Writers in Modern Wales are undervalued and unfairly treated,
just as writers have always been.
** This article first appeared in the New Welsh Review,
Winter 1999/2000 **
(but it’s still relevant)
“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”
Dr Samuel Johnson
“I’m just a Gower farm boy and I make bugger all
from my writing.”
“I don’t make money from my art.”
I’m not suggesting that Nigel Jenkins and Robert Minhinnick are blockheads, and that famous quote of Johnson’s may have been a little tongue in cheek, but it sums up the way many writers must feel when pumping away at their keyboards long after dark. Who can blame a writer for feeling like a blockhead, when, after weeks of effort on a short story or a poem the only recompense received is at best a few pounds, more often a couple of contributor’s copies. Continue reading “Writers in Wales”
My new novel Boys from the Backfields has just been published
The cover of the book features a painting I did of the Cefncaeau Estate in Llanelli. The story is set on a very similar housing estate where in 1963, Mick, a 13 year old boy, witnesses the murder of Betty Fish. Half a century later the murder is still unsolved and still overshadows Mick’s life.
Boys from the Backfields is available as a paperback and as an ebook in all the usual places, or can order a signed copy directly from the publishers Opening Chapter.
In 1963 the world is rocking to the Beatles, and being rocked by the Cold War and the assassination of President Kennedy.
There are far more important things on the mind of Mick Matthews, a 13 year old boy growing up on a council estate in Wales, such as the murder of a middle-aged widow in one of the posh houses across the road. Mick and his small gang are out gathering blackberries and scrumping apples when they witness the murder as it happens.
Around the same time as the demise of Betty Fish, Mick falls in love with the enigmatic Angel, a girl of the same age.
Fifty years later, the murder is still unsolved and the shadows it casts over their lives are as dark as ever.
About the book
Boys from the Backfields is a story I’ve been working on, on and off for nearly twenty years. I’ve finally decided to publish it. The book is in its final editing stage and will be available early November 2013.
My new novel Cheats and Liars is now available in paperback and as an ebook in lots of formats
Everyone’s a cheat or a liar, or both. What happens when the Greatest Living Artist in Wales decides to stop playing the game?
Brian Llewelyn is an artist at the peak of his powers, in fact he’s the Greatest Living Artist in Wales. Despite his success, or perhaps because of it, his life seems worthless. He decides to redeem himself by investing heavily in a community arts project.
Following this altruistic path exposes the fragile foundations his success is built on. His life disintegrates and his career evaporates as the corrupt liars and cheats propping him up turn on him.
Cheats and Liars is an exploration of success and its fallout set deep in the psyche of Brian Llewelyn, The Greatest Living Artist in Wales.
The fucking mice are back. I know they’re there. They’re crawling under the fucking floorboards. The cheeky fuckers are even hiding under the settee. I saw one last night, a dark beige flash, zipping from the side of the settee towards the hole in the floorboards. It’s my own fault. There shouldn’t be a hole in the floorboards. It’s as easy as that; all you’ve got to do is give them a fucking excuse and they’re in. It doesn’t have to be anything major, a little gap in the bottom of the back door, a small crack in the floorboards, and that’s enough; that’s all they need. Continue reading “Visitors”
I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but while Cheats and Liars is cooking I’m looking at all my works-in-progress deciding what story to focus on next. Trouble is, there’s a lot to choose from and I really would like to work on them all.
Here’s a batch under consideration.
From the Backfields
The favourite at the moment is From the Backfields. The first draft of this was written about 15 years ago. It’s been lingering at the bottom of a drawer and at the back of my consciousness ever since.
From the Backfields is set in the Welsh seaside town of Elchurch and follows Mick, a man puzzled by the mysteries of his own life, for 50 years. The story starts in 1963 when Mick is just 13 years old.
Elchurch is really Llanelli in a parallel universe. Perhaps all stories come from parallel universes, or, maybe, a parallel universe is created every time someone tells a story.
Yes, just 60p to attend a gig by Slade but you’ll have to travel four decades back in time first.
I came across this poster advertising a gig by Slade at the Glen in Llanelli in 1970/71.
I was taking pictures for a new website for the No Strings Rock Bistro in Llanelli. The bistro has just been opened by Tony Rees, originally from Cardiff, who himself, played at the Glen in 1968.
Thing is, it was me who organised that gig. I was vice-president of the students’ union at the local college at the time and I remember going backstage to pay Slade, I think it was about £200 in cash. I remember we made money on the night so seeing as it was only 60p to get in, we must have had a good few hundred punters in.
The mainstream media’s coverage of the student protests over tuition fee increases is completely silly. Their collaboration with the police and with the government, unconscious or not, is damaging their reputation as credible sources of news and information.
I’ve got to admit that my participation in the demonstrations has been limited to tweeting a few messages of support to the students. I’m just an ordinary bloke trying to scratch a living in the dark depths of the recession and am generally content with the way things are, being a bit apolitical. I’ve witnessed a number of such occasions on the television over the years, and swallowed the line I’ve been fed. Of course you expect nonsense from Sky News and we all know that ITV News chases the sensational tabloid headlines, so any accidental exposure to them is tempered with a large handful of rock salt, but the BBC? I’ve always trusted the BBC – shame on me.
There was a very large fire in Parliament Square – no there wasn’t, it was just a large bin. The protesters attacked mounted police – no they didn’t, the mounted police attacked the protesters. I know because I was there, well I was there virtually at least. I saw the pictures on the television and the other pictures all over the internet. I heard the reports on the radio and browsed the news media’s websites. I followed the trends on twitter and clicked the links to innumerable articles, opinions, photographs and videos. I made my own mind up.
Set against the current desperate financial background and the corruption, incompetence and sheer greed displayed by the bankers and the politicians, it’s a wonder the Houses of Parliament are still standing never mind a few smashed windows. Of course the biggest story of the day is that our beloved Charles – the Prince of Wales no less, had his armoured car attacked.
Like I said, I’m an ordinary bloke, just another middle-aged man; a small human creature feeling his way through this crazy universe, but come on the BBC, I’m not an idiot, you could be so much more than a mouthpiece for the establishment.
* * *
p.s. After writing this I was sent a link to a video about the Poll Tax riots of over twenty years ago. Scarily similar.