JULY 2021

This is UK author Tim Walker’s monthly book blog. It can include any of the following: author news, book launches, guest author profiles, book reviews, flash fiction and poetry.
Are you an author or a poet? If so, then please contact me for a guest author or poet’s corner slot in a future newsletter: timwalker1666@gmail.com

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AUTHOR NEWS

June 1st saw the launch of my new novel, Guardians at the Wall. This dual timeline novel set at Hadrian’s Wall has piqued enough interest to generate fair sales (I’m not putting figures here, but it didn’t hit the top 100 in any of its categories, sadly, so no orange ‘Bestseller’ tag). The sales split is about 80% Kindle e-books as 20% paperback. In addition, it has gone quite well on Kindle Unlimited (Amazon’s subscription service) with close to 4,000 page reads in June. Already it has accrued ten positive reviews, which should tempt browsers to take a chance on it.

I appeared on over twenty book blogs during June, generating some awareness amongst active readers. As for paid advertising, well, I’ve only done two weekend Facebook post boosts, targeted by lifestyle characteristics and by country, and one spot advert with Fussy Librarian that generated six Kindle sales on the day.

I’m always pleased to get positive feedback from the USA market, so it cheered me up to see this review from a US historical fiction reader:

HF Reader
5 stars – Entertaining and Fast Paced
Reviewed in the United States on June 18, 2021.
“I really enjoyed the characters and settings in this exciting and well-researched dual timeline. Both modern and Roman stories wove together beautifully, and I found them equally riveting. I don’t know a lot about the Roman period in England, and I think the way the author presents the history, through the eyes of archaeologists and their own stories, really draws you in. Highly recommend, for those familiar with the Roman period, as well as those who want to learn more in an entertaining and easy-to-read novel.”

What’s the book about? Well, here’s the short description:
Guardians at the Wall is a gripping dual timeline historical novel set at Hadrian’s Wall. Archaeologists uncover artefacts that connect them to the life of a Roman centurion in second century Britannia.
Currently just £1.99/$2.99/e2.69 on Kindle!
Paperback £7.99/$8.99 or read on Kindle Unlimited:
AMAZON BOOK LINK

FIRST BOOK AWARD
Guardians at the Wall has been awarded the International Review of Books Award by Books go Social (booksgosocial.com is a Dublin-based company that supports independent authors). Here’s what their reviewer said:
“The writing in this book is superb. I felt like I was at Hadrian’s Wall with a group of students on an archaeological dig. The author’s descriptions of what was happening, what the characters felt and saw were wonderful. I also felt like I travelled into the past where the artefact originated. These details brought the story alive.
Yet, it’s more than about finding an artefact. There is a story of love and mystery as well. This creates added interest in the book. The main character has to deal with going on an important mission that could risk his future career and the hardship of theft. The author intermingles the two timelines very well providing details into a complete story that is about the people as well as the excavated objects.
More than an artefact is dug up in this story. There are questions surrounding it that need to be answered. What does this find really mean? What is the story behind it? Finding the answers makes the reader eager to know what is happening and what happened long ago. Every step of this story adds more details to this well-written novel. It is full of everything you are looking for in historical fiction with some mystery and romance.”

General thoughts on the Novel:
“This is a fascinating world throughout two timelines and two worlds found in the same place. The world has changed since the artefact had last seen the light and the writer did well relaying the two timelines. The design of the book is good throughout. The idea of this story is interesting with enough details to keep track of each timeline.”

In a new feature, I’m reminiscing on my two encounters with punk poet laureate, Dr John Cooper Clarke. If you would like to share any literary-themed reminiscences on this blog, please email me…

Meeting Dr John Cooper Clarke

Way back in 1978 I was a sixth form student in Liverpool studying for, amongst others, English Literature ‘A’ level. What were the chances of me seeing a punk poet on stage who would one day find his way onto the national curriculum?

My studies were not going well as I was heavily distracted by the energy and noise of punk rock as it cut a jagged slash through the rock music scene. A classmate talked me into going with him to see his new idol, Salford punk poet, John Cooper-Clarke, a punk rock spin-off act. He was supporting Manchester punk band, The Fall.
So, we got the bus into Liverpool and made our way to Mathew Street, to Eric’s Club, opposite the site of the Cavern Club where the Beatles had made their name. We went to the matinee, where they tolerated a younger audience, and were forced to buy a year’s membership for £1 in addition to the £1.50 entry fee – a lot of money to skint schoolies. Descending into the dark dungeon basement, we gasped at the building-wide low-ceiling room with gloss red walls, a bar at one end and a low stage, about knee high off the concrete floor, opposite. Punks with bondage pants and leather jackets painted on the back with anarchy symbols and metal studs on the lapels milled about, comparing peroxide spiked hair. We hung around on the fringes, conservatively dressed in turned up drainpipe jeans, baseball boots and our dad’s old dark jackets with favourite band pin badges dotting the lapels.

