Saturday, 16 August 2014

YouWriteOn

                                         
     I haven't blogged since January because I've been a little on the  busy side, in fact it's so long since I blogged that I'd forgotten how to access blogger and it's taken me half a day to find a way into my account. My absence began because of  a poor book review which got me thinking. Is my novel as good as I think it is? In an attempt to find out I joined YouWriteOn. 

     YouWriteOn was established, with Arts Council funding, to assist new writers to develop their writing. The premise is simple: members upload opening chapters, or short stories, and the YouWriteOn system randomly assigns these to another member for review.  For every subsequent review you receive, you must  review another member's story excerpt assigned to you at random. Feedback can be diverse. I tend to ignore a person's feedback if it contradicts the popular viewpoint, but feedback from a range of reviewers helps  to get a collective viewpoint of what works well and what needs developing. 
      Reviewers are asked to give a ratings breakdown in various categories to highlight strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately one unimpressed reader can drastically reduce your star rating. Hey that's life.

Ratings Breakdown: Satan's Whiskers   3.6 star rating
   
Characters
Story (plot)
Pace & structure
Use of language
Narrative Voice
Dialogue
Settings
Themes & ideas


     After 5 reviews a story enters the chart system, and the highest rated writers receive feedback from editors of  publishing houses, Orion and Random House. So far  I've managed to reach number twenty in the charts, which isn't bad considering that thousands of Indie books are available for review. This chart tells me that pace and structure are my weakest disciplines, in consequence I have removed the first three chapters of my novel completely to get to the point much quicker. I've also added more dialogue, as a consequence of the rating system, and re-written the narrative in the first person in an attempt to reach the top 10 and receive a review from one of the  major publishers. It isn't unknown for a  publisher to decide to publish a top 10 story from this group, but even if that never happens I have discovered how other people view my writing. Here are some of the comments.

I became really involved in this story, which has an element of originality about it. Interesting time for those wishing to indulge in nostalgia and I noted the references to the music and fashion of the day. 
Locks
I really enjoyed reading this. You write very well and smoothly, with good command of language and setting. Coming from Manchester, the locations certainly brought back memories.
Leem
I'm in the age group to appreciate some of the names and places you give us and I found what you'd written to be intelligent and interesting.
Flittermouse
Great cover! There's a serial killer in the mix?! I certainly didn't see that coming.
Rob
I think you have all the pieces for a good story, and I liked the structure of your opening, setting out with the forming of the group. The way you gave no hint (synopsis aside) of what was to come, had a rather Tarantino feel.
Carters
There are some great lines and comedy moments which reminded me a bit of The Commitments,
Ellajennajoe
The premise of your story is really interesting. The murder and discovery of the bodies is particularly vivid and memorable. Don't think I'll forget that for some time
Chris
I loved the story and cannot wait to read some more. I particularly liked the opening, which I found very strong and engaging. And then, there is the mystery of who committed the crime against the two drug addicts. 
I write therefore I am
I am sure this story will appeal to people who were young in the 60’s. It’s a great background and you write with an authenticity that says, “I was there”. I think it is quite a challenge to combine autobiographical material with such a macabre tale. I was quite shocked as the tale went from what felt like a fairly light-hearted look at the 60’s music scene into an extremely gruesome crime scene
Naomir

    I have made some serious revisions in the last few months, in fact I've almost re-written the damn thing, but I'm glad that I did. Time now to discover if the revisions have improved the ratings.
     If you'd like to give the novel a look while it's still on offer, I have reduced the price to 99p UK and 99c USA for the rest of August. In the Euro-zone it's available for 99c on Amazon.



Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why I began Writing




As you get older you may spend more and more time living in the past. You may even become so enthused by your recollections that you begin to bore people with repeated stories. Perhaps you are unable to remember who has suffered in the past, and inflict the same stories on the same people repeatedly. It's been suggested, by family members, that I have an on/off switch fitted, so when I retired I decided to dedicate my precious memories to the silent page. There they could be accessed by those wishing to hear them, and I could be silenced, either temporarily or permanently, by closure of the book. In the early to mid nineteen-sixties I played with a rock and pop band and my murder mystery novel "Satan's Whiskers" is set against a backdrop of that period in my life.


At that time I met with a number of bands, and solo artists, who went on to be famous, and some have been given cameo roles in my novel. One memory is of the Liverpool band "Rory Storm and the Hurricanes" who always appeared to be performing at the holiday camp of my choice.
    
