Sunday, 23 November 2014

From Sexton Blake to Joshua Dillard ; A Man from New Zealand and a Nineteenth Century Detective

Semper Novus Quid Keith Chapman. This blog is always pleased to hear from the excellent Mr Chapman, a great literary survivor whose career began at the Sexton Blake Library and continued through the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, publisher Odhams, assorted magazines, newspapers and comics and ultimately to Black Horse Westerns.

Despite recent health problems, our lad is still going strong and still productive. Recent actvities include Witchery ; A Duo of Weird Tales (as Keith Chapman), and e-book re-issues of Peace at any Price  and The Lawman and the Songbird (as Chap O`Keefe).

As luck would have it, he`s recently been intervieewed online and the results can be found at . Part One (Sexton Blake Library, Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine) was posted on Saturday 8 Nov 2014 and Part Two (Black Horse Westerns) was posted on Friday 14 Nov 2014.

In a recent e-mail, Keith drew my attention to his character Joshua Dillard , a Pinkertons` Detective ( a profession once pursued in real life  by writer Dashiell Hammett ) whose adventures are chronicled in The Lawman and the Songbird and many others ;

"You could say that after all these years I`m still trying to fly the flag for hardboiled mystery, albeit my detective Joshua Dillard , unlike Sexton Blake, operates only in the 19th century !"

The handsome young fellow on the left of this picture is Keith `Chap O`Keefe` Chapman, at
that time editor of the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine. He is showing the proposed artwork for an edition of the EWMM to Wallaces` son and daughter.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Jamie Joseph - Nottingham Riverside Festival 3 August 2014

Each year around this time I`ve been in the habit of reviewing the bands that appear at the Beeston Summer in the Square (Music in the Square) season, an series of events that has attracted a varied assortment of artists, ranging from covers bands ( Joe Strange, JT4, 60s R Us), blues man Raphael Achache, jazz songstress Jeannie Barton, the African vibes of Bana Congo and Les Elus, eclectic folk people Carmina and many, many more.

Sadly, Broxtowe Borough Council is not putting those events on this year but fortunately my life is not a total cultural wasteland as I recently caught a live set by Derby-based soul dude Jamie Joseph.

                                                                       Jamie Joseph

It`s a funny thing about me and soul music - I`ve seen and enjoyed a number of pretty impressive soul acts live, including Edwin Starr, Martha Reeves and David Ruffin but I rarely listen to it at home. 

You might think that having seen some seriously soulful live shows I wouldn`t be impressed by young Jamie and his band. You would be totally wrong.

I don`t usually review anything that`s not fresh in my mind but I`m making an exception as it`s pretty easy to recall the sheer range of his voice, which can find it`s way from growling low notes to  higher-pitched, more sensitive phrases without apparent difficulty. `Apparent` may be the key word, however, as at the end he was hampered in addressing a few words to the audience by the fact his speaking voice was playing up.

I`ll be honest and admit that most of the material he performed was unfamiliar to me and a lot of the time I had no idea which songs were covers and which were originals. Nevertheless if you`re looking for soulfulness coupled with commitment, Jamie`s your lad !

On the Web ;

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Take4views Exhibition - D H Lawrence Heritage Centre - Derbyshire Artists

The D H Lawrence Heritage Centre was formerly known as Durban House and is best known as the place where the young D H Lawrence was sometimes sent to collect his dad`s wages, and for the well-organised campaign against it`s proposed closure some time ago (see `Save Durban House, Eastwood` posted 17 Nov 2010 at ).  

In the event a solution was found whereby Nottingham University took over the running of the site from the local council and the venue is now considered something of a success.

This is the first time I have visited in quite a while. My first impression was that little has changed. The staff are friendly and helpful, the admission fee is reasonable and the heritage exhibition seemed much as I remembered it.

The standing exhbition refers to Lawrence, his friends, family and associates. There are pictures of Lawrence and his associates `The Pagans`, including W E Hopkin, a reproduced 19th centry classroom and more in the same vein. Perhaps inevitably, part of the display refers to Lawrence`s essay Nottingham and the Mining Countryside.

Of particular interest to me was a display of books and records relating to Lawrence`s work including a book about the Lady Chatterley Trial edited by C H Rolph (C R Hewitt).

One proviso I would make if you`re considering a visit, I personally would not take a particularly young child as there are a number of small, portable items on display within easy reach of young hands and in my experience only the most saintly of children will resist the  temptation to do something unexpected with a plastic carrot given the opportunity !

