Forrest Reid – the magician

Forrest Reid - the magicianForrest Reid was born on (Saturday, as it happens) June 24, 1876, at 20 Mount Charles, Belfast it was (still is) a ‘private road’, a volume of Reid’s autobiography is entitled Private Road (the other being Apostate).  Reid’s father died when he was a child.  He had invested in foolish speculation, and his death left the family in dire straits.  His mother, an Englishwoman with exotic, aristocratic ancestors, including Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife, refused to ‘down-size’ and the family survived on a very basic diet – mostly rice pudding

   Reid attended Belfast’s ‘Inst’ (the Royal Belfast Academical Institute) and was a good student – particularly of English, but he went to work in Musgrave’stea firm – the Musgrave family were entrepreneurs – the greater part of their fortune being made in metal industrial and domestic heating devices.
   Reid’s frugality may be a reason why he was able to attend Christ’s Church College in Cambridge in 1905.  He was, at 29, a ‘mature student, of ancient (Greek) and modern languages.  He regarded his sojourn in Cambridge as a “rather blank” period – he had no friends from his sojourn there.
   He did meet EM Forster, who became a life-long friend, and whom Reid visited every year.  He travelled to England as an (apparently ferociously competitive) croquet player and stayed with Forster in his Cambridge rooms.  He must have made the acquaintance of Forster’s circle.  Benjamin Britten was part of that circle until his expulsion (BB had made it clear that the composer had the last word on texts to be set.  He had been given increasing complex texts by WH Auden in the 1930s and early ’40s.  Post Peter Grimes, his first major opera, he felt self confident dealing with authors.  Forster became the Great Old Man of English Letters and tried to brow-beat BB, who turned to more amenable librettists).
   Reid had a great love of Italian opera and a huge record collection – with which he ‘entertained’ his neighbours in Ormiston Avenue off Castlereagh Road (the Castlereagh Hills were not built over until the 1960s) often late in the evening.  Many of Reid’s books are set in the unnamed, but clearly obvious County Down – the county ‘proper’ begins with the Castlereagh Hills.  His other favoured landscape was that of Donegal.
   Reid produced a critical study of WB Yeats in 1915 (he did not note the Great War in progress at the time – WW2 was beneath his notice too), as was the decade of political violence in Ireland.  He produced a book about British book illustrators of the 1870s and a not-very-critical study of Walter de la Mare (now even more thoroughly forgotten than Reid himself).
   Reid’s novels have been reprinted by Valancourt Books of Richmond, Virginia over the past decade.

Valancourt Books

PO Box 17642
Richmond VA [Virginia]
USA
Forrest Reid - one story

Comics and Harvey Milk

I thought I would pass along this news on the development of a Harvey Milk graphic  comic novel:

Reprinted from email sent by milehighcomics.comNew Harvey Milk Graphic Novel Art – More Scarce Comics ArriveHowdy!

It is already well known that our Jason St. Mega-Store is an amazing Mecca of comics. What is not common knowledge is that we also are offered an unbelievable number of collections at Jason St. on a daily basis. Never, in my entire 47 years of selling comics, have I seen a single location act as a magnet for so much great material! In great measure, that is why our New-In-Stock and Premium New-In-Stock links have been so diverse of late…

Comics in Stock - 1
Array #1 of Comics Instock Now!

I mention these collections for a couple of different reasons. First, I typically travel a great deal during this time of year, and had intended to spend a considerable amount of time this winter buying back issues at comics shops and smaller comics shows on the East Coast. We are receiving so much material at Jason St., however, that we are still trying to catch up on our processing of the semi-trailer filled with comics that I picked up in California and Las Vegas last November. Until we can sort through those 100,000 comics, it makes no sense for me to travel to purchase more.

Nicole the Great
Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas

The good news is that my not traveling eastward means that I can instead fly to San Diego this weekend, to present a business plan on my proposed Harvey Milk graphic novel to Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas. In case you missed it in my convention newsletter, as the titular head of our entire 68-chapter International Court System, Nicole met with me at last year’s San Diego Comic-Conabout issues that had arisen with my local organization, the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire. After spending a couple of hours chatting about ICRME issues, Nicole took a walk with me around the convention. She became very excited, and suggested that I try to put together a graphic novel about martyred LGBTQ activist, Harvey Milk. The sketches you see below by the incredibly talented Thomas Haller Buchanan, are the direct result of that conversation.