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B009INVVGM

*  *  *  * 

Alan Caldwell (Rory Storm) with George Harrison and Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr).


 In the summer of 1962, at a holiday camp in Lincolnshire, I was entertained by *Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.  On stage, the band wore coloured stage suits. Rory having dyed his hair blonde, to set himself apart from the rank and file, often wearing a sparkly turquoise suit with a contrasting gold shirt. One afternoon in the ballroom I and my friend spent some time with the drummer Richie Starkey learning to play the drums.
On returning home I was astonished to see Richie on television. He’d shed his much loved Castro cap and shaved off his beard. Instead of the Teddy boy haircut with the dyed grey streak, he sported a mop-top haircut, the likes of which I'd only witnessed in a Three Stooges movie. The other members of the band sported the same silly haircut, while singing their first single entitled Love Me Do.
*Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were one of the most popular bands on the Liverpool and Hamburg club scenes. Storm disbanded The Hurricanes in 1967 and became a DJ, after Ty O’Brian, the lead guitarist, collapsed on stage with appendicitis and subsequently died. Storm died five years later in 1972, along with his mother. They’d consumed alcohol and pills.
*   *  *  *

Jon Anderson  replaced my  friend as lead singer of a rival band when my friend ceased to be a Warrior in order to become a Phantom. I didn't know Anderson personally, although I did know members of his band. He sang lead vocals with the Warriors for five years until 1967, eventually forming the progressive rock band "Yes" in 1969, along with Chris Squire and Peter Banks. He later collaborated with the Greek musician Vangelis, to become part of the duo "Jon and Vangelis," Apart from writing the musical score for the film "Chariots of Fire," Vangelis also formed the progressive rock band "Aphrodite’s Child," along with singer Demis Roussos.

* * * *

Bert Weedon was one of the guitar greats. He was the first British guitarist to hit the UK singles charts with "Guitar Boogie Shuffle" in 1959, and his tutorial guide "Play in a Day" was instrumental in the early careers of many other guitar greats including Hank Marvin and Eric Clapton. I met him after returning a stolen guitar, inadvertently, to its rightful owner.  



Bert Weedon was a really nice guy. He told stories of his experiences, some of which can be read in my novel. He died in April 2012 at the age of ninety-one. 
He'd purchased his first guitar from a market stall in Petticoat Lane, a notorious market for the sale of antiques and bric-a-brac, in the city of London.  Guitars were such a rarity in those bygone days; that passengers on the bus asked what kind of musical instrument he was carrying. How times had changed; in the 1960's every spotty teenager with a musical ambition, wore a guitar around his neck like a penis extension.

*  *  *  *

After finishing our spot, one night, I went for a drink in the bar of a nightclub. The bar was empty, as people were playing blackjack or roulette in the casino, dancing the night away in the disco, or in the cabaret lounge awaiting Bobby Vee's midnight show. As I ordered a drink, Bobby Vee stood beside me at the bar. I hadn't met him before but we exchanged pleasantries. At that moment, a group of six or seven girls came into the room screaming with excitement and surrounded me. I don't know who was the more surprised.

Robert Velline’s career began on the 3rdFebruary 1959. The day Buddy Holly was killed on flight N3974N to Moorhead Minnesota. At fifteen years of age he filled Holly’s extremely large shoes at the Moorhead concert, supported by a local college boy band named “The Shadows.” He later toured with Holly’s backing band “The Crickets” and had seven British top ten hits between 1960 and 1962 under the stage name of Bobby Vee.

*  *  *  *

The Four Pennies where a local band who were familiar to me.


Lionel Walmsley had once sung, with a skiffle band, along with one of my school friends who played a tea chest bass. In my early teens I rarely ventured far. I settled, instead, for local church and youth club dances, organised by well meaning churchgoers to keep adolescents off the streets and out of serious trouble. The Rockets skiffle group were the band of choice at these clerical locations, and their popularity sowed the seeds that I would like to emulate them. That seed had taken a  long time to germinate.
Lionel had since formed a new band. The tea chest bass had disappeared, along with my school friend, and the guitars had become electrified. Lionel changed his name to Morton and hooked up with a different line up of musicians. Once under new management the band changed its name to the *Four Pennies, as the music store was situated on Penny Street. 

