RAIN swept over the misted windows of Patrick's crowded store, smearing shadowy images of early-evening traffic and the occasional cowering passer-by.
THE first few chapters of novel Voyage of Discovery may give readers a taste for this offbeat adventure and romance that has just been published this month. It was partly inspired by John Masefield's classic Sea Fever (item 40 on our Poetry page). There are illustrations from the book and also its front and back covers (see also Books page).
Archie fought a temptation to check the time, not wanting to look shocked, predictable, middle-class and increasingly suburban – as he had become, even in the country setting of Boot.
HERE is the first chapter of the second Sam Stone Investigates novel, entitled A Stone's Throw. The front and back covers ((see below, left and right) were designed by the author. It was published in paperback in late March and is available on Kindle.
AT Christmas former colleagues and I used to meet Lancashire country writer Jack Benson, who lived at Little Eccleston in Rural Fylde but was born on Blackpool's Marton Moss, so entitled to call himself a Mossag. Sadly Jack is now only with us in spirit at our annual get-together in The Thatched House pub at Poulton-le-Fylde. This chapter from Bright Lights & Pig Rustling (see Books), is a tribute you might enjoy sharing.
MOST newspapers try to alleviate the 'bad news', that helps sell them, with a few more uplifting titbits. My own supposedly humorous columns, latterly entitled 'A Seasoned Look At Life', have attempted to offer such a contrast. Another, which I greatly enjoyed reading in the Gazette, were rural notes.
|Map courtesy of fredmoor.com of St. Annes|
HERE are a couple of extracted chapters from a memoir, Bright Lights & Pig Rustling, about living on the Fylde, Lancashire's Irish Sea coast 'famous for fresh air and fun'. These feature bachelor years in the late 80s and 90s living in Blackpool, Europe's most raucous resort. The book, which spans up to the present day and includes side trips into Vietnam, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, is published this month - watch our Home and Book pages for news.
THESE are the first few chapters of our latest light thriller and mystery-romance, entitled A Cut Above. It is set on the Fylde coast and revolves around the suspicious death of a famous comedian. The novel also introduces freelance reporter Sam Stone, whom we hope will be appearing in future stories. Front and back covers were designed by the author.
“I AM not having a boyfriend who is an ice-cream man!” Barbara told me adamantly.
THE club's small car park was full when Rebecca arrived. It was mostly parents collecting children from coach Liam's junior class. A space would be free soon but she would have to wait and was already late. Her friend Natasha's gold-coloured Mazda sports was already there.
What made it worse was these parents drove such huge vehicles: mothers with great, unnecessary four-wheel drives; fathers in powerful German limousines.
Rebecca got out of her small hatchback and picked the racquet she wanted from the boot, then the new balls they would need. Liam, though coach here, could not be relied upon for the quality of his tennis balls.
She had one eye on a parking space as she checked her wrist sweatband and water bottle were all in her racquet bag.
Quickly, as a family drove away all talking at once in a seven-seater 'people mover', she got back into the driver's seat and properly parked.
Finally, Rebecca checked herself in the mirror, touching up her lipstick and straightening her dark fringe where it continually rebelled and curled. Her wavy hair was for once behaving itself and her complexion without blemish yet from any summer sun.
Only Rebecca's stomach was awry, upset by her rush and fluttering with anticipation. She was delighted the evening had turned out so sunny and enthralled by Natasha's description of the club's latest eligible man.
The clubhouse was a small, wooden pavilion. Rebecca walked through, greeting a couple of players by the noticeboard and making a mental note to study forthcoming team matches after playing.
She emerged on to the small terrace where people sat in the shade to watch games. It was a pretty setting, with Virginia creeper, clematis and climbing roses in flower at different times of the season.
Liam and Natasha were already on court and hitting 'short tennis' from the service box lines, as coaches encouraged to warm up muscles and 'groove' shots. But, irritatingly, there was no sign of their fourth player.
Rebecca felt her elation die a little as it would on those summer days when, just as work finished, there were mocking tear drops of rain at her window.
