John Harvey and The Alan Sillitoe Season 2012
The Alan Sillitoe Season 2012 kicked off in fine style last Saturday with good food, wine flowing freely, and the wit and amiability of our guest of honour, award-winning crime novelist John Harvey. Hmmm, maybe “kicked off” is a bad choice of phrase, since John very nearly didn’t make it. Now London-based, but back on home turf for The Alan Sillitoe Memorial Lunch at West Bridgford’s prestigious Welbeck Banqueting Suite, John found himself walking over Trent Bridge from the station, engulfed by a crowd of Notts County fans. His season ticket was upon his person. He very nearly turned into the County ground instead of heading straight on.
Fortunately, the lure of food and good company prevailed and the creator of genre-defining Brit-cops Resnick and Elder was spared County’s 4-2 defeat by Bury.
David Sillitoe introduced the event and read a selection of Alan’s poetry. Following a hearty meal, John read from Alan’s pared-down and emotionally honest short story ‘The Fishing-Boat Picture’ and discussed the quality of Alan’s writing and his ability to trust to the reader to understand and explore the subtext and the subtleties of what is left unsaid.
Recounting an episode at a crime fiction convention where he refuted as over the top a review citing him as Britain’s best chronicler of the underclass since Dickens (only to find himself in the company of the reviewer!), John gave comparative readings from Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’ and Alan’s ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’. The contrast couldn’t have been more effective! Whereas Dickens depicts Stephen Blackpool as a long-suffering mill worker ground down by the appalling conditions and turgidity of the work, Alan gives us a wily and defiant Arthur Seaton, facing up to another week at his capstan lathe: “He jettisoned his cigarette into the sud-pan … Two minutes passed while he contemplated the precise position of tools and cylinder; finally he spat on to both hands and rubbed them together, then switched on the sud-tap from the movable brass pipe, pressed a button that set the spindle running, and ran in the drill to a neat chamfer. Monday morning had lost its terror.”
Don’t let the bastards grind you down, indeed!
John finished off his talk with a reading of his short story ‘Ghosts’, published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, before officiating at the raffle. There’s almost a pejorative about the word, isn’t there? Raffle. The mind hyperlinks to “tombola”, and from that to “unwanted gift”. Forget about it! This raffle was quality with a capital Q, the choicest of which was a signed copy of John’s new novel ‘Good Bait’. The raffle raised £165 for the Memorial Fund.
John was kind enough to write about the event – and some of the forthcoming Alan Sillitoe Season highlights – on his blog. More details can be found on our Alan Sillitoe Season 2012 page: film screenings, theatrical productions, exhibitions, live music. And this isn’t even a definitive list yet. More events and activities are in the works. Keep checking back to make sure you don’t miss out.