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Whiteway Colony History Festival

Blair Johnston Freedom

With Richard Blair outside ‘Freedom’

This weekend I was at Whiteway Colony in the Cotswolds, which was founded in 1898 as a Tolstoyan commune. I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Blair, son of George Orwell, who stayed at Whiteway as a child while his dad was ill with tuberculosis. (He was looked after by the great Lillian Wolfe). You can listen to the interview here.

Johnston Blair McEwan

With Richard Blair & Ian McEwan

Then I spoke a bit about some of the folk that have lived at or visited Whiteway – including Prince Kropotkin, Captain Jack White, Kleber Claux, and Gandhi.

Speaking at Whiteway

Artmosphere podcast

ArtmosphereThanks to Alex Daintith and Mary Pipikakis for chatting with me as part of their Artmosphere podcast – they’re talking to creative people from across the UK to find out what makes them tick. We covered bad reviews, writers’ block, creative vices…. Have a listen!

Aber Writing Festival, 21st -23rd April

I’m looking forward to kicking off the Abergavenny Writing Fest on Thursday night. You can get tickets for the opening night to see a cracking line-up: poet’s poet Paul Henry; highly esteemed playwright Charles Way; sports commentator and former Welsh rugby union player Eddie Butler; Journalist Patrick Hannay; and me – it’s a bargain at £7.50, and you can get yer tickets here. It’s at the King’s Arms Hotel in Abergavenny, Wales, starting at 7pm on Thursday 21st. There are loads of other interesting events scheduled throughout the festival – it’s a really eclectic and inventive programme – so if you’re based in the area, check out the full schedule here.Aber-writing-fest

BBC Manchester, tomorrow

BBC Manchester

The Secret Baby Room is out tomorrow, July 2nd, and I’ll be marking the launch by discussing the book and its setting with Mike Sweeney on BBC Radio Manchester. So, friends in the North West, listen in about 10am!

Review of The Headscarf Revolutionaries by Brian Lavery

The Headscarf Revolutionaries coverHere’s my review for Libcom.org of Brian W. Lavery’s The Headscarf Revolutionaries, an account of a spontaneous campaign by fishermen’s wives in Hull, which following the 1968 triple-trawler disaster forced major changes to UK shipping laws:

There are times when history seems to erupt in chorus. Sometimes the cause of synchronicity is obvious, as in the World War that preceded uprisings and revolutions from Clydeside to Moscow, or the economic collapse that by 2011 had sparked revolts as diverse as the English riots and the Arab Spring. At other times, the connections are harder to explain: why was 1848 the year that modernity clashed with feudalism across much of Europe and Latin America? Why did 1649 witness the Ormee of Bordeaux and The Diggers’ colonies in England? Sometimes, it seems, there is simply something in the air.

The opening of 1968 was such a time. The Prague Spring coincided with the Civil Rights movement in the US, the anti-Vietnam War riot in Grosvenor Square, the March events in Poland, the occupation at Nanterre, and eventually the May Days in Paris. And to this list we can add the uprising of the Headscarf Revolutionaries, which has now been brilliantly documented in a new book by Brian Lavery… READ MORE

Hates, heartbreak, and high-rise housing

PrintHaving no interest in the election has given me time to write a couple of new features. First up, a piece for Northern Soul, the magazine of events and culture in Northern England. It’s the story of how I demoralised Manchester’s Redbricks community with tales of heartbreak and bad poetry, and how I eventually came to write The Secret Baby Room:

Only one person will ever really break your heart. It’s probably something you should try to get out of the way early in life – like measles or chicken pox.

In 2004 I was 24 and my French girlfriend told me she was having it off with the branch secretary of the anarcho-syndicalist union. Previous break-ups had caused me to experience a level of sadness that at the time had seemed worthy of the term ‘heartbreak’, but at 24 I cried for longer than it is physically possible to cry. I cried until I was exhausted and hungry and completely emptied by a vortex of grief in excess of anything that evolution had anticipated. There was, I eventually decided, only one thing to do: from the furnace of my anguish I would forge the new century’s first great novel. CONTINUE READING

Second up, a piece for You’re Booked on my pet hates in crime fiction:

1. The relentlessly peeved detective

The relentlessly peeved detective is peeved with everyone and everything. He (and overwhelmingly he still is a he) doesn’t like his bosses and doesn’t like his colleagues. He doesn’t like children (which is why he’s never had any), and he especially doesn’t like his ex-wife (the bitch). He dislikes police procedures. He dislikes social workers. He dislikes delicatessens and vegetarians and art cinema. He even dislikes the things he chooses to do in every chapter. CONTINUE READING

YOURE-BOOKED-WEB-BANNER

A wee round up of recent media stuff

Que_Leer

There’s a good story behind this photo by Marta Calvo, taken for the Spanish literary magazine, Qué Leer. on the terrace of La Central bookstore in Barcelona (it involves a few beers and a horrible reaction to one of those temporary tattoos they do you on the beach). I was over to promote the Spanish version of Peace, Love & Petrol Bombs.

Thanks also to author Christopher Burns for his kind review of The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub, in the new issue of the venerable Warwick Review:

Readers are likely to find Thrub either exciting or precious, but few will disagree that this is an ambitious, erudite work with a profound interest in the world as we find it. This interest encompasses unexpectedly vivid sensory descriptions, scenes of violence such as those found in Babel, a junction of philosophy and farce reminiscent of Stoppard, a B.S. Johnson like use of distancing, and an ongoing dialectic between Kantian and post-Kantian theories of being and action.

I’ve also been chatting with journalist Michael Donnelly, who’s recently launched an independent media venture: S:News. You can read that here.

And if you’re after Christmas presents, have a look at The Morning Star‘s review of the year’s best left-wing fiction. There are some great titles mentioned, so I’m grateful to Paul Simon for including Thrub:

As expansive in its scope and even more ambitious in its characterisation, DD Johnston’s The Deconstruction Of Professor Thrub spans poverty-stricken Belfast, the Spanish civil war and Hungary 1956. A galloping discussion of free will and skit on academic life, it’s a book that frequently explodes with raw and unexpurgated humour.

Paz, amor y cócteles molotov: Spanish translation of Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs is out today

portada_completa_pazlove

I’m chuffed that the Spanish edition of Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs, Paz, amor y cócteles molotov, comes out today. It’s published by Hoja de Lata, a thriving young independent press, which was started by Daniel Alvarez with the redundancy money he received after his job in the book industry fell victim to the recession. Since launching their list in April with a translation of Arraianos by the Nobel Prize proposed Galician author Xosé Luís Méndez Ferrín, Hoja de Lata have enjoyed success with a new book every month. Other texts include Spanish translations of the letters of Elinore Pruitt Stewart, and a Spanish version of Jean Malaquais’ Les Javanais, which won the Prix Renaudot in 1939. Paz, amor y cócteles molotov is translated by Raquel Duato García, and I hear it’s a brilliant version. I’m eager to read it, and I figure all I need is a decade or two of evening classes….

Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs now available as an audio book

P,L,&PaudibleThe audio version of Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs is now available via Audible.com. It’s narrated by the very talented Roger Clark, who brilliantly moves between accents and interjects great comedy with how he reads the dialogue – well worth a listen! You can buy it via this link, or listen to a sample here.

Short story online

D.D. Johnston’s new story, ‘The Invitation’, is in issue six of the Lampeter Review. An earlier version was shortlisted for the 2012 Bridport Prize.