Harvey Milk Sketch by Thomas Haller Buchanan
Harvey Milk Sketch by Thomas Haller Buchanan

Harvey Milk Sketch - 2 by Thomas Haller Buchanan
Harvey Milk Sketch by Thomas Haller Buchanan

Harvey Milk Sketch - 3 - by Thomas Haller Buchanan
Harvey Milk Sketch by Thomas Haller Buchanan

Harvey Milk Sketch - 4 - by Thomas Haller Buchanan
Harvey Milk Sketch by Thomas Haller Buchanan


Harvey Milk Sketches by Thomas Haller Buchanan

So you know, I have already received about a dozen very encouraging responses to my request for feedback about my Harvey Milk project. I thank each and every one of you who sent me feedback at chuckrozanski@gmail.com. There are quite a few major obstacles that need to be overcome before this project can come to fruition, however, not the least of which is approval by the Harvey Milk Foundation. Before I can even reach that point, however, I first need to gain approval this weekend from Nicole, and the ICS Board of Directors. Wish me luck!


What Thomas Haller Buchanan finished work looks like

As an aside, I think it is time to bring some clarity to my efforts with the ICRME. As a quick glance at ICRME-Denver.org will easily reveal, theImperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire is primarily an LGBTQ organization. It was founded 44 years ago to help validate the benefit to our communities of those who choose to perform in public venues in outfits outside of their birth gender. Simply put, drag queens (men who perform as women) and drag kings (women who perform as men). Our umbrella organization, the International Court System, consists of 30,000 members in the United States, Canada, and MexicoICRME itself is now a registered 501-C3 charity, and contributes upwards of $100,000 per year from our performances to those in need in our Denver community.


Chuck with the officers of ICRME Reign 42

So you know, I am a bit of an odd duck in ICRME, as I am the only straight man in an otherwise primarily gay organization. That having been said, after six years of hard work I have been accepted by most of ICRME’s members, and was allowed to serve last year in the #2 leadership position, as Prince Royale. It was also through my ICRME position that I first became aware of the awesome work being done by Jim Scharper’s “Feeding Denver’s Hungry” charity. That awareness, in turn, has changed my entire life. I now spend a goodly portion if my time each week working with “Feeding Denver’s Hungry,” seeking to help the poor.


Chuck, Jim, and some of the volunteers of Feeding Denver’s Hungry

All of the above having been said, the core of my life remains Mile High Comics. Serving your needs by seeking out the very best comics that I can possibly find, and then offering them to you at the least cost, is still why I get up and go to the office each day. I will be turning 62 in a couple of weeks, however, and I am quite aware that the time is upon me when I need to give back to my community. While joining forces with an organization like ICRME may seem rather out of the ordinary, I can assure you that my friends in the drag community are among the nicest and most giving people that I have ever been blessed to meet. I am honored to work with them every day to try to make Denver a better place for us all.

Happy collecting!

Chuck Rozanski,
Prince Royale 42
Imperial Court the Rocky Mountain Empire
January 30, 2017

P.S. Below are some arrays of comics that we were blessed to be able to purchase last Friday. All can be purchased at a full 30% off when you utilize our NEWHOPE! Codeword. Only new issues, a few variants, and our CGC’s are excluded.

Comics in stock - 2
Array #2 of Comics Instock Now!


Array #3 of Comics Instock Now!


Array #4 of Comics Instock Now!


Array #5 of Comics Instock Now!


Array #6 of Comics Instock Now!


Array of some of the MAD Magazines that will be Instock Tomorrow!

http://www.milehighcomics.com

Texas Twins: The Story of Morgan and Nash

EVERYTHING BETTER (if not, necessarily BIGGER) IN TEXAS (?)

Texas Twins: The Story of Morgan and NashTexas Twins: The Story Of Morgan & Nash
Howard Roffman
Bruno Gmünder
ISBN 9 763861 878582

The ‘story’ element in this publication is not very prominent, the “text” takes up less than one of the – square – pages. Morgan and Nash, who seem not to have a surname, were born in Louisiana, brought up in Texas and Hawaii, and moved to San Francisco. In SF a former clergyman gave them shelter and put them in touch with, among others, Howard Roffman, the photographer.
This charming book is a result of their convergence. Morgan, the Gay one is “grounded and eager to please” (and any red-blooded bull-root would be exquisitely happy to have him ‘please’ them… or them attempt to please him). Nash is “straight” (drat! drat!! & triple drat…!!!), he is also “impetuous and a rebel”.

