Friday, 30 November 2012

J.R.R. Tolkien and American Publishing

This article is taken from the October, 1969, issue of Books and Bookmen.

Written by James Blish.

One of the most unexpected swings in recent US literary taste has been the widespread popularity, especially among undergraduates, of heroic fantasy. Curiously, the early and still the major beneficiaries of this interest were British authors, but this situation is now in process of change.
The boom began with the 'hobbit' fantasies of the Oxonian J.R.R. Tolkien, a past member of the Oxford Inklings circle which also included C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams. These books had had a small but extremely devoted following in the States since their publication there, but they were not as popular as the three interplanetary romances of Lewis, or the turgid horror stories of the American H.P. Lovecraft.
Then, five years ago, the US paperback publisher Ace Books discovered that through a failure on the part of Tolkien's American publishers, his major work, the three-volume The Lord of the Rings, had been thrown into the public domain in the States. Ace promptly brought out all three volumes in paperback, and the Tolkien cult grew from a few hundred people to many thousands. At first, Ace proposed to pay Tolkien none of the proceeds, and another paperback house, Ballantine Books, risked bringing out an authorised edition, with small changes and additions which could be re-copyrighted, a public notice that Ballantine would pay royalties to the author, and a note from Tolkien asking readers to buy this edition and no other.
Amazingly, this worked. The new printing prospered, at the expense of the Ace edition, and Ballantine now have in print what appears to be every word Tolkien has ever published. (They also do a sizeable trade in 'Come to Middle Earth' posters, originally intended for bookstores but now for sale, and there is even an LP record of hobbit songs.)
Another accident enables one to make a rough estimate of the magnitude of the market. Under pressure from Tolkien fans and writers' organisations, Ace eventually made to Tolkien a royalty payment of around £3,333. Starting from the fact that the minimum paperback royalty in the States is two and a half percent, it must be assumed that the Ace edition at that point (three years ago) had sold about 337,000 copies, despite a year of Ballantine competition. As for the Ballantines, they claim to have grossed more than $1 million on Tolkien, placing their sales in the vicinity of 1,053,000 - a staggering figure, even allowing for the fact that they have more Tolkien books (and posters) to offer, especially when one adds to it the Ace sales. Mr. Tolkien may not yet be in the same league as Harold Robbins, but for a genre author he is setting records of his own (and will probably last a lot longer).

Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Thought it was about time I promoted something that I have written, as I seem to spend most of my waking hours trying to promote others.
My short story "Father Christmas and the Elephunk" will be free for just one day on the 1st December. So if you have any children who like to be read to, or you're just a big kid yourself, please feel free to get something for free. See what I did there?
So if you would like to get in the mood for Christmas read this heartwarming story set on Christmas Eve, 1940.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Shakespeare Was Illiterate

What I am about to disclose will undoubtedly sadden many, and shock even more, but the truth, however hard it is to stomach must be told.

Yesterday while searching through an old box of Star War's toys I came across a screwed up piece of paper (see photographic evidence). I immediately stopped playing with my Star War's toys and went to work on unscrewing the screwed paper. The words that were written on this document made my blood run cold, and my heart pound like a drum being pounded by someone big. You will now read what I have read. Please be aware that what you are about to be told could make you feel uncomfortable, and possibly a little sick, so have a bucket by your side. Here goes.

 Friday, 12th September, 1617.

To whom it may concern

My name is Betty Birtles, and I was shacked up with William Shakespeare for nigh on thirty-three long years. He was a wrong-en, but I always went for bad men. They excite me. Now he is dead I want to tell the world what a terrible thing me and Will done.

It was back in 1585, and me and Will had just started doing it with each other. I was working in a bakers shop, and Will was an unsuccessful pickpocket. One day Will came home to our hovel in Stepney and said he had something to show me. I wasn't in the mood for his naughty games so I hit him over the head with a poker. Once Will was unconscious on the floor I rifled through his pockets to see what he had. All I could find was a half-eaten chickens head, and an empty bottle of gin. Then I opened up his coat and inside was thousands of sheets of paper with words on. I thought what does Will want with words when he can't even read or write? Well I started to read some of the words, and to my great surprise the words were put together in such a way that they told stories, wonderful stories.
When Will finally woke up I asked him where he got all the paper, he told me he had stolen them from a bloke in the pub. I then slapped him round the face, we both ended up rolling on the floor punching and scratching each other. Obviously we then had sex and drunk lots of gin.
In the morning after me and Will had pissed out of the window, I told Will that those papers he had pinched might be worth some money, and that I had a plan that might help to change our miserable lives for the better. My plan was this: Will would have to kill the man that he stole the papers from, and then make out that he had written all the wonderful stories. Will thought I was jesting, and laughed out loud, so I hit him with the poker. We then had sex again. After sex I explained to Will that this was not a laughing matter, and that he must be a man and kill this bloke from the pub. Will said that he would be happy to kill the fella as long as I'd get on top next time we had sex. 
After I had climbed off of Will we set about getting the plan straight. This was not easy for Will because he was an idiot.