*The Four Pennies had a number 1 UK hit with “Juliet” in 1964, following up, in the same year, with two minor hits. “I Found out the Hard Way,” which reached number 14 in the charts, and “Black Girl,” which managed to reach number 20. The following year they charted again with “Until It’s Time for You to Go” at number 19, before the band folded in 1967. Lionel Morton went on to marry the actress Julia Foster, and appeared in the children’s television programmes “Play School,” and “Play Away.” Fritz Fryer, the band’s lead guitarist and composer of their number one hit single Juliet, went on to work as a record producer for, amongst others, “Motorhead.”

*  *  *  * 

My friend sang with a rival band, and when they were in need of a bass guitarist, he arranged a meeting with Ray Jones of the Manchester based backing band “The Dakotas.” Because he needed transport, he asked me to go along.
The Dakotas had been hired, by Brian Epstein, to support the Liverpool singer Billy Forde in nineteen-sixty-three, before he renamed the band Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. Jones had split with the Dakotas after a row with Epstein over royalties, and he was looking for band work. 
My friend arranged to meet him at, a public house situated a short drive from the motorway which brought Jones to the meeting. The evening turned out to be a good deal of fun, with lots of band talk. Unfortunately nothing was agreed upon and Jones returned empty handed and more than a little intoxicated.


Ray Jones is far right.

Ray Jones founded The Dakotas in 1960. They were an instrumental backing band in the style of “The Shadows” when Jones negotiated a deal to back Billy J Kramer. He played on the number one hits “Little Children” and “Bad to Me,” but was neither impressed by Kramer or the disparity in their earnings.
He was sacked by Epstein in 1964, and he left the business in 1967 to become a psychiatric nurse. He died in the year 2000 from, what appears to have been, a heart attack.
*  *  *  * 

I was introduced to The Fourmost at a cabaret club. 

The Starlight Club was a converted cinema on the outskirts of town. It booked quality acts like Shane Fenton and the Fentones. Born Bernard Jewry, Fenton married the sister of Rory Storm, and became Alvin Stardust, and  Arnold Dorsey who was a complete unknown before changing his name to Englebert Humperdinck.
They sat at our table during the interval and people approached them for autographs. Some may have assumed me to be a fifth member of The Fourmost, which made absolutely no sense. But a man wielding an eyebrow pencil and a table napkin, approached me in the urinals, and asked me to sign an autograph for his girlfriend.

*  *  *  *

I met Wayne Fontana when we were rivals for the same girl. This is my account from the novel Satan's Whiskers. 

The Mindbenders ended their first spot and the stage revolved once more. I was really pissed that the Mindbenders were able to cope with the movement of the stage, while Satan’s Whiskers had made such a dog’s dinner of it. Perhaps The Mindbenders were more experienced at coping with revolving stages, or perhaps someone had been underneath the stage with an oilcan in order to ease its passage. Either way it annoyed me that they made it look so easy.
I went to the bar to buy Peggy Sue a drink. When I returned, with a full glass in either hand, I was surprised to find her talking to Wayne Fontana. I stood aside and watched the conversation unfold. It was obvious that Fontana knew her, and was trying to convince her that she should leave with him after the show. I felt I wouldn't stand a cat in hell’s chance of competing for her affections, and was about to withdraw, when Peggy spotted me from the corner of her eye and beckoned me over. I handed her the promised drink, and she introduced me to Fontana as her boyfriend, after which Fontana said, “Pleased to meet you,” which he obviously wasn't, and promptly left.

*Born Glyn Geoffrey Ellis in 1945, Wayne Fontana formed the Mindbenders in 1963 with Bob Lang, Ric Rothwell, and Eric Stewart. He had two minor chart hits in 1963, before reaching number 5 in the UK charts with the Curtis Mayfield hit “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.” He went on to have two further top ten hits with “The Game of Love,” his biggest hit of the decade at number two in the UK charts. He charted with Pamela, Pamela, after splitting with the Mindbenders, who in turn had a chart hit of their own with “A Groovy Kind of Love” in 1965. Eric Stewart became lead vocalist after the split, before going on to form the band 10cc, along with Graham Goulden, also of the Mindbenders, Kevin Godley, and Lol Cream.

