Summer of Rockets? How’s that for the title of a BBC drama series? I have to admit that I was expecting some rockets in Stephen Poliakoff’s BBC production, but there was none. Nevertheless, I soon realised the connections, having lived through the 1950s myself. I’m not sure the Cold War fear and paranoia was quite as manifest in the UK amongst the general population as it appeared in the series, but despite that, Poliakoff’s story was excellent, I enjoyed every minute. The main characters – and the actors – were superb. What other writer would have thought of casting a Russian-born Jewish manufacturer of hearing aids as the main protagonist? His family was fleshed out – like backstory – by material that I would usually have considered to be unnecessary padding. Padding it was not. It added depth to the lives of the characters, as did the story of the missing son (if you don’t know what I mean, then watch the series on iPlayer, it is worth searching for).
Stephen Poliacoff implies in the online version of the Radio Times that the Summer of Rockets is based on events and memories from his childhood. He has taken them, modified them, twisted and turned them to produce a gripping and unusual story.
NOTE: For those interested in such things, the rocket in the photo is a Bloodhound missile, introduced in 1958, around the time ‘Summer of Rockets’ is set. I photographed this missile at the Museum of Edinburgh’s National Museum of Flight at East Fortune. Far more interesting than this missile is the video I took during my visit, of my granddaughter (then aged 12) landing an airship. She did a far better job of it than I did. Check out my blog post of 2012: http://tiny.cc/2uad9y
Automatic headlights are great, right? Sensors detect dusk or dullness and switch on your dipped beams. In darkness they switch to main beams, then dip again for oncoming traffic or whenever you follow red rear lights. So far so good. So why did that taxi driver glare at me? It took a while to work out. So here goes…
Dull day. Dipped beams come on automatically. Oncoming taxi indicates to turn right, across my path. It stops, waiting for me to pass. As I approach it cuts across me. We almost collide. I quietly (ha ha) curse every taxi driver in the world.
But I flashed him, didn’t I? I let him know I was happy for him to turn across my path. Well no, I didn’t. My car did.
I had passed under a low bridge. Car detected darkness. Main beams came on, then immediately off again. My car flashed the taxi driver, telling him I was happy for him to turn in front of me.
Years ago I was taught never to flash my lights at other drivers, because it is their job to decide what is safe for them to do. My car needs to be told that.
Just the very thought of driverless cars scares me silly. They do not know how to behave.
* I am no trekkie. One definition = Saying “set phasers to stun” is like modern police or military saying “check the safety on your weapon.” (That’s what it says on Google so it must be true)
I have copied another Twitter post. I’ve been told I’m far too modest and should be promoting myself as a writer. People like my work (see the Amazon 5-star reviews). I have another novel out soon: ‘The Man who Played Trains. I’m about to finish its third (or fourth or fifth?) edit – and that’s after three rewrites.
Practice makes perfect? Hung on the wall of the maths master’s room in one of my old schools (state secondaries, nothing posh) was a full length banner that said ‘A THING WORTH DOING IS WORTH DOING WELL’. That I remember it so clearly must mean something. I was only at that school for a year but, rather bizarrly, I remember the master’s name. It was Pemberton.
Playpits Park is NOT a spy story. It is an unusual (and I’m told gripping and haunting) coming of age novel.
Wasn’t me that said it Guv, honest!
Many new – and very good – writers (and I mean good – there are so many mediocre ones around) are tiring of established agents and publishers. The world is changing. How many new writers have had a recommendation like this from one of the few remaining big boys? (more often than not they can’t even be bothered to reply). So, thank you for the publicity, independent publisher URBANE! Even though Playpits Park is already available on Amazon (with around 2000 downloads and 5-star reviews), you took the trouble to promote me on Twitter!
I used to believe that there was no such thing as a coincidence. It’s what all my mates used to say. Then something happened. I took a flat in a small Gloucestershire town. The old dear – sorry, the elderly lady – who owned it told me that her previous lodger was constantly in trouble with the police. He held parties, she said, entertaining ‘all kinds of girls’. Finally she’d made him to leave. Assisted, she added, by her friendly local police sergeant.
One year later I left the place and went to college to study maths and physics – a scary two years – and then went on to uni to study geology. As part of my fieldwork I got vac work in Canada, on a mine surrounded by hundreds of miles of dense forest. Fifty miles away there was a one-horse town, with single-storey wooden buildings strung out along the main drag. The mine was new. Though it had been operating for three or four months, they held a grand opening ceremony soon after I arrived, attended by mining company bigwigs flown out from London. The mine organised an impressive outdoor party with food and beer. And invited the great and the good from the one-horse town.