Part II. The dastardly deed

The next day I decided that trying to explain the whole of my plan to Will was a complete waste of  time. Will was good in bed, but utterly useless in the brain department. I found out from Will what pub he had robbed his victim in and went straight over there. It was the Ten Bells in Whitechapel, a rather rundown establishment frequented in the main by prostitutes and their clients. I went into the pub, and told the bald dwarf sitting on the bar to get me the manager. The bald dwarf told me that he was the manager, he also said that I was far too ugly to work in there as a prostitute. I explained to him that I was a good girl, and if he ever saw me all made up he would have a hard-on all day long. The dwarf then asked me to do something to him that is far too disgusting to describe in this letter. Once I had done what he had asked, I washed my mouth out with a glass of gin, and then explained to him about the papers that had come into my possession, and that I thought they might have once belonged to one of his customers. The dwarf told me that if they were papers with writing on they must have belonged to.....

To be continued.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Charles Dickens Interview

Mr. Charles Dickens kindly responded to my good friend Madame Sharlatane's (the famous medium) request for an interview, and here it is.

Me: Good evening Charles, before we begin, and on behalf of my millions of readers I would like to thank you for agreeing to give us this interview.

Charles: No problem at all Gary. I have had the pleasure of reading some of your own brilliant work, so I would be honoured to be interviewed by such a literary God as you.

Me: You are too kind sir.

Charles: No, you are the kind one sir.

Charles then spent over an hour telling me what a fantastic writer I was. I have left this out of the finished transcript because it was all a little embarrassing for me.

Me: Charles, could you let my readers know where you got the idea for Wuthering Heights?

At this point Madame Sharlatane heard what she thought was the word "Ucker," this could be a Germanic term. It's not widely known that Charles Dickens was actually German, and spent his early years working as a waitress in a Bierkeller in Hamburg. Sadly all contact with Mr. Dickens was then lost. Madame Sharlatane will be attempting to speak to him again tomorrow.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

William Shakespeare Interview

Yesterday Mr. Shakespeare decided to go for a few drinks with Keith Moon instead of giving me an interview, today, although hungover he has decided to allow me to ask him a few questions. Mr. Shakespeare had contacted me through the famous Medium, Madame Sharlatane. William had told her that he was very angry about the excessive use of 5 Star reviews in relation to self-published books on Amazon.

ME: Good evening Mr. Shakespeare.

WILL: Don't "Good Evening" me you ignorant little man.

ME: Sorry. Can you let my readers know why you are so upset with the reviews on Amazon?

WILL: What's in it for me?

ME: I don't understand.

WILL: What do I get out of it - what's my cut?

ME: I'm giving you the chance to speak to the writers of 2012 from beyond the grave, isn't that enough?

WILL: Fuck off.

According to Madame Sharlatane, Mr. Shakespeare then made a farting noise by blowing hard on the back of his hand, and walked off singing sea shanties with Marilyn Monroe.

We will try and get Mr. Shakespeare to continue this interview on a day when he has not been drinking. So watch this space.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Interview with William Shakespeare

Yesterday I was contacted by a medium going by the name of Madame Sharlatane who informed me that the bard himself, Mr. William Shakespeare had spoken to her, and requested that she find someone that would interview him. He told Madame Sharlatane that he had been turning in his grave ever since God had shown him some of the 5 Star reviews received by a large number of self-published authors on Amazon. He informed Ms. Sharlatane that he had never once in his entire literary career got more than a 4 Star review. He had become quite agitated while chatting to Ms. Sharlatane about the 2 Star review he had been awarded for Romeo and Juliet. He insisted that it was well worth 3 Stars, even though he accepted that the plot was a little far-fetched.
I was intending to interview Will tonight, but he has decided to go drinking with Keith Moon instead. He has told Ms. Sharlatane that if he's not too hungover tomorrow he will do the interview late afternoon, after he has watched the football.