On now to the Rainbow Gallery, on the same floor as the heritage exhibition, where we encounter the work of four local artists ; Janice Allen, Martin Sloman, Karina Goodman and Ruth Gray.

Karina Goodman is a painter of landscapes who had only a small number of works on display compared to the others. It would have been helpful to have a wider range of her works available. I hope she will forgive me if I say the few that were to be found didn`t really appeal to me. Then again, artistic appreciation is an unpredictable aardvark and my taste may not be yours.

Martin Sloman is a painter with ten years` experience. In general I would say he is more than competent in a variety of styles but this comes at a price and one is left with no clear idea who he is artistically. Having said that, his Venice by Night is absolutely stunning and one of the high points of the exhibition.

Ruth Gray is a professional freelance artist. Some of her street scenes can look a bit wooden  (an exception is the excellent Heading to Nuthall After Rush Hour) but she makes excellent use of colour in some of her others, particularly Evening Puddles at Belper Tennis Club, Lanterns and Candles at Ashbourne and Autumn Impression at Matlock Bath.

For me the star of this show is Janice Allen, a self-taught artist who describes herself as motivated by "enthusiasm and the desire to paint". My personal favourite of hers was On the Top (Winter Freeze)  though I thought it would have been better placed elsewhere in the exhibition as it`s one where you need to stand back a bit to see it properly. Others that impressed me were Amber Glow, Amongst the Trees and Sense of Solitude. Whether she is technically the best artist to be found here I don`t know, but her passion for painting really shines through. Would appeal to lovers of nature and the great outdoors, which is probably why I like them.

If you do visit the DHLHC, don`t forget to have a look at From Eastwood to the World by Nottingham-based artist Dr Ala Bashir , a very striking work which overlooks the stairs. This was of particular interest to me personally as in fact I own a painting by a Nottingham-based artist named Bashir. I suspect that`s just co-incidence however.

Take4views runs until 24 Aug 2014. The DHLHC can be found at


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Action Mesothelioma Day 2014

A few years ago one of my friends died as a result of exposure to asbestos whilst working as a roofer during his mis-spent youth.

For that reason I like to do my bit each year to pubicise the annual Action Mesothelioma Day.

This years` event takes place on Friday 4 July 2014 and there will be various activities up and down the country.

For more information contact either Debbie Neale or Jill Lemon via

Commonwealth Interlude

I`m guessing for most people if you mention the Commonwealth they think of the Commonwealth Games and little else. They may have a vague idea that it`s some kind of international forum with little relevance to their lives.
In fact for many people nothing could be further from the truth.
A recent newspaper article* makes the point very well ;
 " While the Commonwealth Games are heading to the UK this summer, businesses in the East Midlands are heading to the Commonwealth."
The article goes on to look at the value of exports from the East Midlands to the Commonwealth during the period April 2013 - March 2014.
The bigger players are hardly surprising - exports from the region to South Africa were valued accounted for £147.1 million, and Australia accounted for a further £239.5 million.
Exports to Kenya came to £27.2 million , not too surprising perhaps as this is not so far different to the previous years` figure (an increase of around 12% as I recall).
Two Commonwealth countries had increassed their level of imports from the East Midlands quite dramatically ( in percentage terms ) - exports from the E Mids to Cameroon increased by 26.4% to £2.1 million and the figure for Pakistan was even higher - a 30% increase to £36.6 million.
Now that`s just the figure for the East Midlands, a relatively small part of the UK as a whole. You might argue that the figures will tend to be high for a region with a heavy manufacturing presence, and that other regions may produce rather different figures. It`s worth remembering though that the E  Mids is quite diverse -Lincolnshire is very different to other parts of the region for instance.
Of course, The Commonwealth is not just about business, anymore than it is just about culture or just about sport and athletics.
Lists of Commonwealth-related organisations** contain an extraordinary array of different organisations and interest groups. With a range of interests that include boxing, architecture, paediatric gastroenterology and museum administration, there`s certainly quite a bit to go at !   
Without wanting to re-tread old ground, here are a few Commonwealth-related links you might find interesting ;
Global (Global Briefing) -
Commonwealth Foundation -
Commonwealth Countries League -
Commonwealth Business Council -
Any grouping of nations is bound to be prone to the odd falling-out, and the Commonwealth has seen a few of these in its` time. However that may be its` pretty clear the ties that hold the Commonwealth together have proved pretty durable overall.   
* Unsigned - Regions` Exports to the Commonwealth Soaring - Nottingham Evening Post 9 June 2014 

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Some Viaducts I Have Known

Here are pictures of a couple of viaducts I have bonded with. Above is Larpool Viaduct, Whitby, the top photograph taken by self, the lower photograph taken by Mrs Nick.