It was July, and it was hot. The organisers provided tables, those heavy wooden outdoor things that pubs have. I sat at one with the mine’s engineers and geologists and a big stash of Labatt’s Blue. We had been there a while when a guy in his late 20s like most of us (I was a mature student by then), slid onto the end of the bench. One by one my new colleagues got up and left. I got chatting to the new arrival. He had a Canadian accent and said he didn’t work on the mine. ‘Got a business in town,’ he said. He asked what I did, and where I came from. I told him I was at uni, and that I had worked on the engine test beds at a firm in this Gloucestershire town. ‘Hey, so did I!’ he said. ‘I had a place in an old house in High Street, you know it?’ I knew it. I knew it because I had lived in the same flat for over a year. ‘Got out eventually,’ he added. ‘Coppers never left me alone. The woman who owned the place had me thrown out so I decided to get as far away from the bloody place as I could. It’s good here. I’m a respected member of the community. And the police leave me alone.’
The mine’s geologists and engineers had taken their beer with them. I went looking for it. When I found them they looked at me inquisitively.
“What?” I asked.
“You get on all right with that guy?”
“He didn’t ask you to his place?”
“No, why should he?
“You best keep away from him. He’s married to a local girl. He lives in a house in town, he invites all kinds there, men and women, you know? Just wondered if he’d asked you there….”
I grabbed a bottle, managed to snap off the crown cork by whacking it on the wooden bench like they did, and took a big swig. I stayed with them, I didn’t go back. The last I saw of the mechanic he was still on the bench, talking to another young man.
Coincidence, or what?
*apologies to J M Barrie
Many thanks to Charlotte for reading and commenting on three recent rewrites and edits of Keewatin. The novel is finally in paperback (there is also a Kindle version).
Don’t click on the pic above to look inside! Click the Keewatin link here instead.
Keewatin is an adventure story set in Canada in the 1980’s. I wrote an original version for my son when he was eleven – though this published version bears little resemblance to the original.
To save you clicking on links, here is the book’s description:
Alex Mackenzie’s father disappears while on a visit to a mine in the Canadian north. Search parties fail to find him. When school breaks up for the summer, Alex’s friend Suzie invites him to fly with her to Toronto to stay with her aunt. It is a plan by her parents to get Alex’s mind off his missing father. In Toronto things go badly wrong. Will they be allowed to stay with their aunt, or will they be sent back? And what happened to Alex’s father? Keewatin takes the reader into the Canadian wilderness accompanied by an anxious Alex, a feisty Suzie and a truck called Mog. An adventure for older children and younger teens. Parents: A safe adventure story! Read and enjoyed by 8 to15 years.
No reviews yet… My first published novel, Playpits Park, had several 5-star reviews (see here). A few years ago I put a draft of Playpits on the Harper Collins Publishers website ‘Autonomy’. Here are the peer reviews.
Unlike Keewatin, Playpits is NOT a novel for children. Playpits Park has been downloaded for Kindle more than 5,600 times
It must be at least a year since I decided to release Playpits as a paperback. There seemed to be so many problems with on-demand book publishing (particularly the US tax aspects – any profits are miniscule anyway) that it just wasn’t worth the trouble. Besides, Playpits for Kindle was out there already, so what was the point? The point was, I discovered, that I kept being asked when I was going to get the book out as a real book.
Not everyone likes eBooks.
So, folks, here is the paperback……
Click the link under ‘Blogroll’ or here
Playpits Park was free and now it isn’t. Amazon offered it free Saturday-to-Friday, not Monday-to-Sunday, which was how I thought I had timed it (you know the kind of thing –‘it may take a few days to set up, etc).
My apologies if you went for it and missed out. 544 people downloaded it and it went to Number One on the Amazon Kindle downloads list. But giving it away isn’t quite the same as selling it, is it? So not a bestseller, but a Best Giveaway. Some more 5-star reviews would be nice. Fingers and toes crossed….
If you are interested, its most recent review (this one on the US-Amazon site) is here
# for those who commented that they didn’t like my grammar, I’m guessing you never watched The Two Ronnies…
If you own a Kindle, or have a free Kindle App for your phone or PC, I have recently put one of my novels up on Amazon.
This week Amazon has made it available on a FREE promotion*
Also, I see it has received two rather nice 5-star reviews (nothing to do with me, Guv, honest…).
*Playpits Park at Amazon