To be continued

Princess Antoine Bibesco

Travel and Travellers

By Princess Antoine Bibesco

Written in 1940.

This is not an ideal moment for talking about travelling. Towns empty by day, invisible by night, the sea carrying an uneasy burden of mines and submarines, aeroplanes playing hide-and-seek among the clouds. These are mere temporary disabilities. A traveller is always a traveller, just as a tourist is always a tourist. They have little in common except, perhaps, the same sturdy obstinacy. A traveller explores the unknown, a tourist pounces delightedly on some confirmed fact. Every strutting pigeon in the piazza of Saint Mark gives him a sense of justification. He was right; there really were pigeons.
But though we can now only travel by mind there still are journeys.
Maps are anthologies for poets.

I spent some years, when my husband was en poste, in Spain.
Among many loves, a major love but a minor town, there was Brihuega. From the strategical point of view it is, I am told – I know nothing of strategy – not a minor town at all. It played an important part in the Peninsular War; it played an important part in the Civil War. It is, in fact, a “pivotal position.”
To me, ignorant of pivotal positions, it is merely a great love. You must imagine the houses split on to the sheer hillside, the churches not poised on a summit but clinging precariously to the lower rungs of a steep incline, hoping to land safely in the valley.
Opposite, bleak, and blazing with colour – not a mountain, an erect rising of earth – there is a palace, circular, down-at-the-hill, threadbare with obsolete dignity.
And a garden – a real garden, with arches of clipped yews through which you see the split houses and the burnished hill opposite…..

To be continued

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

English Fiction To-day by Elizabeth Bowen

This article was written by Elizabeth Bowen in 1950, and appeared in John O'London's Weekly.

In general, something is expected of, or at, the turn of a century. A Term of time by being demarcated acquires character, which, as such, makes itself evident as it matures. So a century halfway along its course may be considered due to declare maturity, to have reached culmination-point, to make seen the fruition of its inherent ideas.
The twentieth century's development, however, has been in some directions so violently forced, in others so notably arrested as to seem hardly to be a development at all, or at least to be difficult to recognize if it is one. In European countries, certainly, life and art are still seeking their footing in their actual time - both have the stigmata of an over-long drawn-out adolescence. The mid-century call for an exhibition may therefore be said to have taken us by surprise, and found us unready, in disarray.
As to art, it is not that there is nothing to show; the difficulty is rather in presentation - arrangement, classification and rating order. Individually, no potential exhibit is not expressive: how, however, is each so to be placed as to bring out its relationship with the others? For the warrant and point of an exhibition must be its overall significance and expressiveness. In this case, one is tempted to ask, of what? 

In England - if one may press the display analogy further there would be particular difficulty in arranging the fiction stall. The novel, onward from 1914, has in different ways reflected the sense of flux. The cracking and splintering of the social mould during and after the first World War accounted for a shift, as to the subject, from outer to inner, from man as a public being to man as a seat of isolated and in the main suffering private sensibility. For the greater part of the inter-war years, subjectivity hazed over the English novel; there was disposition to follow the stream of consciousness "from caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea." With this went, it may now be felt, a misuse or perversion of some influences - the overheated for-or-against reaction to D.H. Lawrence, the attempted segregation of Henry James and Proust from their beau-monde, of Tolstoy, Chekhov and Turgenev from their thriving social-sensuous universe, of Thomas Hardy from his Wessex exhuberance.
The intellectually respectable English novel for some time concentrated upon, insisted upon the victim-hero - whether at school, in love or at large in the jungle which by overgrowing the ruins of fixed society succeeded to what that used to be. There was almost a convention of disillusionment. The forte of the novelist was analysis. The alternative to the analytical was the caustic - the iconoclastic novel of ideas: for this, Aldous Huxley gave the prototype.
The English inter-war novel, it seems now, was somewhat "out" in its concept of what makes tragedy. It did not finally diagnose the modern uneasiness - dislocation. Dorothy Richardson (still owed full recognition) and Virginia Woolf did best, in their stress on the interplay between consciousness and and the exterior world; but these two delicate novelists of the senses cannot be called, in their last implication, tragic.
The salutary value of the exterior, the comfortable sanity of the concrete came to be realized only when the approach of the second World War forced one to envisage wholesale destruction. The obliteration of man's surroundings, streets and houses, tables and chairs sent up, for him, their psychological worth. Up to now, consciousness had been a sheltered product: its interest as consciousness diminished now that, at any moment, the physical shelter could be gone. 

