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Whether you've found this page by design or accident, I hope you enjoy my random ramblings.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Big Welcome to my old boss Steve Chilton!

And before he says it - not so much of the old!

I'm delighted to welcome Steve Chilton to my blog this week. Steve is a former Midlands Feature Writer of the Year with a long and illustrious career at the Coventry Telegraph which included news and features editor plus writing the offbeat Peeping Tom and Red Button columns. Walking Keef's Dog and Other Short Stories is Steve's first book and marks his d├ębut in fiction after a reporting career that spanned more than 25 years.

Additionally, Steve was my Features Editor when I first started writing features for the Coventry Telegraph way back. I just thought I'd share this little story with you, as he was actually responsible for sending me on my very first press trip, Lunch in Lille.

I really felt that I'd landed on my feet as I jetted off for lunch in Lille, France. It was a fabulous way of spend the day, being shown around the town, lovely free food, and then back in time for tea (well almost). It was a week later when Steve called across the office to me: “Have we had your copy for Lunch in Lille yet?”  Oh!” says I. “You want me to write about it?”

Anyway, back to this brand new book Walking Keef's Dog and Other Short Stories: “It’s a complete reversal for me,’ said Steve. ‘As a reporter you sometimes get accused of making up a story, although it is factually correct, because people just don’t like what’s being said. Now, I am making it up, in stories of complete fiction - well, almost - and hoping people do like it.”

Several of the short stories start with a foothold in historical fact, he says. But soon stray off into comedy fantasy. Steve explained that a photo of Keith Richards arriving for a Coventry gig cuddling his pet puppy provided the inspiration for the book. The unlikely paring of the Stone' bad boy and a cute puppy on tour in 1971 is one of 10 short stories in the book.

Keef did turn up at the Coventry Theatre with Boogie, his puppy, and the Telegraph has some great archive pictures, including Mick Jagger with wife-to-be Bianca in the cobbled lane off Hales Street leading to the stage door. But thereafter it’s a fantasy, as Boogie escapes for a brief taste of rock ‘n stroll before returning to the gig to find he’s been replaced by a bogus Boogie.”

Steve's home city and neighbouring towns feature strongly in his book. His targets for parody include Queen Elizabeth 1’s romantic break in Kenilworth, under-performing folk festival fans, star-struck local politicians and a hard-drinking jazz-loving gumshoe cop...from Leamington.

It’s not all played for laughs, though. There are a few satirical barbs aimed at the way PFI hospitals raise finances, the post-war planners of Coventry city centre, and men behaving badly on away football trips.

He says the Coventry region is a treasure trove of unlikely but true stories. “I was around for some of them,” he says, “although not - as some may believe - for Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Kenilworth in 1575, which has been portrayed as one of history’s great love stories. Well, maybe, but I’ve spiced it up a tad.”

Steve, says he was born between cathedrals in Coventry - “after the old one was destroyed but before the new one was consecrated’’ and points out that his birthplace has a long history of spinning celebrity surprises.

Brigitte Bardot turning up unannounced at the cathedral for a funeral service, John and Yoko planting acorns for peace and most bizarrely of all, Muhammad Ali visiting a Tile Hill chip shop to meet an old sparring partner, are just a few examples,” he says.

He admits ’ borrowing’ one or two star visits as a starting point in this collection of stories, but makes it clear where facts end and fiction begin. He’s hoping that the book will appeal to people looking for a light-hearted break from Christmas over-indulgence.

After all that stodge and TV, it could provide a dash of escapism and some gentle exercise, page turning. If you don’t like it, wrap it up and hand it over as a Boxing Day present to that relative who keeps giving you socks very year.”

Here's a short extract from She's a Killer...Queen

A mist was still hanging over the mere as we left the following morn, but the watery sun was showing well-enough to promise enveloping warmth later. The captain obviously had similar intentions and instructed his two men to follow 50 paces behind, well out of earshot.

Truth be told, there was little to hear that would have given us away as lovers. We talked easily about the excesses of the past few days, tried to best each other by naming the hedgerow flowers and song birds along the way and paused often at the small stream we were following to see if we could spot the sparkle of a trout basking in the shallows. We didn’t need anything else. It was just how I had imagined a fledgling romance might be, had I not been born different.

