Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Long Eaton Model Fairground Show 19 Nov 2011

Arundel Alan Amazes Again

This blog has expressed it`s admiration for the works of former Nottinghamshire railwayman A R Dance before.

For anyone who wants to read an interview with the redoubtable Mr D, this may be interesting ;

Martin P Wilson - A R Dance in Conversation - 16 June 2011 at .

Mr Dance, who publishes his work through his own Arundel Books, has three titles to his name (The Chilwell Ghost, Narrow Marsh and Leen Times), with another, The Westbrook Affair on it`s way.

I had hoped to find some sort of pun on the word `dance` for the header of this posting, but sadly my ingenuity failed me !

Monday, 7 November 2011

Stephen L Carter on Books

Stephen L Carter is a big name in books in the US, though I must admit I`d never heard of him until earlier today.

If books are your bag, you may wish to see my posting `Quotation Station 7 November 2011 ; Stephen L Carter on Books`, which was appeared earlier today at .

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Hoonaloon Books Big Bumper Book Sale

The Hoonaloon Books pre-Xmas sale for 2011 has already begun.

During the period 1 November - 27 November 2011, all our titles on ABE Books sites will be discounted by 20% !

We will continue to add new titles regularly, and these also will be discounted until the end of the sale period.

Please note that the discount only applies to books ordered via one of the ABE Books sites (, etc ) and that the prices show on those sites have already been discounted - all you have to do is choose a book and place your order.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - Live and Local - Heanor Baptist Church - 13 October 2011

This stage adaptation of the  book by Robert Tressell (a pseudonym of Robert Croker aka Robert Noonan) was presented by Townsend Productions in association with Hertford Theatre and sponsored by various trade unions. This particular production was one of a number promoted by Live and Local, an organisation devoted to bringing us "surprising art in surprising places". 

 David Howe, pastor of Heanor Baptist Church, is very much to be commended on involving himself with the Live and Local project.

As regards the performance itself, I think anyone who saw this two-man performance by Neil Gore and the splendidly-named Fine Time Fontayne would agree they performed with passion and pzazz, and that the production as a whole showed wit and imagination.

In an unusual twist, the performance, written by Stephen Lowe, was punctuated with renditions of some of the  music of the time  - music hall songs, and Chapel and Temperance Hall material. The downside of this innovative approach was that it  made the performance rather lengthy and at times it was unclear how the music related to the play, if at all. I`d have to say in fairness that some of the religious songs worked well in context, but - and this is a matter of personal taste - I soon grew tired of the music hall material. Quite frankly, if I never hear another song about pickled onions I`ll be a happy man !

Another problem lay in the decision to put on the play as a two man show. With two actors playing quite an array of different characters, it was quite easy to become confused as to which character was which.

I`ve never read the book, so can`t comment on how accurately the play represented the author`s views. I did feel that it raised more questions than answers.

One character, a particularly grasping and exploitative  businessman, becomes unhinged as his business begins to struggle and eventually kills himself. Does the author intend to imply that the man is in his own way `a victim of the system` just as much as his downtrodden staff ? We never find out.

At another point, Tressell`s character Frank Owen, believed by many to represent the author himself, reflects on his inability to convert his colleagues to his brand of socialism, referring disconsolately to the fact that `they` are unreceptive to his views. "Who`s `they` ?" his friend/workmate asks. This is played as a genuine question (which goes unanswered), but one could wonder if this exchange was intended to stress Owen`s sense of separation from the very people he intends to motivate.

Elsewhere, Owen/Tressell rejects both conventional trade unionism and the newly-formed Labour Party as potential vehicles for progress. What approach does he favour ? Apart from one vague reference to "taking over the whole works" ( The machinery of the state or literally the workplace ? We never find out.) we are left with no real clue. Given the times he lived in, he could equally have been an old-style communist, an anarchist, a utopian socialist  or a believer in co-operatively owned businesses. He could have favoured change by peaceful means or by revolution. For what it`s worth, my educated guess would be that he was a utopian socialist in the William Morris tradition who believed in achieving change simply by the propogation of his ideas, which would explain why his inability to make converts was so painful to him. 

The play ends with an appeal to solidarity, which in some ways is fair enough -  every worthwhile progressive movement brings together people of differing points of view - but one was left with the sense that Owen and his colleagues don`t actually agree on ends or means. I understand that Tressell went to his grave a disappointed man, so this is probably accurate.

The performance was warmly received, and a lot of the credit for that has to go to the two energetic performers.

It has to be said that my personal criticisms were probably not shared by most of the audience, so you can if you want take my views with a pinch of salt. More importantly, if you live in or visit Derbyshire, Warwickshire and/or Staffordshire, look out for the works of Live and Local ( ) - they deserve our support !

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Bana Congo - Beeston Town Centre 15 October 2011

Derby-based Congolese band Bana Congo appeared in Beeston on 15 October to launch Broxtowe Borough Council`s `Mythical Monsters and Carnival Creations : An Event for Black History Month`.

This was their second appearance in the town centre this year and, by co-incidence, they are  the second Congolese band I have seen live. (The first, who appeared in Beeston, I think during August 2010, was a band whose name I forget, but who were fronted by a heavily-built man of Christian beliefs who I understand plays amateur rugby. If anyone knows their name, I`d be happy to have my memory refreshed.).