To be continued.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


With the discussion on whether women should be able to become Church of England Bishops now reaching its conclusion, I thought I should share this short video with you.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Father Christmas and the Elephunk

London, England.

Christmas Eve, 1940.

“I’m quite certain this was the place,” said Father Christmas.
He was staring up and down the little street where he had halted his sledge and was pulling at his long white beard as he did so. It was the kind of street that would be called a cul-de-sac, with only one entrance and a brick wall at the other end, and there was just room on each side for six houses.
But now Father Christmas could see no houses at all, only a heap of bricks and plaster, with here and there the leg of an armchair, the back of a sofa, or the iron frame of a bed with a burnt-out mattress protruding from it. It was only where the brilliant moon lit these up that he could see clearly what they were, and it seemed that at this sight he was greatly distressed.
He kept pulling his beard and looking up to see the name of the road on the broken wall of the last house, the shell of which was still left, but even that was in shadow.
“There were sixteen children here,” said Father Christmas sadly. “It was my favourite road in all London.” He spoke half to himself and half to Ready and Willing, the magnificent reindeer that drew the Christmas sledge. They were tossing their horns in their bewilderment, because they could no more make up their minds about what to do than could Father Christmas.

While he was thinking, Father Christmas pushed back the cloak which made him invisible, as well as unheard, and went on talking aloud.
“They’ll all wonder what has become of me as much as I wonder what has become of them,” he continued, looking at the reindeer as if they might have something to suggest. And indeed they would have done so if they could have thought of anything, for all the year they had been looking forward to this night of Christmas Eve, when the gnomes of fairyland would put on their silver harness and they would set out on their wonderful journey with the sledge full of toys that never seemed to come to an end until every child in Christendom had had his or her share.
All they could do now was to shake their heads until their silver bells tinkled and clashed, and the shadow of their horns was like the shadow of a twisted rope being moved from side to side.
But at the sound of Father Christmas’s voice, which, now that he had thrown off his cloak, could be heard by anyone who chanced to be near, there was a little rustle among the rubbish in one of the heaps, and a small boy – a very little boy indeed – came slowly towards him, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles. He was a very dirty little boy, and his clothes had been torn by grubbing about in the heap of broken things. His face was stained with tears, and it was quite evident that no one had given or lent him a handkerchief.
“Please,” he said, catching Father Christmas by his robe, “have you seen my skin elephunk?”
Father Christmas looked down at him and a very kind twinkle came into his blue eyes. He did not even draw back the hood of his cloak, for here was a child in trouble, and nobody knows better than Father Christmas how to put things right again.

First he drew out his big white handkerchief and wiped the grubby little face, and then he answered.
“I haven’t seen anything yet,” he said, except heaps of rubbish. But perhaps we may be able to find it if we try very hard. It’s quite possible that it may have joined the other elephants in my sledge. There are millions of elephants, you know, only you won’t see them all at once!”
Billy – for that was the little boy’s name – shook his head.
“I fink,” he said, “he would have waited until I came back, unless he’s been bombed again and had to go to the hospital. Please, are you an Air Raid Warden?”
Father Christmas shook his head. He was standing in the shadow so that Billy could not see him very well. If he had he would have seen Father Christmas’s merry face grow sad and angry as he looked round the poor little street that had once been full of happy children.
“Where have all the other children gone?” he asked.
“Some of them went in the ambulants,” said Billy, “and some are in the Shelter. Granny’s there too – I came away when she was talking to some ladies. You see” – Billy’s voiced quivered and a dirty little fist went up again to rub his eyes – “I couldn’t go away and leave my elephunk all alone. He might certainly have been bombed if Hitler came back.”
“Well,” said Father Christmas, “I think you will have to go and ask my reindeer, Ready and Willing. They have been standing waiting at the end of the road and they have the brightest eyes in the world, because they were born in fairyland. They could see a pin even if it was right under the biggest heap that Hitler ever made.”

