild Years - available from selected Waterstones,
online at Amazon, Waterstones or by e-mailing me direct

"An urban masterpiece; riveting from first to last. Nick Triplow is the true successor to Ted Lewis."
Mike Hodges, Director - Get Carter
"Frank's Wild Years is simply stunning. A brilliant character study, a gripping gangster story and an incredibly moving examination of friendship, family, loyalty and loss."
Paul D Brazill

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

NEW SINGLE: 'Mutiny on the Thames' - Pope


Erstwhile Chords guitarist and songwriting mainstay, Chris Pope has been busy. With his band Pope, he's recorded a new single - Mutiny on the Thames. It's probably a bit brassier - in every sense -  than your favourite Chords three minutes, but swapping powerpop for politics brings out the best in Pope and brings to mind the Redskins in their prime.

Either way, it rocks and lays it on the line. And hey, it's not every day a bloke whose songs you've admired for 30+ years drops you a line to tell you about a new one!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

EVENT: The Humber Beat at Ilkley Festival Fringe

A heads up for an event taking place as part of the Ilkley Festival fringe on 2nd October. Mr Quantrill and myself will be taking a late drive down the M62 to present 'The Humber Beat' an hour of readings from novels and short stories and discussion about the city and its impact on crime writing.
Our session is free that evening - we'll be following on from the paid event with 'The Dark Winter' author, David Mark.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

SHORT STORY: 'Shane MacGowan's Coat' in BEAT THE DUST - Made in Sheffield edition

'He shoved him in number six and slammed the door.
MacGowan told him he was a paddy-bashing bastard.'

Melissa Mann's Beat The Dust is an online magazine dedicated to bringing new writing into the world. An invitation to contribute to the Made In Sheffield edition - curated and introduced by the estimable Mr Simon Crump - was not to be missed.
Based on an article in The Independent some four years ago, over the years I'd written and re-written the short story Shane MacGowan's Coat more times than I care to remember. It had never quite come together in the way I wanted it. For Beat The Dust, I started again and here it is, finished and in full.
It's difficult to remember just what an impact The Pogues had in a post-punk world; seeing the band in the mid-80s, as many will testify, was a riot. A beacon of real music in a sea of synthpop and gated snare drums. I was lucky enough to see them a few times, including a St Patrick's night gig at the Town & Country Club in 1988. Possibly the roughest moshpit I was ever in, but one of those nights you're just glad you were there.

I've just checked my original notes and the piece in the Independent, 'When Shane Met Katie', was written by James Fearnley. Katie Melua had taken on the thankless task of replicating Kirsty MacColl on Fairytale of New York. It was published in 2005, which makes this pretty much the longest gestation period of any short story I've ever written. Maybe that's because it meant the most.

Monday, 10 September 2012

BOOK NEWS: THICK AS THIEVES: Personal Situations with The Jam

THICK AS THIEVES: Published on 20 September

Having Spent a hefty chunk of the last five years interviewing people about their working lives and unique experiences for social history purposes, it's something of a culture shock to see a book that treats an ever present from my own cultural past in the same way.
The track Thick As Thieves from 1979's Setting Sons just about nailed what it was like to be part of a gang, knowing it couldn't last forever. Keeping that spirit on the road, Stewart Debill and Ian Snowball's new book trawls the archives and conducts new interviews with anyone connected with The Jam, the people who worked with them live and on record and those who followed them from Sheerwater Secondary School to Brighton Arena.
I've written elsewhere on this blog about the impact Weller and The Jam had on me as a teenager growing up in the suburbs in the late 70s/early 80s. [Check The Young Mod's Forgotten Story Parts 2 and 3] Here Debill and Snowball have the blessing of Weller - he provides the foreword  - and Foxton and Buckler, who both contribute their own memories.
The rest of the assembled cast include fans, producers, designers, hangers-on, mates and pretty much anyone prepared to commit their thoughts to tape and print. Complete with photos and archive material, this is first and foremost a fanbook. Initially published in a limited print run earlier in the year, there has clearly been enough support to justify a full scale launch. It's available to pre-order from amazon for £6.99

Sunday, 9 September 2012

CREATIVE WRITING: Short Story Course - Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre

"I remember wanting to do something about that enormous-faced wristwatch she was wearing — perhaps suggest that she try wearing it around her waist."
J D Salinger - For Esme ~ With Love and Squalor
There is something magical about the short story form. I think it's that you can do pretty much anything with it, malleable within a nominal framework of a piece you can read in a single sitting - if you adopt Edgar Allan Poe's formula. It's also unlikely to make you a fortune - not that it ever did, which means by and large you write short stories because you want to, because it suits you, because you have something to say and the desire to get it said.
'The short story, I should point out, is perforce a labor of love in today's literary world; there's precious little economic incentive to write one...'
Lawrence Block, Manhattan Noir
Coming up with stories and angles for a new series of workshops for Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre, starting this Thursday evening, I had the task of working through a box file full of collected stories, dog-eared photocopies and well-read favourites. And that was before looking for new angles; I wanted to include something that could loosely be termed 'genre fiction' this time around. There are the 'moment in time' stories, the 'time condensed' stories - a life told in a thousand words; chance meetings and un-meetings; lives broken and redeemed. Idiot stories; stories that bend convention so far it disappears up its own metaphor. But what still gives me that thrill is the sense of possibility the short story offers.
'I have a three-by-five up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: “…and suddenly everything became clear to him.” I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that’s implied.'
Raymond Carver - Principles of a story

It's fundamental for me, in designing a course, to offer the opportunity to examine the craft at work in the short story. For anyone who has written a little or nothing at all, or for the writer with some experience, exploring the skills needed to place the first words on a blank page with a deeper understanding of the 'how and why'  brings with it greater confidence. The course provides the tools and some well-practised tricks of the trade. From there it's up to you.
Short Story Writing: 28 Plough Hill, Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre, Thursday evenings 7pm-9pm - 13, 20, 27 September and 4, 11, 18 October. £60 for the 6-week course. Call 01472 851605 to book.