They are very identical identical twins, though Nash (I think) has dimples, and wears a baby chin-beard in some shots. The twins, I’m glad to report, don’t wear much else in most pics., of two very handsome, well built (‘swimmer’s bodies’, rather than muscle-bound) blokes, the nude shots are sweet and rather innocent. You won’t tug your langer off viewing them (let’s not be too precious this is genuinely artistic, but it is classy porn – which can be artistic) but you would have a very slow pulse not to feel the odd stirring…
Having said, or rather, written, that, the boys (they are late teens / early twenties) have large – but not gross membra virile – and genuinely beautiful butts. They, said glutei, are not fantastically muscular but smooth and probably pleasant to run one’s fingers over. (I must have a cup of tea, or possibly something stronger, at this point…). You will enjoy this book, it shows two very attractive people at play at the beach, in deep snow, and – apparently – at work, or at least working on sledges.
On a purely personal note, I wouldn’t mind a book of Black, Brown and Beige (it’s the name of a orchestral suite by Duke Ellington, if you are racially sensitive), twins. Or ‘Oriental’ persons or persons from the South Asian Subcontinent (including Iran). Yes, this has gone too far. My Id is attempting to escape my skull.

Seán McGouran

Links:

Bianchi: Outpost by Tom Bianchi

ISBN is:  9780312142834 / 0312142838
Bianchi: Outpost
by Tom Bianchi
Publisher:St. Martin’s Press, 1996
Edition:Hardcover
Language:English
Bianchi OutpostThis (very short) small-format book by Tom Bianchi,  seems to be a spin-off from a larger project, based on using a Hollywood swimming pool as a back-drop. This was for images of two (or pairs of) handsome, largely naked, men. They are smooth, ‘built’, but not overly muscled men, mostly Aryans. Nothing wrong with that: but the setting is southern California, specifically Los Angeles / Hollywood; probably the greatest concentration of glowingly beautiful males of every ‘race’ on the planet

Said males in the pics don’t do anything particularly ‘interesting’ – just the sort of thing anyone does near a large swimming pool, not excluding swimming. There is one lovely image of two quite mature, naked, men kissing, in a kindly, not passionate, and not slaveringly sexy sort of way. Not that ‘passion’ and / or ‘slaveringly sexy’ would have been in any way unpleasing.

Other images are of, mostly couples, in intimate poses; lips hover very close to crotches, and it isn’t hard to guess what will happen shortly after the various images have been shot. It’s interesting to speculate what the photographer, Tom Bianchi,  would be doing, would he remain a disinterested spectator?
Or…?

For me, the most sexually… stimulating… image is the last one; a fine set of legs, a sculpted butt, and – interestingly – the upper body swathed in a loose shirt. The chap’s head is missing, well… it is cropped out of the image, but with an elegant arse like the one on show, it isn’t really a loss. Though it is, no, doubt, very attractive.

Richard Lyttle 
Currently this book does seem to be available on Amazon.co.uk, however with a little research and by using Bookfinder.com, I have found 27 stockists at various prices.

FLETCHER CHRISTIAN CONFESSES – The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid

FLETCHER CHRISTIAN CONFESSES

Fletcher Christian - The Grave TattooThe Grave Tattoo

ISBN 978-0-00-782552-3

Val McDermid

The conceit in this thriller is that William Wordsworth encountered a fugitive Fletcher Christian (hero / villain of the the mutiny against Captain William Bligh of HMS Bounty. Bligh, while captain of the ship was, confusingly, a Lieutenant by actual rank). Fletcher, a Cumbrian, wants to get his side of the events recorded. The account given here of his adventures on Pitcairn Island, and in places as far-flung as Valparaiso, the Carolinas, and the Isle of Man from where he trades as a smuggler to the gentry of Cumbria; (something of an anachronism), ‘Cumbria’ was invented in 1972. Prior to that it had been the ancient counties of Cumberland and (landlocked) Westmoreland, a large bit of Lancashire (the Furness peninsula) and a small bit of Yorkshire).