The Fall were the new darlings of late-night DJ John Peel, and they belted out a loud, fast and forgettable set. Cooper-Clarke was a rake-thin stick insect dressed in black, with a mad mop of black hair sprouting from his pale face. Wearing shades and chewing gum, he read from a notebook at break-neck speed. I still remember such classics as ‘I married a monster from outer space’ and ‘You’ll never find a nipple in the Daily Express’. My mate was enthralled and vowed to write his own punk poetry in the style of his new hero. He insisted we wait behind after the punks had filed out for a chance to meet the man himself. Sure enough, JCC came out to the bar and chatted to fans, including us. I got his autograph on my Eric’s flyer, now glued in my scrapbook. This was the first of many night club gigs as I made use of my Eric’s membership, extending it into the next year.

Fast-forward forty years, and JCC performed his set at The Fire Station theatre in Windsor, close to where I now live. I bought a ticket and went along, armed with my scrapbook, determined to try and gain an audience with him after his performance to show him where he’d signed my flyer forty years earlier, to complete the circle. He had journeyed from a punk rock warm-up act and a battle with drug addiction to becoming an establishment figure and celebrated national poet, his name prefixed by ‘Doctor’ after he was awarded an honorary degree, and amongst his set are poems that now grace the national school curriculum. I marvelled at him performing to the well-heeled Tories of Windsor, and wondered if he voted Conservative himself.

Thin as ever and still dressed in a black suit with trademark dark shades, his delivery was much the same, except now he used backing tracks to add a drum and bass rhythm to some of his poems. Classics such as ‘Beasley Street’ and ‘Evidently Chicken Town’ (the theme to the final episode of hit TV series ‘The Sopranos’), plus school GCSE literature poems, ‘I mustn’t go down to the sea’ and ‘I wanna be yours’ received big applause. I had to laugh when he did some of the old, original set, including ‘I married a monster from outer space’.

After the gig I went to the foyer where his Manchester mate was selling copies of his books to eager buyers. Once they had gone, I bought one of his books and asked the guy if I could meet John and get the book signed. He replied, ‘No, John’s tired and resting’. I produced my scrap book and explained how John had been my first gig way back in ’78, when he’d signed my flyer. I showed him the page, and his eye was drawn to a ticket next to it from April 1980 when I’d seen Manchester band, Joy Division, at the Hascienda. ‘You’ve seen Joy Division?’ he asked, incredulously. ‘Yeah, three times, actually’, I casually replied. I showed him my other gig tickets and he was captivated. ‘Mind if I take some photos?’ he asked, producing his phone. ‘Only if you let me go backstage to meet John’, I replied.

He thought about it and then relented. ‘Alright, I’ll see if he’ll see you’. Two minutes later he put his head around the door and beckoned me to come. ‘Just for a minute, as John’s really tired’, he said. I went in and John staggered towards me, arms outstretched for a friendly hug. He was as high as a kite, grinning from ear to ear – adrenalin and a thirst-quenching beer perhaps? I briefly explained how I’d met him after his gig at Erics forty years ago and showed him his autograph. He swayed backwards and forwards, trying to focus. ‘That’s great… what’s yer name again? Tiny? Nice ter meet ya mate.’ His Manc mate took two very blurry photos on my phone (picture shown) of me and John, holding my scrapbook. And yes, I did let the Manc guy take pictures of my gig tickets and flyers. I almost felt like a celebrity.

Never meet your heroes they say, especially when they’re old and knackered. Why not? We are both survivors, and I’m in an equally degraded state these days. Life’s a journey after all, and I’m not against the odd trip down memory lane.

It’s incredible to think school kids are analysing his poems…

I WANNA BE YOURS

I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your raincoat
For those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
When you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
Take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours

I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
You’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
Hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic Ocean
That’s how deep is my devotion.

I MUSTN’T GO DOWN TO THE SEA AGAIN

Sunken yachtsmen
Sinking yards
Drunken Scotsmen
Drinking hard
Every lunatic and his friend
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

The ocean drags
Its drowning men
Emotions flag
Me down again
Tell Tracy Babs and Gwen
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

The rain whips
The promenade
It drips on chips
They turn to lard
I’d send a card if I had a pen
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

A string of pearls
From the bingo bar
For a girl
Who looks like Ringo Starr
She’s mad about married men
I mustn’t go down to the sea again

The clumsy kiss
That ends in tears
How I wish
I wasn’t here
Tell Tony Mike and Len
I mustn’t go down to the sea again.

John Cooper Clarke