They played two sets. The first was a fairly straight-forward set of what people of my age used to call `world music`, but with a decidedly central African flavour. The line-up for this event was a four-piece - percussion, bass, keyboard, voice/guitar. I believe they sometimes appear with a larger band, according to what is required. Their sound was compelling - propelled along by bass playing that was melodic but also `driving`, if that`s the word I`m looking for, and with the keyboard adding a touch of melody that gave the whole concoction a bit of colour. The only criticism I would have of the first set was that, playing in a built-up area, the sound was too loud and could seem quite harsh. Oddly, you could not hear them too much until you got quite near, and then the sound hit you like wave, so I can only assume it was a problem of the acoustics of the area.

During the interval I had a business matter to see to and my son was feeling unwell, so I was delayed getting back for the second half. On my return, the sound problems seemed to have been eradicated, and the band were now playing in a slightly different style. I would describe this approach as being to combine African vocals and harmonies with backing influenced by `60s rock/pop - the backing on one tune sounded a bit like The Mavericks if that gives you an idea. The combination of styles worked well in practise - I accept it sounds a bit odd on paper -  and the keyboard player adopted a different mode of playing, reminiscent of the instrumentals Winston Wright recorded for Duke Reid (and trust me, I don`t campare anyone to the mighty Winston unless I`m feeling pretty sure of my ground !).

All in all, a great - not just good - band that I would have no hesitation in seeing again if circumstances permit.

I would like to close by commending Broxtowe Borough Council for the events they sometimes put on in Beeston. Being a bit of a muisic addict, I`ve enjoyed the bands I`ve seen there -   JT4, Joe Strange and Carmina spring to mind -  and it is nice to see them in a family-friendly setting.

Friday, 21 October 2011

More About Trains

In the recent past, we`ve managed to build up quite a reasonable stock of train-related materials, particularly back issues of magazines aimed at enthusiasts.

Here are a couple of interesting ones - The Narrow Guage was (is?) the journal of the Narrow Guage Railway Society, and the copy of Main Line show here  was published by the Main Line Steam Trust, though we also have more recent issues after publication of this journal was taken over by the Friends of the Great Central Main Line.

More stuff for train buffs will appear on this blog and in our listings in the not-too-distant future, I`m sure.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Pseudonymous Mr Holmes

From American jazz guitarists of the 1920s, we naturally turn our attention to a former factory worker from Derbyshire.

We`ve mentioned the works of B J Holmes, and his habit of using a number of pseudonyms, before.

I like to support local talent, and as it happens I have a copy of his `publication backlist` in front of me.

It provides a comprehensive guide to his works to date, including western novels, reference books (he`s penned 5 books on the art of solving crosswords), short western fiction in Norwegian (I`m not making this up !), broadcast projects ( these seem to be plays and short stories, a variety of genres including crime, science fiction and horror), research papers etc (economics and accounting) and miscellaneous publications (book reviews and a wonderfully-titled article `Cowboys and Elephants` for ME Essential, journal of the ME Association).

It also provides what I take to be a comprehensive guide to his many aliases - Ethan Wall, Charles Langley Hayes, Jack Darby, Sean Kennedy and J William Allen.

The list appears to be tolerably up-to-date - it includes details of two titles not yet published at the time it was compiled, The Treasure of Santa Maria and Savidge.

Ultimately, I hope he will one day combine all his interests by writing a book about a cowboy accountant who enjoys doing crosswords and solving mysteries (and possibly has a pet elephant) !

Until that time, if anyone would like to see a copy of the list, I`ll gladly provide one - just contact me at  and I`ll gladly e-mail it to you (please mark your message `F.A.O. Nick` in the header. Cheers.) .

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Legend of Blind Willie Dunn - Part One

Not so long ago, we looked at the life and career of blues singer Mary Johnson who was for a short time the wife of jazz guitarist Lonnie Johnson .

I`ve been meaning to spend more time on the works of Lonnie and his musical sidekick Eddie Lang , and the story of how the two gave birth (metaphorically speaking) to Blind Willie Dunn.

As real life keeps getting in the way, I`ve decided to do it in instalments.

It seems appropriate to start at the musical beginning.

Alonzo `Lonnie` Johnson came from a musical family of poor blacks. His father played the violin and his brother was pianist James `Steady Roll` Johnson. He is often quoted as saying that the family played at weddings, parties and the like. However,  jazz man Clarence Williams, whilst confirming that the whole family was musical, once stated that he used to see them playing on street corners.

Salvatore Massaro (Eddie Lang) also came from a musical background. His father was a maker of stringed musical instruments and he himself grew up admiring classical guitarist Segovia.

Both made their names as pioneers of the jazz guitar, but neither made their recording debut playing that instrument.

Lonnie`s first recording was made in 1925 as a member of Charlie Creath`s Jazz O Maniacs and the tune in question was called `Won`t Don`t Blues`. It can be found at, and also it has been posted on You Tube by edmundusrex, who has a very impressive collection of tracks from the `20s available for your perusal. Lonnie provided violin and vocals on the track and I have to say it stands up pretty well.