*  *  *  *



I met Dave Berry at a club after a performance. He didn't want to return to Sheffield and I helped him find somewhere to stay.
Here is my account from the novel.
On our second appearance at the Grange, we supported Dave Berry.  Berry asked me if I knew of a place where he could spend the night. I suggested a local hotel, but was told a pub with rooms, would be more than satisfactory. I perused the yellow pages from the reception desk until I found one. Although I wouldn't have relished staying there himself, Berry appeared to be happy with the arrangement. I hoped that he would still be happy when he arrived there?

**Dave Berry had his first chart success with Chuck Berry’s “Memphis Tennessee,” in October 1963. In July 1964 he charted again with “The Crying Game.” He had two further chart hits with “Little Things” in March 1965 and “Mamma” in July 1966.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Morning Coffee

     One of my greatest pleasures is morning coffee, preferably in a cafe with a toasted teacake and a good book. I love a cappuccino, but on occasions I have to settle for filter coffee. This is served, full to the brim, with two cartons of UHT milk on the side. It's fortuitous that I am unable to transport it to my table  without spilling it into my saucer, or I would never be able to include the milk. The problem of spillage is not unknown,  and the solution is to sit the cup on an absorbent mat, rather than reduced contents.
     I don't know if you have ever used cartons of UHT milk, but they never colour the coffee no matter how many cartons you add. While waiting for my toast, I  have to drink enough black coffee to add a further four cartons, as my saucer is already full. When my toast  arrives it's accompanied by a  solid brick of butter. After warming the butter in my hands  so that it can be spread on my teacake, and adding six cartons of milk in a futile attempt to colour my coffee, it's stone cold.
     Hotels are no better.  Once they issued a key with a fob so large that it wouldn't fit into your pocket. Now you get a swipe card. Now I wasn't born in the high tech age, and I can never get the blasted thing to work. I put the card in the slot and the light turns green, but as soon as I attempt to open the door it turns back to red. After a dozen swipes I finally get into my bedroom and head straight for the kettle as I'm gasping.
      There may be a dozen tea bags, a dozen coffee sachets,  the ubiquitous  milk cartons and one spoon, only ever one spoon, even though it's a double room. The kettle is empty so where to fill it? The bathroom washbasin appears to be the obvious choice, but the kettle won't go under the tap unless placed at  an angle. It's now possible to fill the kettle just enough for one cup of coffee, but while removing it,   it always empties  down the drain. The only other place to fill the kettle is the bath, because I don't want coffee enough to fill it from the toilet bowl, but it's impossible to reach the bath taps because of the shower screen, so you need to climb in the bath to fill the kettle.
    Sachets are another problem, although they have a nick designed for tearing, they never actually tear at the nick. You use finger nails, you use  teeth, you can never find any scissors, but this sachet has been designed to be indestructible. A million years on a land fill and this baby will still be intact. When it does tear,  it's never at the nick, and the contents end up  all over the carpet. I do love a nice cup of coffee, don't you?
 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Four Months of Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year, but it lasts for five whole months.

Month One

During  September  toy manufactures begin to bombard the television screen with adverts for Christmas toys. These don't go unnoticed by certain sections of the household and it may become necessary to ban all kiddie channels. If you are foolish enough to purchase these can't live without items in August, you may well discover that these much coveted items are no longer on the most wanted list by Christmas.

Month Two

October sees the first of the Christmas decorations in the shops, and it's soon impossible to walk around the supermarket without hearing Christmas songs played on a loop system. By Christmas Eve they are beginning to drive you stark raving mad. Pity the poor checkout girls wearing antlers, and hats with bells and holly.

Month Three
 
In November you may be encouraged to put up the Christmas lights before the weather becomes inclement. Every year you take down the lights carefully, wrap them up, equally carefully, and put them away in an old suitcase in the loft. By the time you get them out, the following year, they look like a ball of wool that the cat's been playing with. Although they were working perfectly when they were mothballed, they never work after being untangled and it takes hours before every set is  working. Now you might expect people to be grateful for the expense and effort you have gone to in order to make the dark days around Christmastime a little brighter. Not a bit of it. Last year I was savaged by a neighbour who informed me that a simple holly wreath would have been sufficient.