Below are pictures of Bennerley Viaduct on the Notts/Derbyshire border. I am always surprised to see how sombre Bennerley Viaduct looks in pictures as it is near my home and I have nothing but happy memories of visiting it with family and friends.

Should you wish to enlarge your experience of the nations` viaductical delights, here are some links you might like ;

Walter Tyrer 1900 - 1978

Many crime fiction buffs will no doubt share my fondness for the adventures of fictional sleuth Sexton Blake.

For what it`s worth, I never think of those stories as being `retro` and I don`t appreciate them with any sense of `post-modern irony` or wotnot. I leave that sort of thing to others.

Vintage crimestopper Blake was interpreted by many different writers over the years, one of my favourites being the late Walter Tyrer.

I`ve posted reviews of Walters` works here, there and everywhere but only recently have I been able to provide a potted biog.

To see the result of my efforts, look for `Walter Tyrer ; A Writers` Life, posted a couple of days ago at .

                                                       Walter Tyrer (1956 publicity shot). Thanks to Ray Elmitt for providing this.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

On and Off the Rails

I`m having a long-overdue sort-out of my old photos and today we`re going with a railway theme.
Above are pictures of steam trains at Matlock Town  ( more info from ).
Below are pictures of abandoned railway materials near to Bennerley Viaduct. I see these often and always wonder if some group of railway enthusiasts couldn`t find a use for them. They`re doing no-one any good where they are.
I`ve had a quite look around the web, and unsurprisingly there are a bewildering array of sites catering to rail buffs.
For a useful overview of heritage railway sites, click here ; .
Also useful is .
There are numerous camnpaign groups, including the national campaign Action for Rail ( ) , the  Skipton-based SELRAP   ( ) and The Campaign for Better Tranport ( ) who campaign on issues around HS2, for lower train fares and, in partnership with a number of local groups,  for the re-opening of a number disused railway lines.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Evolution Evolving in Derbyshire

Jonathan Powers - Evolution Evolving ; Part One - Dr Erasmus Darwin
"Was `Evolutionism` then in the Derby air ?" asks Jonathan Powers in his work on the life and times of local lad Erasmus Darwin, noting that proto-`evolutionists` Robert Waring Darwin and Herbert Spencer were also "linked to the same Midlands industrial town."
He goes on to comment that others have argued "that this `evolutionary perspective`...was a by-product of the belief in technological progress which accompanied the industrial revolution - spreading from centres such as Derby, the Derwent Valley and Coalbrookdale to what became the great manufacturing cities of the Midlands and the North" but goes on to outline his own similar-but-different take on these matters ;
"This perspective also influenced the character of their evolutionary views which...were distinctly and unrepentantly progressivist."
I am currently part way through this fascinating booklet - I shall be posting a review online in due course, though not necessarily on this blog - and have to say that JP`s enthusiasm for his subject has rubbed off on me, so I thought I`d take advantage of a spare ten minutes to give it a quick plug.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Walter the Wordsmith

This blog is always happy to hear from writer and editor Keith Chapman.

Once a member of the editorial team at the Sexton Blake Library and later editor of the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, Keith now writes westerns in the Black Horse series under the name Chap O`Keefe and has recently been involved in re-issuing his O`Keefe titles as e-books ( ).

His main reason for contacting me was not to plug his own works, but to discuss a recent discovery he had made concerning Walter Tyrer, a writer we both admire.

Walter Tyrer circa 1956

Tyrer cut his literary teeth writing schoolboy fiction and later turned his hand to romance, westerns and detective fiction. It is his work in the latter category that interests me, in particular the many stories he contributed to the Sexton Blake Library in the post-war period.

While many regard him as something of a `pulp` writer (not necessarily in a bad way), I personally feel that Tyrers`  Blake tales are works of great craftsmanship, featuring as they often do an array of outlandish characters and giving full rein to his rather quirky sense of humour.  