Eddie/Sal `s first recording was as banjo player with Charlie Kerr`s Orchestra. The tracks concerned were  Good Morning Dearie and Silver Canoe and they were recorded during March 1923. Eddie recorded ten tracks with this band that year, always as banjo player.

I`ve not found any trace online of those first two tracks, but fortunately one of their other tracks from the same year , My Sweetie Went Away, has been posted on You Tube by someone using the name agesagomusic08 , and Eddie does appear on that track. For me personally, it`s pleasant enough but not touched with greatness.

Never a man to be pigeon-holed (he took up jazz and particularly jazz guitar at such an early stage that in fact the relevant pigeon-holes had not yet been invented!), Eddie was often to be found on recordings of light, fashionable jazz of the `fun but frothy` variety, even as he pursued a parallel career among some of the giants of the blues. But that`s another story....

The next exciting episode of The Legend of Blind Willie Dunn will follow in due course !


The Early Years of Eddie Lang/Sal Massaro                               

 I want to avoid too much clutter and detail, and particularly I don`t want to spend too much time on conjecture about matters that will probably never be resolved for certain. Equally, however, I don`t want to add to the confusion and misconceptions that prevail where Lang and Johnson are concerned.

For that reason, I`ll  just mention that, as I understand it, The Charlie Kerr Orchestra were sometimes referred to as Charlie Kerr`s L`Aiglon Orchestra or Charlie Kerr`s Leighton Orchestra, referring to venues where they performed, but were simply Charlie Kerr`s Orchestra for recording purposes.

I gather that in addition to his work with Kerr, Eddie spent part of 1923 in New Jersey with a group called Bert Eslow`s Band.

 In an interview at some point he stated that his first job as a professional musician was as a violinist at the L`Aiglon (Solo ? With a band ?) and that sometime afterwards he joined a band called the Chick Granese Trio. All of this seems to have been in Philadelphia, and apparently pre-dated his days with Kerr and Eslow by a couple of years.  

If anyone knows of any recordings of the Granese and Eslow bands, it would be interesting to know about that, but I suspect they never recorded.

His friend and fellow musician Joe Venuti has claimed that the two made their earliest recordings together in 1919, but this is not generally taken seriously. 

Terry Copeman - Mother`s Son - Maclean DuBois - 1989

In a sense, the story of Leicester man Terry Copeman is very typical of his time and place.

Born in the `20s, he spent the war working down the mines as a `Bevin Boy`, played piano in pubs and dreamed - much to his mother`s dismay - of being a Police Officer. Eventually he went in to engineering and ultimately set up his own small firm.

What is remarkable is that at the age of 24 he discovered by chance that he was adopted and embarked on an epic 26-year search for his natural mother, "building up his business by day, combing telephone directories and electoral rolls by night, pounding pavements and ringing doorbells at weekends and on holidays". In the course of his search he visited the castle home of a Scottish Clan Chief and encountered an Irish-American Policeman who appparently possessed "an uncanny gift for tracing missing people with a divining rod" !

When celebrities and others talk of their "journey" through life, spare a thought for Terry Copeman, an extraordinary man who truly could talk in those terms, but probably never would !

A copy of Terry`s book, which is now scarce, is to be found at 4319 in our listings.

Any questions, just ask.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Making Tracks

Should your taste run to railway history and railway memorabilia, these few items may be of interest ;  

A Fairclough`s The Story of Cornwall`s Railways is at 1940 in our listings.

At 1951, Philip A Stevens and others tell the story of Shackerstone Railway Society.

A copy of the 1972 Supplementary Operating Instructions for BR Eastern Region (Northern Area) is at number 4242.

And finally, at 4243 we have the BR Southern Region Supplement Number 2 to Electrified Lines Instructions.

Details to be found in our listings in the usual way, and if you have any questions, don`t hesitate to ask.

More About Books

I`ve not posted any book reviews for a while, simply because it stopped being fun.

Here are my comments on a few of the books I`ve read in the last few months ;

GYLES BRANDRETH - Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man`s Smile.

The idea - 19th century murders solved by Oscar Wilde - is genius, of course. Brandreth has come up with an ingenious plot and his grasp of historical detail seems impressive, as far as I can tell. His main shortcoming is that, while he can tell a story, he can`t conjure up an atmosphere. For this reason, while I`m glad I read Dead Man`s Smile, I`ve no real intention of reading any of the others.

MATT HART - The Black Sphinx

Mystery/Fantasy-type thing aimed at the younger reader. Set in a version of 19th century England, the story brings together mystery, murder, demons and Ancient Egyptian gods. I enjoyed it immensely, though no-one would now class me as a `younger reader` !

P G WODEHOUSE - Mr Mulliner Speaking

I was something of a Wodehouse buff as a youngster and I still like to indulge now and again. While I have nothing but affection for Jeeves and Wooster, Sally, Psmith, Uncle Fred, Monty Bodkin etc, I`m not so keen on the Mulliner books of short stories.

I presume they are among the writer`s earlier works, which do tend to be disappointing.  While there was the occasional pearl in the collection - there was one golf story I enjoyed very much - taken as a whole it was a bit low on laughs.