Month Five

In December the children will want to visit Santa. It cost will cost  £5 pounds each for a jigsaw puzzle priced at £3.50 and reduced, because of poor sales, to £1.99. At least one of the children in your care will be too apprehensive to approach Santa and will begin to cry, while another will doubt his credentials publicly. You can tell when it's getting close to Christmas as Easter eggs begin to appear in the shops, and every other advert on television is trying to persuade you to purchase a three piece suite in time for Christmas. If Christmas fails to live up to your expectations this year, don't worry, you need only wait until September for it all to begin again.


Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Dating Game

With all of the novels out there vying for attention, why would anyone choose to read one of mine? Most people like to stick with what they know so as not to be disappointed. As authors we all want to be read, otherwise why spend  time writing, but how do we convince readers to take a chance on us? How do they know they will like what they read after paying the price of a cup of coffee for a download. We must offer them a sample for free. Here is my free sample, a short story about a Saturday night date.
 
 
The Dating Game
 
“I can’t believe they lost again; and to Charlton Athletic at home. Ray Evans was sitting on his ten year old motorcycle while talking with his friend Ron Cook.
“Rovers will be relegated if they keep losing home games,” replied Cookie sadly.
It was late November 1968. Although they’d started the season well with three wins and a draw back in August, they’d now lost three of their last four league games.
As it was exceptionally cold for November, Ray was wearing his leather flying jacket, motorcycle boots, blue jeans, and thick fisherman’s socks folded neatly over his boots. He rarely wore a crash helmet, as the law didn’t require it, and in any case it wasn‘t regarded as coo by his contemporaries. When he chose to wear one he looked like a bee, with yellow and black stripes which began above his flying goggles and ended at the nape of his neck.
At the bus stop, the number forty-nine bus came to a halt. A girl in her late teens, or early twenties, smiled at them from the upper deck of the bus. Ray smiled back but Cookie sullenly ignored her. She was a dark haired girl, with a round chubby face. Ray’s low vantage point restricted his view but he had a great imagination and a mental picture that encompassed the rest of her. She continued to smile, sticking out her tongue and giving a cheeky wave as the bus drew away from the bus stop.
“I’ve got to go,” said Ray as he started up his motorcycle.
“See you tonight?” shouted Cookie, more in hope than in expectation as Ray rode away.
“Maybe,” Ray called back. The meaning being clear, it would depend on the outcome of his forthcoming meeting with the girl.
“In the Legs of Man at eight?” called Cookie hopefully.
“Okay,” replied Ray half heartedly.
He followed the bus until the girl reached her stop. She looked just as he’d imagined. Ungenerous people might describe her as on the plump side, although Ray preferred to think of her as cuddly. She was wearing tight fitting jeans, which accentuated her lower proportions; a polo neck sweater which looked far too big and helped disguised her upper body assets. Shiny high heeled boots, which finished above her knee, and a long dark coat with a shaggy lining, which curled out to form a collar. Despite the cold weather, her coat was left unfastened, to reveal her wide hips and ample bosom.
He was apprehensive, even though he’d been rehearsing his chat up line for the last two stops, but his misgivings soon evaporated as the girl confidently approached him.
“Hi, my name’s Christine, but everyone calls me Chrissie,” she said by way of introduction.
“Raymond,” he replied. “But everyone calls me Ray.”
Ray had been popular with the opposite sex since the age of puberty, although in those early days of innocence he’d completely failed to notice. Although he wasn’t short, Cookie was taller, but with the aid of his fashionable high heeled boots they stood at a comparable height. Although his hair was light, and often bleached blonde in the summertime. He had dark eyes, long lashes, and unruly eyebrows, which he kept in check by using the moustache trimmer on his electric razor. His mother regularly chased him around the house with a pair of eyebrow tweezers, in an attempt to rectify the problem. As she plucked her own eyebrows to destruction, before replacing them with a thin pencil line, he made sure she never caught him.
“Are you going anywhere tonight?” he blurted out, in total contrast to the speech he’d been rehearsing.
“Are you asking me out?” she asked giggling.
“I could be, if you want me to,” answered Ray, sensing from her body language that he was onto a winner.
“Okay,” she replied, without giving the matter any consideration. “Where are you taking me?”
“Anywhere you like,” he offered, “the pub, the pictures, Blackpool Tower, the moon?”
He knew the instant the words left his mouth that his statement sounded corny. He felt himself colouring with the embarrassment of his remark, and hoped that Chrissie hadn’t noticed his discomfort.
“The pictures,” she said laughing. “The moon’s too far for a Saturday night out.”
“Any idea what’s on?” he asked.
“Live a Little, Love a Little,” she answered.
“Sounds good to me, but what’s the film called?” he quipped.
“Cheeky,” she said, smiling at his puerile attempt at a joke.
“Who’s in it?” he asked by way of conversation.
“Elvis,” she answered.
“Elvis who?” asked Ray, as if he’d no idea who Elvis was. She reached over and slapped him playfully on the arm.
Ray was a big Elvis fan. He’d enjoyed the early musicals, although in his opinion, Elvis hadn’t made a decent film in a while, and he’d no great expectations of the evening’s film.
“Okay, I’m game, what time does it start?” he asked.
“Eight o’clock,” she answered, while checking her wristwatch as if the start time was imminent.
He free wheeled his motorbike along the gutter as she walked, pushing the curb with his foot to gain momentum, until they reached her front door.
“Is this your house, twenty-seven?” he asked. She answered to the affirmative. “Pick you up at seven-thirty,” he suggested
“Not on this I hope,” she said, pointing to Ray’s motorbike.
“What’s wrong with the bike?”  Ray asked, while pretending to be hurt and patting it lovingly on the petrol tank.
“Well for a start its dirty and it smells. I don’t want to be blown to bits on the back of a motorbike, especially after I’ve just had my hair done.” She patted her hair to illustrate that she’d recently visited the hairdressers, and waited for the complements which never came. “And I’ve no intentions of showing my backside to the world getting on it.”
Ray would have preferred to own a Norton Dominator, or a Triumph Bonneville, but he couldn’t afford ownership of either of these motoring status symbols, while only able to admire them from afar.  