That`s enough background details. We return now to Keiths`  missive. Going through old papers relating to his tenure as editor of the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, our man had discovered correspondence and a short story from one J T Lang, which was a pseudonym used by Walter. The story is believed to have remained unpublished, probably because Micron, the firm which employed Keith and at that time published the EWMM, was about to go under.  There is also evidence that Mr Lang/Tyrer had had some difficulties obtaining payment from Micron for stories already published, which may also have been a factor.

To his credit, Keith decided to see to it that this story (it`s a suspense/crime story called A Professional Job) saw the light of day. Clearly it was necessary to establish who, if anyone, held the rights to Walters` works. Steve Holland at Bear Alley ( )  was helpful and provided general advice but it was beginning to look as if the trail might go cold.

Just then an almost-forgotten memory emerged  from the dark recesses of  my tiny mind. Some time ago, author Ray Elmitt had contacted me via another blog of  mine, . He had been researching  the history of his home and had found that it had previously been the address of a fellow-writer - Walter Tyrer. At around the same time he had some contact with Walters` daughter Jennifer who had paid a visit to the house. Could he help ?

Indeed he could, and the upshot of this story is that Walter Tyrers` two daughters have raised no objection to this previously unavailable work being brought into the public gaze.

The purpose of this article is not to over-emphasise my own miniscule contribution to the matter, but to pass on the information that , due largely to the efforts of Keith (Chap O`Keefe)  Chapman, A Professional Job will soon be appearing both online and in print courtesy of David Cranmers` webzine .

I`m sure Keith would join me in thanking Ray Elmitt and Walter Tyrers` daughter Jennifer for their warm support and enthusiasm.

It goes without saying that it is enormously gratifying to see this story book brought out of the shadows, and to have played a part in that, however small. Any enquiries would be best directed either to David at his site, or to Keith c/o .


The black and white photo of Walter Tyrer circa 1956 was supplied by Ray Elmitt. The other illustrations are of Tyrer SBL titles from my own collection. Although A Professional Job is not actually a Sexton Blake title I thought they would give a bit of added interest. Anyway, I`ve gone on far too long and I`ll shut up now.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The Detection Club - The Floating Admiral - HarperCollins - circa 2011 (reprint)

The Detection Club* - The Floating Admiral - HarperCollins - Circa 2011 (reprint)

I assumed unquestioningly that I would enjoy this book, which just shows how wrong you can be !

The book was published in 1932 and the idea was that a number of members of the Detection Club ( ) would each write a chapter and that it would presumably showcase the talents of the various members of the group.

For myself, I thought it would be interesting in that it brought together under one cover both household names (Christie, Sayers)and others less well-known (Victor L Whitechurch) or indeed largely forgotten (Milward Kennedy). The fact that I already own a number of collections of  crime fiction short stories from that era which perform exactly the same function never occurred to me !

To my surprise, I felt that some of the `household name` contributors under-performed, and I have to single out Agatha Christie for particular criticism here. By contrast, Henry Wade and Freeman Wills Crofts both seem to have gone to some trouble to try to get the thing back on course.

The story reaches it`s nadir during Ronald A Knox`s chapter. Ronald makes use of a technique used by a number of detective story writers of the period, that of having the detective sit back and reflect on various points concerning the case which remain unresolved. There is nothing wrong with this in principle, it helps the reader recall what has happened and gives them some idea, hopefully where the story is going.

In Mr Knoxs`  case however, the detectives` ruminations run to 39 numbered paragraphs occupying around 25 pages !

 At that point I very nearly threw the book across the room. Instead I persevered but it got no better. I am not at all surprised that Anthony Berkeleys` closing chapter had the heading Clearing up the Mess.

Give it a try if you want, but I strongly suggest you borrow a copy before forking out good money for this.

The dust jacket of the modern reprint features a rather undistinguished illustration of a rowing boat adrift on a river. The hardcover, however, features a reproduction of the cover design for the first edition (above). Not to modern tastes, and not especially to my taste, but interesting nonetheless.

* Members of The Detection Club who contributed to this volume ; Canon Victor L Whitechurch, G D H Cole , M Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy, Dorothy L Sayers, Ronald A Knox, Freeman Wills Croft, Edgar Jepson, Clemence Dane, Anthony Berkeley.