Billy stopped crying in a moment and caught at Father Christmas’s hand.
“Oh, come, please come,” he said. “Perhaps, if there’s another air raid, Ready and Willing will go home to fairyland. Please don’t let them go until they’ve found my elephunk.”

“They won’t go until I do,” said Father Christmas, “but come along and we’ll find out what they have to say.” 

To find out what happens to Billy and his Elephunk click Here

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Sorry Mummy

Mummy has gone to the shops. Daddy and me are watching cartoons on the television. We like to watch the cartoons. When mummy gets back we will be having a birthday tea. My birthday tea. The cake is on the table with eight candles, and a picture of Tigger is on the icing. I love Tigger, he's so funny. Daddy explained to me why mummy had been grumpy, he told me that it wasn't my fault, and that I shouldn't worry. I can't wait to open my presents, they are all wrapped up and waiting in the dining-room. I was going to have a party with lots of my friends coming round but mummy told me that I had been a bad girl so I should be glad that I was having a birthday at all. I had a bad dream last night, and I think I was screaming which was probably why mummy and daddy woke up. Daddy came into my room and sang a song about Jack and Jill, but mummy stopped him. I think I screamed again and mummy stopped me. Mummy seems much happier now. Me and daddy just watch cartoons.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mickey Spillane Interview from 1967

This interview appeared in the September, 1967 issue of Books and Bookman. This is just a short extract, if any fans of Mickey Spillane would like to purchase the original issue feel free to contact me.

My father was an Irish bartender. I was brought up in the time of the depression. I had to scratch and crawl my way up. It was a very tough Polack neighbourhood in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and I was an only child with no big brothers to call on. I took my lumps by myself and found that with a banana stalk in my hands I could take care of myself quite well. What we call Instant Education. But I've never been overly aggressive. Never had to be. I'm gregarious, I like people. I don't go down and get into big brawls. I've never had anybody come up to me and say, 'Hey, you're Mike Hammer. Let's see how tough you are.' No, they say, 'Hi, Mike. How about having a drink with me?' A lot safer and a lot more satisfying.

Slicks and Pulps  

I started in what we call the slicks and you call the glossies. It was 1935 and I was 17, but I'd already been from a kid on the typewriter - turning out stories, school plays, things like that. Whe I got out of High School I went right into it. I was all ready for it. I turned out my first stories and got everything sold. I never had anything rejected.
But the trouble with the slicks was that you had so much picayune work to do, as a result of this editorial opinion and what-all. I never got bugged too much by editorial opinion, but what little they gave me I disagreed with, so I went into the pulps. Let's say it was a lower class of work, but the income was better. You didn't have a lot of editorial nonsense. You could go a little further into the fields of violence and sex, as you might call it, which wasn't as it is today. I don't really go for sex and violence unless it's necessary.
From the pulps I went into the comic book field, where again you're working your way down statuswise, but working your way up economically. I was one the group of people who originally initiated comic books. Costume things - Captain Marvel, Captain America, those things. We wrote story line, captions, instructions to the artists, action - it's just like writing a television script. We had a two page story I used to write, mainly so they could carry only fourth-class mailing charges. I used to have a big Mickey Spillane by-line. Out of that arose some trouble one day......

To be continued

Sunday, 11 November 2012

My Homemade Movie Trailer

I thought I would attempt to make a short promotional movie trailer for my Christmas Story, Father Christmas and the Elephunk. I don't think Steven Spielberg will lose any sleep, but here it is for your "enjoyment."

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Grazia Deledda

A brief outline of the sadly long-forgotten Grazia Deledda, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1927.

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the Italian novelist Grazia Deledda it meant much more to her than it did to many previous laureates whose literary work had already brought them affluence. For conscientious artist as she was, Grazia Deledda had never been a "best seller," and the merits of her books were out of all proportion to the money she ever received for writing them. In 1927 she received six thousand pounds, which at the time was calculated at over half a million lire. So the Nobel Prize meant that Grazia and her family could for once live in comfort and security.
Her undoubted masterpiece is Cenere, ("Ashes"), which with its simple plot reproduces with convincing truth the manners and thoughts of the Sardinian peasant.

If you love to read beautifully written books find a copy, and immerse yourself in quality.