This epic poem and letters about it are alleged to have been given on the death (of the now entirely non-revolutionary Wordsworth) to the care of his maidservant Dorcas Mason (also known as ‘Mayson’ – claimed here, to be because of ignorance on the part of clerks, even clergy, but English spelling didn’t settle-down until work on the Oxford English Dictionary began. And the notional introduction of universal education in Great Britain in the early 1870s. It only became genuinely universal at the turn of the 19th / 20th century. Jane Gresham, a native of the English Lakelands and a Wordsworth scholar, lives in a south London sink estate, has to serve in a [booze-]bar in the evenings to make ends meet. She is a part-time Lecturer, simultaneously attempting to do heavy-duty research on Our William, while keeping an eye on the single-parented wild-child Tenille. She doesn’t like school, but does like reading in general and poetry in particular.

Jane Gresham travels to her home territory in search of the, possibly non-existent, Wordsworth documents. As this is a (quite thrilling) thriller a villain is also on the case. And on her trail. In fact the tranquil Lake District is crowded with villains. Some of them are false friends. One of the falsest being a Gay man with whom Jane went to the local primary school. Her jealous, sulky, elder brother is headmaster of said school. He turns out not be be a jealous as Jane thinks (it’s that sort of book). That is not a sneer, this is an absorbing tale, but possibly too complex (or, more than conceivably, one is too thick to keep up… (you are allowed to disagree with this judgement)).

My one (slightly treasonable) problem with the narrative was that it must have struck somebody in the course of two centuries that making a transcript of the Great Man’s work would have been a good idea. The reasoning will have to be withheld as the sting in the tail of the tale will be wasted. After all, a ‘Pencil Museum’ is mentioned in the course of this narrative, quills were definitely available, the metal nib and the typewriter were invented relatively shortly after Wordsworth turned his toes up.

This is an interesting and pleasurable read (lots of elderly corpses, though) and should while away some hours of the (currently grisly) weather, or that beach-wait, before the cute Latinos / Latinas happen along.

Seán McGouran

Novel Ideas – Roger Casement

Jeffrey Dudgeon with his lovely tieJeffrey Edward Anthony “Jeff” Dudgeon MBE is a Northern Irish politician, historian (his books on Roger Casement are extremely well researched and very readable)  and gay political activist. He currently sits as a Ulster Unionist Party councillor for the Balmoral area of Belfast City Council.  He is best known for bringing a case to the European Court of Human Rights which successfully challenged Northern Ireland’s laws criminalising consensual sexual acts between men in private. He is currently one of three openly gay politicians elected to the City Council along with Mary Ellen Campbell of Sinn Féin and Julie-Anne Corr of the Progressive Unionist Party

 

The following extract from an interview in The Irish Times, gives an insight into Jeffrey, who he is and what he has become…

“I’ve always been a reformer. A rebel and a radical, yes, but I wasn’t a revolutionary,” Dudgeon says, looking back on his 1981 victory in the European Court of Human Rights, which decriminalised homosexuality in Northern Ireland.

What was life like, as a young gay man, before the Strasbourg win? Dudgeon sums it up in one word: isolation.

“I knew all about homosexuality, and by my midteens I had ascertained that fact about myself. But I just didn’t know how to meet other people, and I was petrified at the thought of it. You just couldn’t say the words to anyone.”…

the-diaries Dev-at-the-re-Burial-of-Roger-Casement-in-Glasnevin.-I-believe-it-was-a-bitter-cold-day-and-Dev-who-was-very-sick-at-the-time-went-against-his-doctors-advice.-300x240 3_1_Sir_Roger_Casement

Unknown Roger Casement letter 6208307701_1f5a8d9937_b Roger Casement Diaries

In the video below Ciarán Ó Brolcháin discusses with author Jeffrey Dudgeon and Dr. Margaret O’Callaghan the book – “Roger Casement: The Black Diaries” which explores the life of Roger Casement – a study of his social background, political life and his contribution to Irish political life.

 

 

ROGER CASEMENT’S GERMAN DIARY

ROGER CASEMENT’S GERMAN DIARY

1914-1916

Including ‘A Last Page’ and associated correspondence

Edited by Jeffrey Dudgeon

Belfast Press

Published July 2016

 

 

Roger Casement Diaries

Link to Amazon Paperback Edition £13.88

Link to Kindle Edition £7.31

This is the definitive version of Roger Casement’s German Diary covering the years 1914 to 1916 when, after the war started, he went to Berlin seeking support for Irish independence. The book has 370 pages in over 150,000 words with 45 illustrations.