Probably Liam had been too casual again about the arrangements.
She headed for their court, noting how a new and rather tight, black top showed off Natasha's flowing blonde hair. Her friend was looking good after workouts at a nearby hotel's health spa. Pale lemon shorts rounded off an outfit rather too young for someone turned 30.
Rebecca felt relatively stocky whenever with Natasha, though their heights almost matched and she was quicker and fitter than Natasha.
Rebecca put down her bag and got out the balls in preparation, then stood and, straightening her tennis dress, stared at the vision of manhood fast approaching her with a wide, perfect grin of recognition as though in a dream.
"Hi, Gareth!" Liam called lazily, as their fourth palyer stepped on to court.
This Gareth raised a hand in greeting. "Liam, Natasha," he acknowledged in a smooth, accent-free voice.
Rebecca felt her stomach lurch as the newcomer offered a large, surprisingly gentle hand for her to shake.
"This is Becky," Liam called.
"Rebecca," she corrected, reluctantly releasing his hand. "I think these balls are harder," she added and, to her embarrassment, began to blush.
"Right, you guys," Liam said, checking Rebecca's tennis balls and putting his own back in a hopper by the court, "a few drives and serves then we'll start, okay?"
He spun his racquet and checked which side strings were knotted. "Rough or smooth, Natasha?"
"Oh, rough!" she said with a look at Gareth that was an open invitation.
"So," said Liam, "let the match begin."
HERE'S a birthday extract from an early chapter in Only The Good News, a humorous memoir still being written and due to be published later this year. (For memoir already published, both semi-fictional and real, see Life of Bliss and The Last Resort, respectively, on our Books page.)
HERE are the first few chapters of our latest published novel Coming Up Roses, a mystery/romance set in leafy Lytham, on the Fylde coast. There's down-to-earth humour but also an uplifting theme of faith and honesty. For more details go to our Books page.
1. EMPLOYING SERVANTS
HERE's the first chapter of 'Harry's Hand', an atmospheric thriller about destiny by Ed Black (see Books page). It features a young Greek immigrant in New York. Yannis (or John) has an inherited gift for palmistry which to him seems a curse rather than a blessing. However, it helps him save the most important in the land, if not those he loves . . .
To read more of Harry's Hand or to buy a copy turn to the Books page.
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IN Las Vegas this month they will be rolling out the red carpet again . . . but, as Roy writes in this short story, fame and fortune aren't everything.
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HERE is an extract from novel A Punt Into Eden, set mainly in Sri Lanka. This is chapter six, when Edward Brown and wife Elizabeth arrive on a working holiday there at Golimbo. His mission, as partner in a development company, is to save their troubled resort site of Serendib Surf further up the coast - so vital to finances it over-rode even news of his terminal heart condition. Yet it will be here Edward finds a new passion for life.
* * *
"So sorry, sir," she muttered, drawing a shawl about her neck. Her clothes were dark but also mired, he saw in the hall light. "Have you food please, water?"
(See also Ed's personal recollections on our Memoir page.)
Young Wayne gave me a wave now as he opened for the evening. He was born in Britain but spoke their native dialect at home. He also held true to the capitalist culture still prevalent in Hong Kong, despite the Communist takeover. Consequently, Wayne could not resist a glance from me to his pride and joy outside the shop - a shiny, almost new Mercedes. We would hear him drive off to the casino most nights after closing, sometimes with his father, then return in the early hours. I suppose they kept the burglars at bay.
It was like the phone calls, now only received from first-name strangers insisting they weren’t selling me anything. The only interesting ones came from call centres in India, whereupon I’d always chat about the weather. At first I thought Becky must be wiping off my messages, just as I suspected her of slipping something into my tea to slow me down, but then old mates began admitting they didn’t get up to much these days either.