Some characters did seem to be prototypes of those encountered in the novels in a different guise. Roberta `Bobby` Wickham appears to be an early version of Stephanie `Stiffy` Byng, and Sidney McMurdo seems to be Roderick Spode. intrepid explorer Bashford Braddock also has Spode-like qualities.

JOHN TIMPSON - Paper Trail

This story of an inexperienced young man`s move from the big city to Norfolk to take up a post on a local newspaper was ex-BBC man Timpson`s first novel. An old-fashioned sort of story, but enjoyable. About three quarters of the way through I began to wonder if it was losing it`s way, but it was reprieved by a dramatic plot twist based on a real-life incident.  

That`s your lot for now.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Exploring Ethiopia in Eastwood

Historically, Ethiopia has had a  particular significance for many.

The reasons for this can vary. Certainly, the defeat of Italian invaders by the forces of the Emperor Menelik II at the Battle of Adowa in 1896 was treated as a matter of almost symbolic significance by many Jamaicans and African Americans, as was the country`s independence throughout the colonial period.

When Ethiopia was for a short time occupied, by Mussolini`s forces during World War Two, solidarity groups sprang up in various parts of the world. While the efforts of largely black organisations such as the Ethiopian World Federation are documented, it`s also true that Ethiopia`s exiled Emperor Haile Selassie toured many parts of the world to drum up support, including at least one visit to a factory in Nottingham.

During the 1980`s Ethiopia became unfortunately associated in the public mind with images of starvation and suffering.

I don`t know whether photographer Alan C Clayden FRPS gave much thought to the sensitivities around images of Ethiopia, but I would say he`s done a fine job.

Ethiopia`s historical heritage is well represented  in this display by images of rock-hewn churches and ruined castles, but images of hardship are also to be found here, as for that matter are outstanding representations of natural beauty, whether large scale (landscapes and sunsets) or more detailed (the tangled roots of an ancient banyan tree).

I`m not someone who can comment on photographic technique, but it seems to me that Mr C has assembled an exhibition that combines scenes of beauty with rather grittier material. For sure, it`s Ethiopia seen through the eyes of a westerner but I cannot see that he has any agenda other than to stress the variety of Ethiopian life.

The exhibition is currently at the Rainbow Gallery at Durban House Heritage Centre (admission £3)  and I believe it does have a couple more weeks to run.

Warmly recommended.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Elizabeth Cotten - Vastapol

I feel a musical interlude coming on, so here`s a track from You Tube which I heard for the first time only a few minutes ago, but which I consider to be a very fine thing indeed ;

Elizabeth Cotten - Vastapol/Vestapol, posted on You Tube by russelsheartinacage which you can find at ; .

Pretty much the only the things I know about Elizabeth Cotten is that she was an African American ragtime guitarist and songwriter, born in the late 19th century and  best known for the song Freight Train.

Freight Train was popularised in the UK by skiffle groups who often took it at a very fast pace indeed. A quick return to the original, also on You Tube, show that it`s originator normally treated it as a slow, reflective number and that in fact it deals  with themes of mortality rather than being a jolly number about a train as most people probably imagine.

Years ago I briefly took a bit of an interest in ragtime and my recollection is that a lot of early ragtime composers like Scott Joplin actually intended most of their tunes to be played relatively slowly. Of course, all styles of music evolve, often in quite unexpected ways, but anyone who believes that fast playing and dazzling displays of technique are in keeping with the original spirit of the thing is sadly mistaken.

Anyone, that`s enough of that. Give the track a try, you might like it !

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Donovan Memorial (The Donovan Monument)

Situated in Marlpool Cemetery, Derbyshire, The Donovan Monument pays tribute to one Lardner Dionysius Donovan MD (unconnected with the similarly-named 19th century science writer AFAIK)  who died 22 August 1864 at the age of 30.

On one side of the monument we get the bare facts - name, age, date - together with a succinct statement "He went about doing good".

On another side, we get a fuller account ; "This monument was erected by public subscription as a token of gratitude towards and of esteem for Dr Donovan  and in recognition of his unwearying attention and kindness towards the suffering poor and of the faithful discharge of all his professional duties."

The monument is Grade II listed, a fitting tribute to a remarkable man. One could wish that the William Longdon monument in Ilkeston enjoyed equal protection (see `William Longdon of Cotmanhay`, this blog, 4 Dec 2010 !).

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Lads, Lasses and Canine Companions




 2179, 2669, 3017, 3815, 4271

Here are a few more from the stores here at Hoonaloon Books.

At 4260 we have Sgt Eric Walton`s From Hepthorne Lane to Rangoon and Back Again, the story of how a coal miner`s son from Clay Cross came to be present when the Japanese agreed a cease fire in Burma during World War Two.

Narvel Annable`s Lost Lad (4261) is one of a number of mystery novels set in Derbyshire from this Belper-based writer, who is also known for his non-fiction.

Wirksworth Creative Writers present more prose and poetry from the Peaks at number 4268. The local anthologies are often overlooked by potential book buyers. I never know why, as there often a few pearls to be discovered therein that you simply wouldn`t encounter elsewhere.

