A few years ago I mentioned the possibility of doing a Reservoir Dogs style cover for LeftLion, with the editorial team walking down the street in black suits. Instead of being a Mr Pink or Mr Brown we could be a Mr Books, Mr films, etc. This was put on hold for a bit and then along came Video Matt, aka Triumph Dolemite, with his superb spoof covers for films and record sleeves who had a more dystopian vision for our tenth anniversary issue. All we had to do was get dolled up in suits and frocks and he’d sort out the rest.
For the photo shoot we were asked to bring in something which signified our specialism so naturally I brought along a book. Or rather books. But which one would best represent our chip-littered streets? Decisions decisions.
Alan Sillitoe was an obvious choice, mainly because quotes from that book and film have regularly appeared in the inside cover (“I’m out for a good time, all the rest is propaganda”) but Sillitoe has had his fair share of coverage over the years. Jon McGregor was another contender because he’s the most established writer living in Nottingham, but he’s not a true local (e.g. hasn’t been threatened in Aspley as a kid) and certainly doesn’t need any help promoting his work. David Belbin has published over fifty books and his involvement with NTU Creative Writing and the EMBA made him a strong contender. Or what about Nicola Monaghan, one of the founders of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio and author of one of my favourite debut novels of all time, The Killing Jar.
I must have spent a week working down a list of possible authors or publishers who were worthy of the cover. I didn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I felt racked with guilt. I took books off the shelves and then put them back again. On the day of the shoot I’d nailed it down to seven books. My shortlist included the like of Festus, Philip James Bailey; Sydney Race Diaries, Ann Featherstone; The Complete Works of Henry Kirke White and works by Graham Greene, D H Lawrence and Lord Byron. But in the end I plumped for a short story collection by Derrick Buttress.
Derrick Buttress is a writer I really admire. He is a master of vignettes, both in his short stories and poetry. He’s a true Nottingham legend who has shied away from publicity and so was the perfect choice for this very special issue of LeftLion. His memoir, Broxtowe Boy, is published by Shoestring Press but is out of print. Pick a copy up from the library and you’ll see why he’s a Nottingham treasure. For the inside cover I went for Emrys Bryson’s Portrait of Nottingham. Emrys was a Post journalist and perhaps best known for Owd Yer Tight. I’d love to interview him one day so watch this space.
By the way, if you’re wondering why I look like Pigsy on the cover it’s because I’ve got ‘my nose in a book’. Gerrit. Wasted