Free Book Promotion

I have just begun to use my website "Look 4 Books" to help promote my own, and some of my Twitter followers self-published books. This service is totally FREE of charge, and will always remain free of charge. So if you would like your own book featured on "Look 4 Books" feel free to contact me via my Twitter account and I will do the rest. All I ask in return for this service is that you occasionally mention "Look 4 Books" in one of your tweets, or place a link on your blog, or website. This free promotion is only available to self-published authors.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Self-Publishing and Reviews

Over the last few weeks I have begun to self-publish a few of my short stories on Amazon for Kindle. During this period I have also been reading quite a few self-published novels to try and ascertain the general quality of the work on offer. Like many would be customers of Kindle books I like to read the reviews of the work that I'm considering paying for before making my purchase. Yesterday I decided to buy four books all of which had 5 Star reviews, and all of these reviews painted a picture of these books as being something of a literary masterpiece, up there with the likes of Crime and Punishment and Oliver Twist. Sadly I must report that all four books fell well short of greatness, in fact they appeared to have been written by people who have never heard of punctuation, or with any ability whatsoever to tell a story.
I do realise that there is a huge temptation on the part of authors to get family and friends to write glowing reviews of their work, but if this practice becomes widespread and uncontrolled, it could turn the whole business of self-publishing into a joke in the eyes of the general public, and jeopardise the very future of this wonderful new outlet for would be writers. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Oh When The Saints

A Short Story by Gary Walker.

Everyone in Lowestoft knew Jimmy.
He could be seen on most mornings hurrying round the town, head down, chattering to himself, carrying his brown attache case. If anyone spoke he nodded, pointed repeatedly to himself and grinned: 'Me, Jimmy.' Otherwise he bothered no one.
He was small, with black spiky hair and darting eyes set in a tiny nut-brown face. Winter or summer, he wore the same blue suit, red pullover and bow tie. His widowed mother had looked after him all his thirty years and saw to it that he appeared on the streets every day clean and tidy, with three pound coins in his pocket. Jimmy never needed it. There wasn't a shopkeeper who hadn't at one time treated him, or a citizen who hadn't gone out of his way to help. If they laughed at him it was in a kindly, tolerant way, looking on him, not as some halfwit, but as one who's mind was different from theirs. Almost, they envied him, he was so happy with his lot.
His little case contained three items only: the first a tin of polish, the second a brush, for Jimmy loved nothing better than to shine his shoes. It was the third article in his case, however that gave Jimmy the most joy. He wouldn't let anyone touch it. Not even his mother. It was his. 'Me, mine. Me' Jimmy,' he'd say. Lovingly he'd show it to anyone - his telescopic silver-plated bandmaster's conducting baton.
Jimmy's greatest delight in all the world was to go down to the Market Square, or across to the park, and imitate Bandmaster George Fuller leading his men. If the band played Oh when the saints go marching in, Jimmy entered into seventh heaven. It didn't matter a scrap to him that he'd beat time so fast his stick would become a silver blur in the air; he just kept on going furiously until the band caught up with him and they could all finish together. When the applause came it was as much for him as the bandsmen, Jimmy thought, and no one begrudged him such private glory.
One day Jimmy lost his baton - stolen for a giggle by a group of youths as he knelt to polish his shoes in the High Street. A second only, off guard, and the stick and the thieves were gone. Jimmy went wild. He tore his hair, and ran round in circles, shouting what he believed to be bad words. For two days he was inconsolable. Mile after mile he ran round the town, searching everywhere, his little body full of terrible despair. Then he saw a man with a case similar to his own and attacked him. The police were called and they took Jimmy home to his mother. The policeman promised Jimmy he would leave no stone unturned in searching for his stolen baton.
Within twelve hours the baton was found and returned, and Jimmy's agony was over. No names were mentioned and no one was prosecuted, but Danny Snyder, and his mate over the following weeks had more flat tyres in their scooters than the rest of the town put together. After that Jimmy was more careful than ever. He slept with his baton under his pillow.
Two months after Jimmy had seen his baton returned it was to be the night of The Grand Festival of Music, held every year at the Church Hall. Jimmy sat with his mother at the back of the hall, resplendent in a new suit, with his precious case safely stowed between his legs. He realised it wasn't proper on this occasion to conduct with his own baton, but was content to help the band along by beating time unobtrusively in his lap, using both fore-fingers and a lot of concentration. In this way the band got through Selections from Showboat and the James Bond Theme Tunes. Then it came time for the big finale with George Fuller as Bandmaster. George called upon Danny Snyder, as the youngest member of the band to conduct his fellow bandsmen in the playing of Oh when the saints go marching in.
Danny Snyder stepped from his seat in the cornet section, but no further.
Someone in the gallery shouted: 'Never mind about Danny Snyder. What about Jimmy? What about Jimmy? Give him the honour!' For a moment there was stunned silence in the hall.....then just as suddenly everyone started clapping and cheering, simultaneously struck by the brilliant rightness of the suggestion. 'Yes,' they all cried, turning round in Jimmy's direction, urging him forward. 'Come on, Jimmy, bring your baton!'
The vicar didn't like the idea, nor George Fuller, but it was difficult in an instant to do anything without appearing less than Christian. And in seconds it was impossible. When it became clear to Jimmy that he was being asked to conduct the band for real with his own Bandmaster's baton, there was no stopping him.
He was now in the aisle, and marching forward. Cheers carried him all the way to the platform on the stage, and not one person in the hall could doubt this was to be Jimmy's finest hour.
He had watched George Fuller often enough to know how to start by tapping the music stand for attention, and this gesture he copied perfectly.
Instruments at the ready, tongues prepared, the band and everyone in the hall waited.
Jimmy started.
Oh when the saints....he brought the basses in. Go marching in....the brass trombones. Oh when the saints go marching in. Oh Lord I be amongst that number. WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN!
It was a glorious moment for Jimmy. Taller than he had ever been in his life, he was in control of his band. Full control.....until Danny Snyder's tiny revengeful pride became evident. With a wink in his mates direction, Snyder started slowing some bars, then rapidly increasing the tempo in the next, and in no time the whole band was playing chaotically out of rythym and out of tune. The more they tried to correct themselves the worse they became.
Jimmy didn't know what to do. It was beyond his comprehension. All he knew was that his beloved Saints shouldn't be sounding the way it was, and he could only think that he should beat even faster.
Someone at the back of the hall started to giggle, then another, and soon the whole hall was rocking with laughter. The braying band in front, and the bellowing laughter all around was the worst noise that Jimmy had ever heard in his life. He pushed his little fists into his ears to block out the bedlam of the world around him.
As suddenly as they had erupted into laughter seconds before, the hall froze to a silence. The Vicar stepped forward and led Jimmy from the platform, and his mother took Jimmy home.
Jimmy spent the following day sitting silently on a chair, his arms folded - as if he were cold.
Try as she might, his mother could not get Jimmy to speak, or to move. He showed no interest in his case, or in polishing his shoes. In the evening George Fuller came round to apologise on behalf of the town, but Jimmy showed no sign of knowing who the Bandmaster was.
Jimmy doesn't spend his days on the streets of Lowestoft anymore, he sits in his chair with his fists in his ears.