*  *  *  * 

The bike was fitted with a sidecar, which wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. Families on the estate who couldn’t afford to own a family car, and there were many, purchased such a vehicle out of necessity, or alternatively travelled by bus.
He hadn’t realised the difficulty associated with riding a three wheeled vehicle, as he’d only ridden a tricycle in early childhood, and with a different wheel configuration. Difficulty apart, it wasn’t cool to be seen riding a motorbike and sidecar, consequently he’d negotiated a purchase price for the bike alone.
While it was a three wheeled vehicle, the bike started easily, but once the sidecar was removed the bike refused to start. Not because of the amputation, but because the battery was in need of charging.
 Ray attempted to bump start the segregated motorbike on the steep cobbled side street which led to the point of sale. Finally the engine stuttered into life as he reached the bottom. Failing to realise the power of the motorbike, in comparison to the much smaller bike he was accustomed to riding, he gave it too much throttle. He shot across the main thoroughfare, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic, before colliding with a pedestrian barrier, which catapulted him onto the pavement in front of an oncoming mother and pram. His father, who’d accompanied him, suggested he review his decision to buy such a powerful motorbike, worried that the incident might be a precursor of things to come. Ray would have none of it, and the old BSA became a permanent fixture in his father’s garage.

*  *  *  *

  “Okay,” he said in conciliatory fashion. “If you’re adamant about not showing your arse, I’ll borrow my dad’s car.”
His father was the proud owner of his second Ford Anglia, which he was reluctant to entrust into Ray’s care, as Ray was responsible for wrecking his first one. Even though he’d promised Chrissie that he’d pick her up in the car, the borrowing of his father’s car was far from a foregone conclusion. He would have to grovel; even agree to an extensive list of chores to secure the loan.

*  *  *  *

The film had already begun when they entered the cinema. They picked their way through the darkness, without the aid of the usherette and her torch, as being more intent on filing her nails, she completely ignored them. The cinema was almost empty and they found a quiet spot on the back row of the stalls. He put his arm around her shoulders and she snuggled up to him, putting a warm hand on his chest and her head on his shoulder.
On screen, Elvis was on a beach and kissing a pretty girl in a swimming costume. Watching for signs of a false move, was a huge Great Dane named Albert, who looked as though he’d eat Elvis if he stepped out of line.
“Who’s she?” asked Ray, referring to the female lead.
“Michelle Carey,” Chrissie answered authoritatively.
“I’ve never heard of her,” he complained.
“Are you here to see the film, or not?” she asked, beginning to lose patience with his observations.
“If I have to choose, the answer is not,” he replied, as he lifted her chin and kissed her full on the lips with mock passion. She coughed and spluttered, pushing him away to regain her composure before smacking him hard on the knee.
“Hey that hurt,” he whined.
“Stop being such a baby,” she scolded.
She was wearing the same coat she’d worn in the afternoon, but the jeans had been replaced by a tight fitting leather mini-skirt. Ray smiled in the darkness of the cinema, as he envisioned Chrissie climbing onto his motorbike while wearing it. The sloppy sweater she’d worn earlier had been replaced by a plain white tee-shirt, which exhibited copious amounts of cleavage and a considerable amount of her lacy black bra. He put his hand inside her coat as they kissed, while wondering if it was too early to attempt to fondle her breasts. His dilemma became irrelevant, as without a moment’s hesitation, she unzipped his trousers.