Lastly, at  2179, 2669, 3017, 3815 and 4271 we have Woolly Jumper by local author/broadcaster Dennis McCarthy and cartoonist Pete Dredge. This true story documents McCarthy`s relationship with his eccentric Irish Water Spaniel. A must for dog lovers everywhere. The copy pictured is number 4271 but all are in comparable condition.

Use the links provided for details of condition, price etc and if you have any questions, don`t hesitate to ask.

All the Best,

Nick & Ann-Marie

Hoonaloon Books

Monday, 8 August 2011

Nottingham Riverside Festival 2011

Mark Block and the Breezes
Shipstone Street Jazz Orchestra
Bestwood Black Diamonds Brass Band

I`ve visited Nottingham`s Riverside Festival more times than I care to remember but somehow I never get bored with it.

This year, we attended both the Saturday and the Sunday, but as it would be difficult to do justice to the whole, I`m just going to indulge in a couple of edited highlights.


Mark Block and the Breezes were the first band we saw IIRC, and very fine they were too. Billed as "jaunty acoustic pop" or something similar, they were actually from a folk music tradition. I`m far from being an expert on the subject of folk, but the ingredients were pretty obvious even to me - a touch of Dylan, a bit of traditional English folk but also a generous helping of energy and originality. This Mark geezer is an accomplished songwriter and his set struck a nice balance between covers (Mr Tambourine Man*, a couple of traditional songs and, rather surprisingly, George  Gershwin`s Summertime). If I had to pick a favourite tune from the set, I`d opt for In Too Deep, a Block original which seemed to strike a chord (no pun intended) with large parts of the crowd.

*One song from Mark`s set is already on You Tube, his version of Mr Tambourine Man. I must admit it`s  not one of my favourite songs at all, but you might want to check it out.


Shipstone Street, Basford Nottingham is home to The Lion, a venue which caters for drinkers of real ale and lovers of live music. When I lived in Nottingham I heard many great local bands there, and was curious to see if any members of said bands were to be found among the ranks of the SSJO. They weren`t, but that didn`t spoil my enjoyment of these fine exponents of big band and swing music, who I think I saw at last year`s Riverside as well.

 If I had a slight criticism, I would say the arrangements were sometimes a touch fussy for my taste, but that is just a personal thing and it did not spoil my enjoyment.

Part way through their set, they were joined by sassy songstress Sarah Simmonds. Sarah announced her arrival with a version of  Hey Big Spender, followed this with a very convincing rendition of  Why Don`t You Do Right and then a peerless cover of  Billie Holiday`s God Bless the Child.

Previous commitments meant that I didn`t get to see all of the SSJO`s set, but I`d happily see them again and warmly recommend that you do likewise if the opportunity presents itself.


 Bestwood Black Diamonds Brass Band , who appeared on the second day, get an honorary mention for continuing stoically in the face of adversity. 

Playing on the bandstand, they found themselves competing not only with sounds from fairground rides etc but also sounds of a novelty surf guitar band (I`m not making this up !) on the nearby festival stage. I think that current construction work to one side of the bandstand area, involving the removal of a great swathe of trees and shrubs, has inadvertently removed a natural barrier which had alleviated this problem in the past.

It was unfortunate that the Diamonds` set contained a number of  lengthy quiet passages, which frankly were completely drowned at times by sound from elsewhere, making it very difficult to comment on their performance. Their set was quite old-fashioned (songs from stage and screen followed by jaunty versions of tunes like Rule Britannia), in contrast with other brass bands I`ve seen (alright, I`ve only seen two others) , who often seem to include versions of rock and pop tunes. I had the impression the arrangements were quite adventurous, possibly even quirky, but it was really very difficult to judge.

Still, the band played on under circumstances that would have tested the patience of a saint, and you have to give them credit for that.


Yorkshire Bill`s Charitable Impulse

Yorkshire-based musician Bill Nelson, who celebrates 40 years in the music business this year,  is a keen supporter of cancer charity Sara`s Hope.

A representative of the charity, which provides holidays for children and young people with cancer and their families, approached Nelson asking for permssion to use some of his music on their site. He responded with a suggestion that he would write a tune to be used as a fundraiser by them, the result being a CD entitled Six Strings for Sara.

Subsequently, he has kept up the involvement, posting a new tune on his site regularly (once a year I think) which can be downloaded by fans, with proceeds going to the charity.

Bill`s 40-year-long career to date is well documented elsewhere, so I`ll content myself with posting a few images from his past to brighten things up. For what it`s worth, my favourite Nelson track is `Make the Music Magic` by Be Bop Deluxe, from their album `Modern Music`, but that`s just me.  If you wish to investigate further, he can be found at .

As mentioned above, Sara`s Hope provide respite breaks for youngsters affected by cancer and their families. Speaking from personal experience, if you`ve ever had anyone close to you affected by cancer then you`ll know the enormous pressures it does create for everyone. If you want to know more, use this link ; .

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Let`s Talk About Trains

A number of train-related events are imminent , and I`m only too happy to share the details with the world, albeit in a rather hasty fashion.

During 13 - 14 August, The Midland Railex Exhibition will take place at Butterley in Derbyshire. Attractions will involve both model railways and heritage steam and diesel trains. The Golden Valley Narrow Guage Railway will also be in operation.