 

This is a companion volume to the 2nd edition of Roger Casement: The Black Diaries – with a Study of his Background, Sexuality, and Irish Political Life which was published in February 2016:

[Paperback, http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/095392873X; Kindle http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01AXB9754]

The German Diary consists of another, and the last surviving, Casement diary, and deals with that most interesting, dramatic and penultimate period of his life in Germany and Berlin prior to his departure to Ireland for the Easter Rising.

It was not a private diary in any sense as Casement left instructions for its future publication. Much of what he wrote was designed to provide a record justifying his time in Germany. He was of an age to have his eye on history while knowing the accusations of treason he had, and would, face, Casement was desperate to have his actions understood. A secondary prompt in the last months was to indicate just how disgraceful and intransigent he felt the behaviour of the Germans had become and how the decision to start the rebellion in Ireland was something he did not agree with for tactical reasons, being an event he hoped to prevent or at least postpone. The final section describes his frantic attempts both to get sufficient arms shipped to the separatist Irish Volunteers and to travel by submarine to Kerry with a view to getting the Easter Rising called off.

The diary and many linked letters give a vivid impression of a man under stress in an alien environment who still manages to observe, describe and appreciate what he sees around him. He writes as an outsider of a nation at war with England and France. His growing frustrations however come to the point where his own mental health is destabilised.

There is a cast of the usual characters that Casement mixed with, political, often aristocratic, although also frequently military men. There were to be none of the street people or lovers that his earlier, more sexual, diaries detailed. In Germany, probably for security reasons and lacking the language, he chose not to go out at night or to cruise for sex. He was also getting on. His Norwegian companion and betrayer, Adler Christensen, looms large, tricking and twisting his way round Germany and America, while draining much of Casement’s time and common sense.

The text is laid out in as close a way as possible as the actual manuscripts to provide an impression of the original. The appendices include correspondence and newspaper articles from the time, while bringing the reader up to date with recent articles in relation to Casement in Germany, the Easter Rising and the role of British and German Intelligence, as well as the ongoing Black Diaries authenticity debate which is, if anything, accelerating. That controversy tells of a still contested issue in modern-day Ireland, despite the immense strides made towards gay equality and emancipation, most recently in the Republic.

The diary was in two notebooks in the National Library of Ireland and essentially covers the eight months from July 1914 to February 1915. Itbegins being written on 7 November 1914 and takes Casement retrospectively from England, to the US and to Germany and then includes a tour of war-torn Belgium. It effectively concludes on 11 February 1915 with him in a sanatorium. At the end, however, there is a brief account dated 28 March 1916 of events later in 1915. Separately, ‘A Last Page’ picks up the narrative on 17 March 1916 running it to Casement’s final days in Berlin.

Casement, a man who wrote too much, drafted many hundreds of other letters and memos when in Germany of which a number of the more significant, particularly those related to the arrangements for his departure to Ireland, are reprinted along with the full, unabridged diary where another writer Angus Mitchell has edited out nearly a quarter of the original text in his book sub-titled The Berlin Diary. Those cuts are at times from the most sensitive of areas, including the behaviour of the German Army in Belgium and Casement’s increasing disillusionment with the Kaiser’s Imperial Government and Prussian militarism. Being complete in its narrative, makes it vastly more readable and comprehensible.

3_1_Sir_Roger_Casement

Secrets Of The Black Diaries...Picture Shows:  Image order No HK6737 Irish Patriot and British Consular Official Sir Roger Casement (1864 - 1916) is escorted to the gallows of Pentonville Prison, London.  TX: BBC FOUR Friday, March 15 2002   Getty Images/Hulton Archives Roger Casement, former British Consul to the Congo, was hanged for treason for his role in Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising. His conviction rested on a set of diaries that suggested he had pursued a highly promiscuous homosexual life. Under the social mores of the day, such a revelation deprived him of all hope of clemency. But were the diaries faked? BBC Four investigates the 85-year-old mystery. WARNING: This Getty Image copyright image may be used only to publicise 'Secrets Of The Black Diaries'. Any other use whatsoever without specific prior approval from 'Getty Images'  may result in legal action.