*  *  *  *

Once back at the Shadcroft estate, she guided him to a piece of waste land behind a row of council houses. There, six or seven self assembly garages, of asbestos and timber, had been constructed, for the minority of families who found a car affordable.
Once parked, he wasted little time in unfastening her bra. He was experienced at removing support garments, while able to unhook a bra, using only one hand, before the wearer was aware of his transgression. She stopped his progress as the bra strap slackened. At first he thought he’d misread the situation, although the signals couldn’t have been clearer if she’d been wearing a neon sign. Reaching up her sleeve, she pulled the strap down her arm and slipped it over her wrist. Finding the other strap, up the opposite sleeve, she repeated the process. With one quick movement, like a pickpocket stealing a wristwatch, the bra came down her sleeve and she threw it onto the back seat of the car. What a good trick thought Ray, while wondering if it was a skill he might one day perfect.
 He pulled up her tee-shirt to expose her not inconsiderable assets, and noticed a mark on her right breast. On closer examination it turned out to be a rose tattoo. Ray always wanted a tattoo. Not a rose, which he considered to be rather girly, but something which would give the observer an impression of his bravery. Perhaps a skull and crossbones motif or a dagger with a snake coiled around it, but when he mentioned the tattoo to his mother, she hit the roof. Not being brave enough to challenge her authority on the matter, and therefore not fit to wear the intended insignia, he never mentioned the subject again.
“What did your parents say when you got your tattoo?” he asked, while circling it with his forefinger.
“My parents don’t know about it,” she answered. “I’m not in the habit of flashing my tits at home, that’s why it’s hidden.”
“Have you any more hidden ones?” Ray asked hopefully.
“No but my brother has,” she replied. “He has a hunting scene on his back. Horses, huntsmen in red coats, fox hounds, the works, and a fox’s tail disappearing up his bum.”
“Tasteful,” said Ray ironically, his mind working overtime to envisage the pastoral scene.
He put his hand on her knee, climbing her stockings until he reached her stocking tops. They were supported by suspenders, a rare treat in a world dominated by pantyhose. He could feel the warm flesh of her inner thigh, and was aware of a quiver running through her body at his touch. She stopped him, in his expedition, to remove a pair of silk knickers, which magically appeared from beneath her skirt, sliding easily over her stockings before dropping unaided onto the floor.
All was going according to plan, until a torchlight shone through the window of the car, and a tapping sound was heard on the steamed up window glass. Chrissie whispered that it must be her father come looking for her, and they froze in the mistaken hope that the intruder would go away. When the frightened couple didn’t respond, the intruder became impatient. The passenger door, which they’d failed to lock, opened to reveal a face, a face which peered from beneath a policeman’s helmet. Ray was embarrassed by the intrusion, but despite her naked breasts being spotlighted by the intruder’s torch, Chrissie made no attempt at modesty.
“Bugger off you pervert,” she shouted at the copper, relieved that it was the constabulary and not her father who’d discovered them.
“No call for that miss,” said the policeman. “I’ll return in five minutes and you’d better be gone.” With that the door closed and the face disappeared.
“I’d better be going,” said Chrissie. “I’m already on a curfew, and if I don’t go now my dad really will come looking for me.”
She found her bra on the back seat of the car where she’d carelessly thrown it. Not bothering to replace it, she pulled down her tea shirt and stuffed the item into her coat pocket. They searched the car for the French knickers, under the seats, in the back, in the front. Ray even used a torch, which he kept in the glove compartment, to search outside, but the undergarment was nowhere to be found.
An hour later, a policeman walking his beat on the Shadcroft estate, stopped at number twenty-seven. The house was in darkness, as he removed a pair of French knickers from his tunic pocket, before hanging them on the gatepost for all to see.