The End 

The Gaberbocchus Press

Individual flavour is the first impact of Gaberbocchus publications. The thing seems almost impertinently impossible. How this Press continued for thirty-one years, and managed to keep out of the rat-race is still a mystery. To quote from an Italian glossy: 'Every Gaberbocchus book is a little intellectual whore capable of doing you a lot of good in times of mental crisis. Men don't borrow Gaberbocchus books, they possess them.'
The first Gaberbocchus publication was Aesop: The Fox and the Eagle and the Eagle and the Fox, which appeared in 1948, and was hand-printed by the directors of the firm, Stefan and Franciszka Thermerson. (Gwen Barnard, the abstract painter, did not become the third co-director until 1953.) From the very start Gaberbocchus were concerned with best books and not best sellers.
Will we ever see the like of Gaberbocchus again? I very much doubt it.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Short-Story Writing

One vital point in their construction.

The beginning to the short story is what hair is to a woman's appearance. An ugly or unbecoming hairstyle sat on the head of an otherwise beautiful lady gives much the same first impression about her overall appearance as does a poor, inartistic, or overwrought opening to a short story.

Never explain or apologize.

A short story that begins with an explanation or an apology is unpardonably inartistic and dull; while the writer who starts with a bit of overwhelming excitement is very soon obliged to climb down to sobriety in order to "begin." The master story-tellers put a great deal of art into their openings. In their minds, evidently, they conceive and perceive their plots in the most lucid way, and then proceed to give them out with a like lucidity, beginning with a deft, concise "pen-and-ink" sketch of either an out standing character or the setting, or else of character and setting combined.