The Apedale Valley Light Railway Gala will be taking place on 10 - 11 Sept, with a theme of `Made in Staffordshire`., with train rides, mine tours, visiting locos, industrial displays, vintage cars and much more.

Details from Moseley Railway Trust at .

Lastly, During 9 - 29 August, by arrangement with the Arkwright Society, Wingfield Railway Group will be staging an exhibition at Cromford Mill, Derbyshire. Please note, this will be closed on Mondays with the exception of the 29 August Bank Holiday.

D H Lawrence Festival 2011

The 8th D H Lawrence Festival takes place in North Notts during 9 - 18 September this year.

Unfortunately, there is relatively little information online at present. However, enquiries can be directed to Broxtowe Borough Council and/or Durban House Heritage Centre.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Gloria Morgan - Kinmers Lea - Callie-Co Books - Nottinghamshire - 2008

Gloria Morgan`s book Kinmers Lea takes it`s title from the original name of Kimberley, the North Notts town in which I believe London-born Ms Morgan now makes her home.

Kinmers Lea tells the story of Edwin, "an ordinary 12-year old boy", and his new-found ally, his Gran , said to be "ninety, fit as a fiddle and sharp as an arrow".

Read the book to learn how this unlikely pair become embroiled in events which combine the Battle of Hastings, an audacious kidnapping plot and a wild ride to Nottingham Castle - a century before the days of Robin Hood.

Copies of this fascinating children`s book can be found at numbers 3068, 3261 and 4205 in our listings, with 3261 and 4205 being copies signed by the author. Use the `Buy Books` links provided for further details and/or to place an order, or if you prefer you can deal with us direct by e-mailing us at , provided you`re able to pay by Paypal.

Any questions, just ask.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Hucknall Book and Craft Day

Promoted by New Writers UK with support from Notts County Council,  Hucknall Book and Craft Day will take place, as the name implies, in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire on Sat 9 July 2011 from 11.00 am - 4.00 pm.

Attractions will include craft workshops, talks by local writers like Gloria Morgan and events publicising the work of small, independent publishers like Gingernut, Weathervane and BlueWood.

We ourselves have a long-standing prior arrangement elsewhere, so are unlikely to grace these enlightening festivities with our presence. It goes without saying, however, that we wish the event well.

This might be an opportune moment to re-iterate that we do carry an extensive stock of books that are the output of local writers, local publishers, local history societies and local authorities, as a quick search using the `Buy Books`  links provided will confirm.

We are in Derbyshire now, but as I recall Nottingham was home to a disproportionate number of writers, many published by Five Leaves. It always used to make me smile that they tended to be concentrated in particular areas - I pictured them roosting in flocks, a little like starlings, at the top of tall trees in residential areas, earnestly scribbling throughout the night. But that`s just me !

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Archaeology and Conservation in Derbyshire 2005

Sarah Cole, Sarah Whiteley (ed.s) - Archaeology and Conservation in Derbyshire 2005 - Derbyshire Archaeology Advisory Committee, 2005

Number 4108 in our listings, this fine local publication contains features on "The Stanlow Excavation, A Victorian Diary With a Difference, Hardwick Park, An Ancient Message in Dronfield" and much more.

It is not yet showing up online, but details should appear within 24 hours - use the `Buy Books` links provided to check it out.

As always, any qustions, just ask.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Mrs Johnson`s Blues

Mary Johnson is one of the less well-known blues singers of the `20s and `30s, in part because she is overshadowed by the relative fame of her husband, Lonnie Johnson.

As is often the case with blues artists of this era, the little information we have is often confused and contradictory.

Most online sources that I have found give her maiden name as Mary Smith and state that she began performing live as a youngster. However, James Sallis in his book The Guitar Players devotes a chapter to her husband and gives a slightly different account of Mary`s life in passing. He  gives her maiden name as Mary Williams and her place of origin as Yazoo City, Mississipi. He further states, from her own account,  that she got her start helping Lonnie write his own songs and that the two of them then realised that she had a natural aptitude for jazz and blues songwriting. It seems that Lonnie suggested she pursue her own career, and she began to build something of a following in St Louis as well as recording 20 - 30 songs. All sources agree that her recording career began during the seven years she and Lonnie were married.

The two parted company in 1932. As the hungry thirties got under way, Lonnie found work outside the music business but continued to perform as an amateur musician. On his return to recording (1937 if I recall correctly), he drew on a number of previously unrecorded originals, including, perhaps poignantly, She`s My Mary, which appears (to me at least) to be a song written for Mary when the two were together, with just minor amendments  to reflect the fact that they were now apart. Some have speculated that other tunes from this session, notably Trust Your Man, might also relate to their time together. By the same token, Mary`s own Mary Johnson Blues does seem to cast a rather acerbic look back at their marriage.

Mary continued to record for a few years after their divorce, but eventually left the world of jazz and blues due to her increasing involvement with the church. This is probably a good moment to mention that she`s a different person to the soul/gospel Mary Johnson, her jazz and blues recordings of the `20s and `30s are the only tunes she recorded.

Fortunately, those nice people at redhotjazz have assembled a selection of Mary`s recordings for our delight and delectation. I like to think that one day we`ll have access to all her work, including the two unreleased tracks. 