I had suffered many suitors since I came of age. Princes from Denmark, Spain and Sweden; the King of France... all seeking a political union. Their passion was for more power. I was merely a means to that end.

Courtiers from my own land were as numerous as the mayfly hatching along that lonely stream, and would have been as short-lived. For their ardour also would have died after they’d planted their seeds. I did not intend to be the vessel for their vanity. My father chartered that route and is remembered as an overweight ogre who treated his wives as brood mares.

I would not give up a sliver of my power let alone be subjugated by the rule of a man occupying my throne. What I wanted on that day, walking with my compliant lover, was to banish a dark yearning for something else, something that was recognised long ago.

You are different, like me’, my French governess had whispered in my ear on my 12th birthday, before kissing me tenderly on the lips.

Walking Keef’s Dog and Other Short Stories is published by Takahe, rrp £9.95 and is available from bookshops and major online bookstores. Steve Chilton’s website www.redbutton2.com has free extracts from three of the stories.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Welcome to author Peter Walters

I'm delighted to welcome Peter Walters onto my blog today. Peter is a friend and work colleague from our Coventry Telegraph days. With a wealth of knowledge about the city, he has now written his second book on Coventry entitled – Great War Britain: Coventry Remembering 1914-18.

Illustrated with wonderful old photographs from the city's archives, the book explores the 1914-1918 story of the place they called The Busiest Town In England, years that established Coventry as one of Britain's most important 20th century industrial dynamos. It's a tale often over-shadowed by the city's suffering in World War Two and has not been told often enough.

Peter's first book, The Story of Coventry, also evocatively illustrated, was the first full narrative history of Coventry for more than a decade, tracing the city's story from its beginnings around the year 1000 to the recent recession. Written for the general reader, it concentrates on the rich gallery of characters who have populated that colourful thousand years.

Peter and his wife, Barbara who is also a journalist, were already working at the Coventry Telegraph when I started back in the day. I asked him how he first got into writing.

“I was always keen on English at school and got an S level (grade 1) in it as well as A level. Stupidly, I was persuaded that law was a better career so did a law degree at Leeds University (69-72). When I finished I immediately went into newspapers, initially a weekly in Cheshire.

“I came to the Coventry Telegraph as a reporter but quickly switched to features. I was a general feature writer but found myself writing a lot about the city's history – I'd always been interested in history. I also liked profile writing and did a lot of those too. In later years I had a weekly light-hearted column and wrote leaders for the paper, the latter I think great training for a writer as it forces you to be succinct.”

Around 2011, publishers, The History Press approached him to write a book on Coventry.
“I was nervous about it but found it less difficult than I had imagined. I treated it as an extended feature, I suppose. As a journalist you are at least comfortable with putting pen to paper, so to speak.”

It took him around a year to research and write his first book, The Story of Coventry which came out in 2013.  This led to the writing of his second book featuring Coventry during the First World War. Great War Britain: Coventry Remembering 1914-18.

“I loved doing the research, most of it in the Herbert Museum's History Centre,” added Peter. “It felt like an extension of something I had always done on the paper – in the CET's Library. To be honest, I didn't find anything that came as a complete surprise as I'd written a lot about the city's history already. But Coventry's extraordinary monastic past was something I hadn't really grasped before and the incredible scale of its contribution to the First World War was also unexpected.”

With his interest and knowledge about the city of Coventry, when he's not writing – or reading, Peter conducts city walks for people with an interest in its history along with being involved in community projects; and in his free time, he plays tennis, enjoys film, theatre and music. I wondered whether there were any more books in the pipeline.

“I'd love to write more books,” Peter told me. “Although I'm not sure if I want to write more about Coventry. I feel I've 'done' the city in a way. I'd really like to write something in the popular history field with a national focus. I'm trying to work up an idea for the publishers at the moment.”

I'd like to thank Peter Walters for being on my blog today, and wish him every success with these books and good luck with future projects.

The Story of Coventry. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Story-Coventry-Peter-Walters/dp/1860776922/

Both books are published by The History Press. http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/

If you would like to contact Peter, Email: peter@waltersconsultancy.co.uk.
Mobile 07748 116041.