LeftLion 47

It’s Jubilee weekend so what better way to celebrate than with Issue 47 of LeftLion which is rammed to the hilt with literature. The WriteLion page features nine book reviews, three celebrating the third anniversary of Angry Robot Books (Zoo City Lauren Beukes, Embedded Dan Abnett, Empire State Adam Christopher) and the six shortlisted books for this year’s East Midlands Book Award (The Whispers of Nemesis Anne Zouroudi, The Truth about Celia Frost Paula Rawsthorne, The Misadventures of Winnie the Witch Laura Owen, Pao Kerry Young, An Ordinary Dog Gregory Woods, Ours are the Streets Sunjeev Sahota) As per last year, there are interviews with all of the authors online.

I reviewed three of the books which went against my policy of trying to get a different reviewer for each title. The reason for this was simple. Some publishers were so late sending stuff out that it was too late to get them to reviewers and so I had to lock myself away for a couple of days and read until my eyes started to bleed. This meant I got to read and interview the winner of the East Midlands Book Award, Anne Zouroudi. Her publisher, Bloomsbury, are forgiven for sending the book so late as it came with all of her previous titles in the Greek Detective series. So, a holiday in Greece is called for so that they can be read in their natural habitat.

With PRIDE soon upon us I interviewed Jim Read, the author of a new biography on Justin Fashanu. Fashanu is one of the most fascinating players to grace the game and quite remarkably, the only openly gay football player in the history of the British game. Fashanu was a complex and contradictory character; Christian, rampant fantasist, charismatic playboy, scorer of that goal, victim of homophobic bullying from that manager, adopted, and perhaps most bizarrely, Bet Lynch’s ex – if we are to take his word. His story – which ended tragically in suicide – has been handled superbly by Jim Read and has a good chance of making it on to the Whitbread Sports Book of the Year and hopefully will go some way in encouraging gay players out there to come out.

But the big celebration in this issue was the two page interview with Derrick Buttress who was the first commissioned writer on the Sillitoe: Then and Now project I’m doing for The Space. Nothing has given me more pleasure in all of the articles I’ve written for LeftLion over the last six years than featuring an eighty-year-old writer. Derrick is Nottingham born and bred and had his first short story collection published this year. I can think of no better inspiration to writers out there than sharing his story.

And to cap it all off my partner on the Sillitoe project, Paul Fillingham designed the front cover. Paul is an absolute wizard on the computer and has produced some stunning visuals for the project, blending old and new photographs together to perfectly capture the essence of the project. Now, time for a well deserved drink.

Derrick Buttress

As part of the Space project I’ve enjoyed spending time with Derrick Buttress. Derek, at the tender age of eighty, has just had his first short story collection published by Shoestring Press although he has five poetry collections, two memoirs and various scripts for radio and television under his belt. Derrick is our first commissioned writer and will be taking us from the 1930s up to the publication of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 1958. He’s going to take us on a personal journey through the market square – a key location in the novel – and share his memories of when it was filled with GIs, communists, and folk doing a celebratory conga in celebration of VE Day.

 

Going to Derrick’s home was a little bit like stepping into one of his short stories in that I knew everything about his relationship with his wife Joan though a couple of comments. Joan was in the front room watching Casablanca, ‘for the seventeenth time’ Derrick informed me. I wasn’t sure if he meant that day, week or the duration of his sixty years of marriage. Later on Joan pulled me to one side and said, ‘you know he spends all of his time up there tapping away on that computer’ and shook her head, like I must be in agreement with her that this was ridiculous behaviour and I’d be better suited sitting down with her watching Casablanca.

 

As part of our public engagement for the Space project, Derrick kindly allowed me to piggy back on to his book launch Sing to Me and we chatted about his market square memories. The event was held at Lee Rosy’s on 11 April which is a lovely little venue – although if you’re planning a similar event there, make sure you keep the door shut upstairs as the noise quickly filters downwards. It was a lovely event with a highly respected audience including John Lucas, Ross Bradshaw, Wayne Burrows, Nicola Monaghan, Michael Eaton, David Belbin, Tony Roe, Al Atkinson, Cathy Grindrod and Aly Stoneman. Derrick then went on to share a story about working as a teenager in a factory full of women where a big breasted bully would deliberately pen him in to a corner and make him blush, much to the amusement of her cackling comrades.

 

After explaining the Space project to Derrick he said he wished he’d known me when he was younger. I can’t wait for new audiences to experience his writing and I hope that at eighty, he gets the wider recognition that he deserves. I can think of no better validation for the arts council than offering this writer a platform into the digital age.

 

Preview of Derrick Buttress’ book launch

Twitter: Arthur Seaton for more info on events

And of course The Space…coming 1 May.