For a chance to hear perform, click this link ;

Additional comment on her recorded output may be a tad redundant, but for what it`s worth, I`d have to say that my initial impression is that she recorded a fine body of work in her handful of recording sessions. Just occasionally, maybe the odd track shows her lack of experience but overall, her stuff holds up well, in part due to the high standard of the  musicians she worked with. Personally, Death Cell Blues, Delmar Avenue, I Just Can`t Take It and Three Months Ago Blues come to mind as being tracks I particularly liked, but I was less keen on Barrel House Flat Blues and one other where I felt her vocal style was poorly judged.

James Sallis drew on The Devil`s Music by Giles Oakley and a 1962 Paul Oliver interview with Mary for his account of her life. He gives no source for the interview. His account of Lonnie`s career and background (from The Guitar Players) can be found at .

Also useful is Jeff (no surname) - Mary Johnson : An Appreciation, which can be found at . His choice of quotes from her songs tend to make her sound like a sexually promiscuous serial killer,  but still he`s worth reading !

I`m a bit of a sentimental old softie at heart and I like to think that maybe now Mary will get some of the recognition she so patently deserves. If you like to unwind at the end of the day with a drink and some music,  click on to redhotjazz sometime and drink a toast to Mary !

Friday, 8 April 2011

Happy Trails : A Cowboy from the Midlands

It`s a funny old world.

Only a short time ago, I penned a short article for this blog (The Cowboy and the Detective, 14 January 2011) based in part on information supplied to me by writer Chap O`Keefe (Keith Chapman), who in days gone by  had worked on the staff of the Sexton Blake Library and eventually became editor of the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine.

Mr O`Keefe/Chapman now writes titles for Hale`s  Black Horse Westerns series and runs the Black Horse Extra website.

Here we are less than three months later and we have just added to our stock three signed books by another Black Horse writer, B J Holmes (aka Ethan Wall aka Charles Langley Hayes).

Mr Holmes/Wall/Hayes is an interesting character.

The son of a  Midlands factory worker he initially followed in his father`s footsteps, but then decided to first return to education and from there went into teaching.

His earliest attempt at writing, never completed, was a short piece from the 1950s describing  a young working class man from the Midlands getting dressed in his teddy-boy gear prior to going out for a night on the town. Of course, it was a description of Holnes himself, seen through the eyes of an outsider. Youthful self-doubt seems to have kicked in ( "Who`d want to know about a working class teenager in the English Midlands of the 1950s ?" he apparently asked himself ) and his writing ambitions lay dormant for twenty years.

At some point in the `70s he tried his hand at writing a text-book - apparently with little success - and decided to try writing a western, a genre he was completely unfamiliar with, more or less on a whim. Cutting a long story short (so to speak), he has now written over 30 Black Horse Westerns and a number of short stories in various genres (crime, horror, science fiction). Interestingly, one of his books (North of the Bravo) began life as an unpublished work of historical fiction and was only later adapted to a western setting. Among his other talents he has had some success writing guides to solving crosswords.

Anyway, that`s enough of that.  The background info on My Holmes here comes from  , which is co-owened by another Black Horse writer, Adam Wright. Also useful is .

To visit our store, use the Buy Books links provided. In the meantime, here are samples of his signatures, in case they are of interest.

Arundel Books of Nottinghamshire

I never hesitate to use this blog to plug a few books from our own stock, so I suppose it`s only fair if I give someone else a plug now and then.

Following on from the local success of his books Narrow Marsh and The Chilwell Ghost, local man A R Dance has produced another book, Leen Times. The sequel to Narrow Marsh, Leen Times is set in Nottingham during the period 1820 -  1830,  described as "an era of brutal and uncompromising change, and of fierce political upheaval". The author promises a "fast-moving story of retribution, radical politics and criminal conspiracies".

You will find my verdict on it`s predecessor among the book reviews on this blog.

For more info on Mr Dance`s works,  visit .

Save Bentham Library - Walk from Bentham to Settle - 7 May 2011

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

George Eliot and the Silas Marner Anniversary

One of the best things about life as a bookseller is the opportunity it provides for coming into contact with interesting people and learning of their actvities.

In 2009 we heard from musician Joe Jorgensen who had recently finished a book on Bob Marley, and also heard from  Ross Bradshaw of Nottingham-based independent publisher Five Leaves (though in fact I already knew him) about his bookish tendencies.

In 2010 we heard from poet and academic N S Thompson about his book Letter to Auden and some readings he was giving.

Earlier this year we heard from journalist and author Keith Chapman, formerly of the Sexton Blake Library and Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, about his past dealings with Walter Tyrer and his current involvement with the Black Horse Westerns series.

Today, I was lucky enough to hear from John Burton, chair of the George Eliot Fellowship concerning his organisation`s plans for the 150th anniversary of the publication of Silas Marner this year.

They are planning a series of events and actvities throughout the year,  including a George Eliot Weekend (21/22 May), a series of walks (June - Sept), a play (November), a Silas Marner Festival/Annual Lecture (October), a birthday luncheon (November) and more. These events seem to be centred around the Nuneaton/Bedworth/Bulkington area. Ask them nicely and they`ll e-mail a copy of their newsletter to you.