While Becky read the Mail on Sunday with breakfast in bed, I have been transported back years to the real Orient and beyond. Looking back, there were what seemed hilarious misadventures and mistakes, lucky brushes with danger and famous names and then, of course, romantic entanglements (though nothing too explicit, She Who Knows requested, in case articles were read by her mother). Ignoring the ironing board, tennis shoes and riding jackets, the study-come-Tardis could also whirl me back to an era before my birth, when grandfather cut a dash across Lancashire in his Buick convertible and my father, a young railway station porter, was pursuing a cotton mill owner’s daughter. But there was no time travel on a Friday evening, I had too much on before dinner at eight.
Parking was always at a premium on a Friday evening and, as I pulled out of Cocker Court, another car promptly took my place - probably a customer for The Seagull, or the Bull’s Head up the road with its large sports screen. Others parked near us to use the late supermarket round the corner, the chip shop, off-licence or bookies. Yes, we were close to all amenities. Most of the cars would have gone by the time I returned, their patrons relaxing over dinner or changing for somewhere special.
Instead I checked over my appearance while walking. I looked in good enough shape, though the baggy tracksuit helped. My height, just under six feet, balanced the stocky frame well enough. My face was pleasantly full without being jowly anymore (thanks to She Who and Pampers). I was clean shaven, with a firm chin and, according to Becky, “noble”, straight nose. My eyes were blue with, I felt, a touch still of sparkle, and my blond hair looked thick enough if kept fairly short, grey flecks barely showing except in the short sideburns. But my eyes had a will of their own, drawn by the sighs of the blonde beside me. To my amazement she was smiling at me, or so it appeared in that mirror. I looked away then glanced back. She was still smiling.
In this chapter hero Bill Winters, a retired writer, is at Lytham Cricket Club watching a match with old friends. During a stroll round the outfield, his pal Harry - a troubled rough diamond - suddenly asks him: "Have you ever killed anyone?"
Introductory chapters from:
50 Shades of Bass
(Our Victorian chapters are illustrated with two rough period maps of Blackpool and Great Marton, drawn by hero Jack Waddington. The novel of about 280 pages is due to be published this summer.)
A short festive story, specially written by Roy Edmonds:
"So sorry, sir," she muttered, drawing a shawl about her neck. Her clothes were dark but also mired, he saw in the hall light. "Have you food please, water?"
An extract from:
- a second sample chapter from:
Derek was a tall, rangy man with dark hair, poor teeth and a winning way about him. His window cleaning round took in many shops and offices round South Shore and also here in Great Marton where he ended at the beloved Saddle. He even claimed to have keys to the Oxford Square NatWest bank, so he could spruce up the windows before customers and staff arrived. I don't know the truth of this, but the bank has now closed down and Derek hasn't been seen in these parts for years. . .
He lived during the week in a caravan by the Marton mushroom farm, shared with a couple of mongrel sheepdogs from home. 'Home' was Appleby in Cumbria where his wife and he lived above a wool and knick-knack shop she ran.
"She can't stand me being around for more than a weekend," he explained.
But it was playing the trumpet for Eartha Kitt and surviving on Reichstag rice pudding from the Second World War which made Derek really unique.
"I just play when some big star's in town and they need more musicians at Opera House," he told me modestly one wet, wintry afternoon. "I've played with 'em all, but Eartha Kitt was best - really looked after us. She'd lay on a party at end of week - and get a crate of whisky in 'specially for band'.
"Grand lass . . ." (here Derek's buckled teeth almost glittered) “ . . . and right sexy too!"
Derek dined mainly in the caravan on war-surplus rice pudding. "Beautiful stuff - all you need. Not ours but the Nazis' - the tins have a Reichstag stamp on. Can't remember where I got 'em now, but dogs love it too."
However, Derek truly became a Saddle legend when he accepted a challenge to leave his old estate car by the caravan one weekend - and cycle home to Appleby. Being no spring chicken, he took his time over this marathon task and set off from Great Marton in early morning.
"I couldn't resist stopping at a few pubs on't way, though," he confessed.
However, by late afternoon come early evening he had wound his wobbly way as far as his local at Appleby, which by good luck was just opening.