In addition to her own contribution, Dorothy L Sayers contributed an Introduction and G K Chesterton added a Prologue. The modern reprint features a Foreword by Simon Brett.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Agatha Christie - Parker Pyne Investigates - Harper Collins - circa 2011 (reprint)

Agatha Christie - Parker Pyne Investigates - HarperCollins - circa 2011 (reprint)

"For 35 years of my life I have been engaged in the compiling of statistics in a government office. Now I have retired and it has occurred to me to use the experience I have gained in a novel fashion. It is all so simple. Unhappiness can be classified under five main heads - no more, I assure you. Once you know the cause of a malady, the remedy should not be impossible."

So does Parker Pyne introduce himself and his work to prospective clients. You will readily appreciate that, while he does on occasion undertake a bit of sleuthing,  he is not by any means a detective per se.

The first story in this collection was a definite winner to my mind but I was not at all sure that Pynes` actvities really would merit a whole book of stories. Maybe it would have been better for Ms Christie to quit while she was ahead where Mr P was concerned ?

The next story did not seem as good but I persevered and I have to say, Agatha was right and I was wrong. It`s true there are a couple of stories that I didn`t much care for, but taken as a whole the collection works.

It is necessarily a touch old-fashioned (the book first appeared in 1934). It may not be to everyones` taste but if you fancy trying something a bit different you may wish to do what I did and borrow a modern reprint from your local library. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

February Round-Up

Once again I`m blogging belatedly, but hopefully, these few items may be of interest.

Local author Neal James is offering a helping online hand to budding authors by ioffering them the chance to have a short story published on his website. Regular visitors to this blog may recall that Nottinghams` W W Morgan does something sinilar.

To learn more, click here ;

Staying with the written word, last month this blog was happy to make the acquaintance online of  Sienna Mae Heath, a resident of LeHigh Valley (Pennsylvania/New Jersey, USA), an admirer of Robert Louis Stevenson. Among her other accomplishments, Sienna is a freelance contributor to local newspapers The Morning Call and  The Express-Times.

To see a selection of her writings, use these links ;

I gather she is also writing a novel inspired by her experience of living in Europe and the UK. Hopefully, we`ll have more on that at a later date.

Changing tack slightly, back in the UK, the organisation Sense About Science has launched a campaign known as Ask for Evidence which claims to hold companies, public bodies, politiciansd and commentators accountable for the claims they make. The campaign is supported by the British Humanist Association.

For more details ;

We end by turning full circle and returning to the Midlands where the Leicestershire town of Hinckley is home to a campaign to save the Old Regent (aka Flutters) , a 1920s art deco theatre-turned-cinema-turned bingo hall. Now standing empty, the Old Regent faces an uncertain future due to plans for a car park.

Learn more by using these links ;

The photos of the interior of the Old Regent/Flutters are by photographer Michael Hess, and is used by permission of .

Use these links to see more photos by Mr Hess, including more of the interior of the Old Regent ;

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Hello and Welcome to 2014 !

Slightly belatedly, Happy New Year to all our readers (assuming I have some left after such a long lay-off !).

As you may have gathered, the closing months of 2013 were a busy time for us and therefore blogging went on hold for a time.

A quick catch-up seems in order.

As a general thing I`m not all that interested in topical plays and have even less interest in plays that feature actors best known for their TV work. However, November found me travelling to Nottingham to see Ben Miller (Death in Paradise, Armstrong and Miller) in the Duck House, a play about the MPs expenses scandal of a few years ago.
The plays` blend of satire and farce worked well and produced many laugh-out-loud moments. The main weakness came in a superfluous closing address to the audience by Miller, still in character as a terminally half-witted politician. It was not apparent at first that he was still playing a part and in fact some of the audience misunderstood the situation and heckled him !
Back in the real world, The Ramblers continue to meet with some success in their campaign for a coastal path. Visit to learn more.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has been highlighting the role played by women in World War One. To learn more, click here ; .
 This blog has been  effusive in its` praise for that august periodical The Nottinghamshire Walker. Sadly, that worthy organ ceased to be appear during 2013. However, all is not lost as it made a partial return in the form of a special issue at the end of last year.   
Features include ; Des Whicher Remembered, HS2 ; Its` Effects on our Rights of Way, The Changing Countryside. In addition there is much in the way of `news and views`including updates on the Sherwood Forest Project and local campaigns such as that waged by Worksop Ramblers in a bid to save paths threatened by a proposed new Tesco.
I`m sure a spare copy can be found if anyone wants to see it ; try .
That`s all for now. I`ll try to be a touch more prolific this year, but I`m not making any promises !