For anyone wanting more information,  the group`s website is at . 

Monday, 14 March 2011

Brinsley Headstocks Revisited Again

Brinsley Headstocks is the name given to the set of restored 1875 tandem headstocks on the site of the former Brinsley Colliery.

The site is now a very attractive nature area. It also has it`s own special claim to fame in that D H Lawrence`s uncle Jim died in a rockfall there, an incident referred to by Lawrence in The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd and An Odour of Chrysanthemums.

These are my most recent attempts to capture the wonderfulness of the headstocks. I do not know much about photography. Shutter speeds and all the other stuff are a complete mystery to me. On the other hand, I do have a cheap Argos camera and plenty of enthusiasm !

I`ll admit to being quite proud of these pictures, but there`s only so much here I can take credit for. When I took the first two the sun was dazzling me, so I had no real idea how they`d turn out !

My approach to local history is similar. Others may favour a more methodical approach, but I often just pick up stray facts haphazardly as I go along. 

This can lead to odd gaps in my knowledge. Here are a couple of questions relating to the Brinsley site that I`ve sometimes wondered about.

I understand that D H Lawrence`s Aunt Polly lived in a white cottage very close to the old colliery. I have always understood this to be a quite large white building, currently unoccupied, adjacent to the path leading from the car park to the site itself. This puzzles me a little, as I would have thought the building in question would have been rather grand for a family of miners from the Eastwood/Brinsley area. Maybe someone can cast light on this ?

I`ve also wondered whether Polly was the wife/widow of the ill-fated Jim, or a different Aunt altogether ? No doubt someone will know.

Long Eaton Library Revisited

Following on from my earlier posting on the subject, we return to the story of my bookish ancestor, Arthur Hooper.

Arthur, it turns out was my great-grandfather on my mother`s side of the family. He was apprenticed in the boot and shoe trade (manufacturing ? repair ? the details are unclear) in his native Worcester but moved to Long Eaton to set up his own business as a cobbler.

In that time and place, people were reluctant to throw away a good pair of boots if they could be repaired, and business prospered. Arthur became friendly with a number of local councillors and other civic-minded individuals, including his good friend Samuel Clegg. Arthur was to credit Samuel as the driving force behind the introduction of a free library in Long Eaton.

Here are a couple of  pictures of the library that I took on a recent visit to see my great-grandfather`s papers.  The frontage of the building is something of a photographer magnet, so you may like to look at the many images there are on the web.  Some are older and show a slightly different appearance.

I now have the text of two talks gven by my great-grandfather on the movement for free public libraries. Hopefully, I`ll be posting something about these in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, here`s a picture of the inside of the library as it appeared in my great-grandfather`s day.

More articles on libraries and library-related matters appear elsewhere on this blog and on , though you may have to search about a bit. Hopefully, I`ll be returning to the subject fairly soon.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Musical Interludes : The Holmes Brothers

In the interests of variety, I`ve decided to punctuate this blog with a number of short `musical interludes` .

Where better to start than with the news that one of my favourite live acts, The Holmes Brothers, have recently returned to recording and performing, after a substantial break caused by the health problems of one member.

Essentially a gospel-influenced blues band, the brothers have  eclectic musical  leanings  and live sets I`ve caught have featured covers of rock `n` roll classics, and tunes by the O Jays and Tom Waits in addition to their own material.

I have their CD Speaking in Tongues and I`d have to say that for me personally I feel they work better as a live act. However, that may just be the way I`m made.

Anyway, I`ve waffled on too much already. Visit these Holmes dudes at or see behind the scenes footage of recording sessions on You Tube.

Derbyshire Life and Wildlife

Three recent additions to our stock, each with a fairly obvious Derbyshire connection.

At 3839 and 3840 we have two  Ilkeston and District Local History Society publications ; `Ilkeston in the Thirties` (see previous posting) and  `Edwardian Ilkeston` - we are offering both at knock-down prices since you can still buy new copies direct from IDLHS.

At 3841 we have `Wildlife in Derbyshire` by author Jean Woolley and photographer Stuart Whitehead. Our copy is signed by the author on the title page.

For full details of these three and many other titles with a local slant, check our listings using the links provided. Thanks.

Ilkeston in the Thirties : Manners Road Mines Rescue Station

Pictured here are the rescue team based at the Mines Rescue Station, Manners Road, Ilkeston, Derbyshire circa 1931.

The station existed from 1916 - 1988 when the building became a nursing home. 

Mines rescue workers werre understandably regarded as local heroes. One man who was based at Manners Road was Philip Healey (1928 - 2000), who worked there 1954 - 1971. A website, originally dedicated to Philip and other mines recue workers and run by his son, can be found at and has now developed into a site deicated to the history of coal mining in the Notts/Derbyshire area generally. Particularly interesting is .

This picture comes from `Ilkeston in the Thirties`, a publication produced by Ilkestion and District Local History Society. The booklet is still in print and new copies can be acquired from  . Our copy is at 3839 in our listings and costs £1.95 plus postage. As it is a light, thin booklet, postage should be relatively cheap.

As mentioned previously, we stock a number of titles relating to the history of the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire are and to the history of coal mining - check out our listings using the links provided.