"No one there believed I'd cycled it," he recalled with a grin, "till my lad came by and said, 'By 'eck dad! Thought it were your bike outside - where's car then, still at Blackpool?"
Derek so enjoyed his day's cycling - without the ladder and buckets he usually carried - he repeated the feat just weeks later with similar results. He wasn't a lad to do things by half!
To read more of Saddle Up! go to our Books page.
(This is the first chapter of 'Saddle Up!' The humorous 'local' history gives a taste of Blackpool's oldest inn through its colourful regulars and landlords.)
This is never more true than after retiring, which has given me time to concoct this ‘local’ history.
Just a couple of miles inland from blowsy Blackpool (noted for fresh air and fun), Marton has stood much longer astride the rural Fylde coastline of the Irish Sea. Its historic heart is Great Marton.
Stand on one of the main residential thoroughfares of Blackpool, Whitegate Drive, by its oldest pub, the Saddle Inn, and you can still discern the original village of Great Marton.
Beside the Saddle, which dates back to the Civil War and provided stabling for roundhead troops, is St Paul's old churchyard. To the pub's other side, on Preston Old Road, are tiny cottages which have stood for more than two centuries on a winding route stagecoaches took to Preston.
Edmonds Towers stands a discreet distance from the Saddle, whose more recent history and characters I hope to explore in this appreciation. However, it's a family story of wealth and woe on its doorstep which is my starting point.
In the 19th Century there were only a few artisan cottages on Preston Old Road while Wren Grove, the present small cul-de-sac near Whitegate Drive (then Whitegate Lane), was called Green Lane. This ran down to what is now the White House, on the corner of Lightbown Avenue, but was previously the landowner's home Blaydon House.
My own house deeds list the tenancy dues to be paid at Blaydon House. A chap christened Lynsey I met at Blackpool Cricket Club was born in my home many years before I acquired it. He could remember open fields and carthorses grazing where now other houses stand.
What was until recently the Far East takeaway was back then the Lord Nelson Alehouse and a tall building stood behind the area's third pub, the old Boar's Head, which was Marton Brewery. Further down Whitegate Lane was The Mill Inn, beside Marton Windmill, now renamed the Oxford.
Completing the nest of buildings in Great Marton was a church school and infants' classrooms where new houses now stand facing the Boars Head.
Inland from its Whitegate Drive end, Preston Old Road crosses South Park Drive and a large house still stands on a promontory, called The Mount. This was the home of Marton benefactor John Picken Dixon. It was previously a farmhouse, surrounded by fields as far as the eye could see and good shooting territory. Mr Dixon, a wealthy cotton mill owner, turned The Mount into a grand house in the country style and entertained visitors in squirely fashion. He had the first Silver Cloud Rolls Royce in the area but was also generous with his wealth, making widespread donations every Christmas to local people and the poor.
It was J.P. Dixon who had the crumbling, old St Paul's Church by the Saddle rebuilt in its present grandeur. Perhaps he had hoped to see his youngest son Edward married there. . . but instead Edward was killed and buried in France towards the end of the Great War. Afterwards J.P.Dixon bided much of his time nurturing famed rose gardens about The Mount.
Edward and other local men killed in the First World War are commemorated on the cenotaph his family erected. There are stories of a gun carriage to commemorate them being drawn down from The Mount to the churchyard, where the Dixon family vault still stands prominently. Near the cenotaph there are also flat gravestones illustrating the darker days of Great Marton when so many children died.
In communal mindedness typical of the time, J.P. Dixon also established Marton Institute for the recreation of local working men. Meanwhile, at the Saddle itself, the Leigh family had a history of providing free fruit and honey to children from a hatch where the current gents toilets block stands.
Now the local kids get their sweets from a 24-hour Tesco Express just round the corner. Amenities for older locals include the nearby chippy, pie shop, barber's and, last but not least, the bookies. Pull up any afternoon at the pelican crossing on Whitegate Drive, outside the Saddle Inn, and you will see some of its many characters crossing on their ritual route from bar to betting counter.