If you liked this short story, my novels, Weekend in Amsterdam, and Satan's Whiskers, can be found on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Click on the book covers in the right hand margin.

 
 
 
 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Book Art


    This is an appeal on behalf of the save the book foundation. I am a book, and it has to be said that printed books are being persecuted since the advent of the e-book.
     I understand the evolutionary concept that the strong must survive while the weak will perish, but we, the books, have been around, in printed form, since William Caxton invented the printing press in 1415, and for hundreds of years before that as illuminated manuscripts, while our ancestors, the scrolls, have been around for thousands of years. Should we be cast aside, after so many years of faithful service to humanity?
     I can't help but notice the increasing amounts of book art displayed on social websites.  Let's be honest they're really rather clever, but the bookworm inside of me can't help but think that destroying books, in the name of art, is a sacrilege. Did HG Wells write War of the Worlds as an origami project, did Arthur Conan Doyle write The Hound of the Baskervilles, so that they could be made into a popup book, I think not.
      
 
     The other kind of book abuse, that I've noticed, is the placing of books to form a sculpture, books floating in the air, or used as stepping stones across a field. Books used to make igloos or arched supports for ceilings. When did books become building blocks? Now I have the highest regard for bricks, they've been around for almost as long as books, and perform a valuable service, but come on, someone has spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours constructing a story, or explaining a phenomenon, books  should be read and digested, not walked upon, or used to build Wendy houses. Artists, go back to your paints and clay, your stone and marble, your unmade beds and preserved wildlife in formaldehyde, and leave us books alone. Readers, demand a real book, not a text message, when we are gone we are gone, and I guarantee we will be missed. Remember that the vinyl record was replaced by the tape cassette; remember how well that turned out.


This was a party political broadcast on behalf of the Real Book Foundation.
 
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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Halloween

Halloween is almost upon us, but television programmers obviously can't wait. It's four days away from Halloween and my viewing today consists of, The Ghost of Greville, followed by The Canterville Ghost, Monster House, Ghostbusters, Scream 4, Scream: The true story, and The Wicker man, and that's only one channel.
     Trick or Treat, now what's all that about? There was no such thing as Trick or Treat when I was a lad, but then it wasn't long after the war had ended and sweets were a luxury. We recognised All Hallows Eve as a time of supernatural activity. It was seen as a time when the door to an alternative world opened wide enough for the souls of the dead to enter our world.
     As a child I remember waiting, along with many others, to see the headless horseman, who was reputed to patrol the grounds of the ancestral home of the Walmsley family. Now if I were a headless horseman there's no way I would ride around the countryside at midnight on Halloween, its far too bloody cold for that, and too scary for that matter, especially when you have no head on which to wear a hat, or a neck around which to wear a scarf. I suspect the horseman thought the very same thing, because after all the apprehension, and freezing our whatsits off, the inconsiderate so-and-so never had the decency to show up.
     When I was in my teens we pitched a tent, along with many others, on the top of Pendle Hill, home to the Lancashire Witches who were executed at Lancaster Castle for witchcraft. We were told, by someone who was probably tucked up in bed and laughing at our gullibility, that the spirits of the witches roamed the moor on Halloween. We lit a camp fire and scared each other half to death, but the only spirits we saw came from a bottle of scotch, which someone had the foresight to bring along.
     Now trick or treat appears to be an American import. On television, I watch as little kids, escorted by parents and dressed up in costumes, knock on doors with baskets, or buckets, with which to collect sweets. The householders trim their houses with all things scary, and some even dress up, waiting expectantly for the knock on the door. I think that trick or treat might have lost something in  translation, or on its journey across the Atlantic, because people here tend to put out their lights and pretend to be out, while teenage gangs, wearing masks, just like any other robbers, terrorise the area. Sweets are not for them, hard cash is what's required, with which to buy booze or drugs.
 
  

 
    In fairness we have started to get a few little ones early in the evening, which is nice, but they appear to know, through psychic ability, if I have sweets in the house. If I have they never come near, and I put on half a stone in weight eating unwanted sweets, and If I don't bother to get any, on the assumption that no-one came last year, we get lots of trick or treaters and it costs me a fortune in pound coins.
     What kind of year will this one be, who knows, perhaps I should buy a few sweets, just in case, and make sure I have plenty of loose change.