Unknown Roger Casement letter ireland-1966-roger-casement-set-fine-used-20090-p 6208307701_1f5a8d9937_b

Maggie & Me

UNEMBARRASSED (PLASTIC?) HALF-JOCK”

Maggie & MeMaggie & Me

Damian Barr

Bloomsbury

ISBN 978-1-4088-3809-9

This is a sort-of autobiography of a man in his mid-thirties, of (religiously) mixed parents in industrial Scotland. Such things matter in the central belt of Scotland, but it is more a matter of ethnic origin than religious feeling. The vast majority of RCs in Scotland are of Irish origin, and that mark (of Cain?) can stretch well beyond the fifth generation. Damian Barr’s ‘Catholic’ parent was his mother who was religiously indifferent, if not somewhat hostile to the church, on the grounds that she was divorced. ‘Damian’ is definitely a ‘Catholic’ name, it became popular in the twentieth century due to a Belgian priest who ministered to lepers in Molokai a south Pacific island. He (Mr. Barr) may, given his age, have been named for the central character in a Hollywood horror movie. Given that that character was the Devil, no less, in disguise, that notion may be inaccurate. But there were an awful lot of ‘Damian’s’ so named in the late 1970s an early ’80s. The Belgian missionary’s surname was rendered ‘Damien’.

Damian Barr was sent to State schools rather than semi-independent Catholic ones. Despite the ‘Taig’ name he wasn’t given too much hassle. That, in ever-increasing quantities, was brought on by the fact that he was deemed to be queer quite early in his schooldays. ‘Gay Barr’, ‘Gaymian’ and other more brutal nicknames followed him from primary to secondary school. That he was very tall and willowy from his very early teens didn’t help, nor that he was the smartest in his class. His first encounter with genuine disappointment was not getting a big prize in his secondary (the Scottish equivalent of a Grammar) school for being an all-round brilliant pupil. He was half way out of his seat before another boy’s name was called, and he was surprised at how angry and disappointed he was. Despite that, he tended to win every other prize worth having, including one to study in Cambridge. He had been expecting to go to Strathclyde. He wasn’t snooty about that eventuality, but Cambridge was a usefully long way away from prying family, neighbours and ‘friends’.

It really isn’t much of a ‘story’ but it is very well written and he tells us about his intimate friendship with a handsome fair haired boy, “Mark”, who decides in their very early teens that there is something wrong with the relationship. He (Mark) become heavily involved with girls, a large plurality of them. He doesn’t get forced into marriage because the girls, mostly, insist on condoms being used. Mark acknowledges Damian when the latter returns to the isolated housing estate (called ‘schemes’ in Scotland) on the periphery of Glasgow they lived in. Some ‘schemes’ are enormous, the ‘planners’ forgot to include amenities, like shops, much less social spaces like club premises; churches and church halls weren’t even an afterthought. Public transport was heavily used for shopping (women had to travel into Glasgow, up to twenty miles away, to get basics. Entrepreneurship in these matters was entirely in Indian hands. The grocer’s son encountered in school was called ‘Ahmed’.

Damian eventually discovers the deeply closeted Gay life of his school, his scheme, and later the ‘Gay Scene’ in central Glasgow where he had happy times in the pubs and discos. He was earning money working part time and weekends in shops mostly, and had something like genuine privacy because none of his elders were particularly interested in him, or his younger sister. They were quite enthusiastic about pointing out that she was more masculine than he was. This tomboy eventually settled down, and trained as a nurse, after Damian made good his escape to Cambridge, then London. (His family were quite proud of the fact that he got to university, especially one of the few they could name.)

This is a fairly well-trodden path in terms of queer autobiography, except for its straightforward approach to his sexuality. He writes at one point “I was gay” a simple, slightly relieved, acknowledgement of a fact. There are no dramatics, melo-, or otherwise. There are a number of comic interludes in this narrative from his schooldays to disastrous job interviews. Towering over teachers, school bullies, and interviewers isn’t always useful, it can provoke some into pointless aggression, Pointless, because Damian Barr could probably pick such people up and give them a good shake. He also encounters men he has made contact with through advertisements in a magazine made up of adverts for, mostly, unwanted hardware. They are mostly middle-aged and not quite the Adonai they implied in their ads.

Most readers will probably enjoy this well-told tale, and find an awful lot of points in common with his progress through his adolescence. And if you try the internet you might get this treat for pennies (not that one begrudges Damian a good return on the work he put into this text).

Seán McGouran

PS Thatcher doesn’t loom large, or small, in this text – quotes from the good Lady preface each chapter – in the manner of uplifting Victorian books.

Waterstones Children’s Book Prize: LGBT storylines make it onto youth fiction shortlist

Jandy Nelson’s ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ and ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson cover issues of sexuality and gender

Lisa Williamson

Lisa Williamson, author of ‘The Art of Being Normal’ Good Egg Media/Vimeo

 

Novels with LGBT storylines have been shortlisted for a major children’s books prize, as modern teenage issues increasingly replace werewolves and vampires in the plots of youth fiction.

Two of the stand-out novels on the shortlist for the older fiction category of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize focus on issues relating to sexual orientation and gender.

Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun is the story of a brother and sister driven apart by tragedy but brought back together as they both fall for boys at the same time. The San Francisco author’s second novel has been optioned by Warner Bros to be adapted into a film.

Waterstones Prize: The shortlist

Illustrated Books

Have You Seen Elephant? David Barrow 
Cinderella’s Sister and the  Big Bad Wolf  Lorraine Carey and Migy Blanco 
Hector and HummingbirdNicholas John Frith  
The Crow’s Tale Naomi Howarth 
The Bear and the Piano  David Litchfield 
Super Happy Magic ForestMatty Long 

Younger Fiction

Bird Crystal Chan  
Darkmouth Shane Hegarty 
Witch Wars Sibéal Pounder 
The Blackthorn Key Kevin Sands 
My Brother is a SuperheroDavid Solomons 
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow Katherine Woodfine 

Older Fiction

The Accident Season  Moïra Fowley-Doyle  
Seed Lisa Heathfield  
13 Days of Midnight Leo Hunt 
I’ll Give You the Sun  Jandy Nelson
The Sin Eater’s DaughterMelinda Salisbury 
The Art of Being Normal Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson follows two teenagers struggling with their gender identities and finding it hard to keep the secret at school.

Juno Dawson, a children’s author who has herself recently transitioned, hailed the rising profile of LGBT-themed youth fiction. She told The Independent: “The floodgates are open and I don’t think they will close again. I hope we will see diversity as standard in children’s books.

“Ten years ago, authors may have been wary that including diverse characters would affect sales, but I don’t think that’s true anymore.”

She added: “These books are now getting their moment in the spotlight,” but cautioned: “We must be careful that diversity doesn’t become a fad in the way vampires were a fad with publishers getting bored and moving on.”

In total, 18 books have been shortlisted for the 2016 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, split into the categories of older fiction, younger fiction and illustrated books.

The organisers pointed out that although fantasy and adventure books were still present, they did not dominate the list.

Jandy Nelson

‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ author Jandy Nelson (jandynelson.com)

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said: “It doesn’t surprise me that fiction should reflect the issues and concerns of society as a whole. Great works of fiction reflect those issues that are of primary concern in a society.

“LGBT rights are something teenage children are informed about and can talk about sensitively – that wasn’t the case at the time of my childhood. The whole quality of understanding and debate has moved on dramatically, and we’re the better for that.”

Two books on the older fiction list are coloured by “the dark shadow of abuse”: Lisa Heathfield’s Seed, about being raised in a cult, and Moïra Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season.

In the younger fiction category, Crystal Chan’s Bird, the author’s first novel, tells the tale of how grief and guilt threaten to overwhelm a family. The animal kingdom dominates the illustrated books shortlist.

Florentyna Martin, children’s buyer for Waterstones, said: “Today’s children do not just enjoy books for the escapism they offer, but for how they can illuminate life in all its shades of light and dark.”

The winners will be announced on 17 March, with the overall book of the year prize accompanied by a cheque for £5,000.

Stephen Bourne looks at the relationship between the police and the gay community

We’ve delved into the GT vault this festive season, to give you some holiday reading.


30th December 2015

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Boys in blue.

 

The relationship between the police and the gay community has always been a difficult one. It’s taken tragic incidents, like the 1999 bombing of The Admiral Duncan pub in London’s Soho, to encourage the police to work more closely with us in ways that would’ve been unthinkable before that event happened.

For example, the Gay London Police Monitoring Group, the Gay Police Association and the Metropolitan Police’s LGBT Advisory Group must take some of the credit for helping to build bridges. But enough recognition is given to individual community advisers who’ve worked, voluntarily, up and down the country, on the front line of our communities.

For the last two decades, I’ve been active in the London Borough of Southwark as a voluntary independent adviser or ‘critical friend’ to the police. In the 90s, I realised it was easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise the police without doing anything constructive to change the relationship. So, in 1995, I put my head above the parapet – and into the lion’s cage – and set up one of the first locally-based forums to bring together members of the LGBT community and the police to specifically address homophobic hate crime. I focussed on building trust and confidence with local officers and, gradually, I found willingness on their part to talk about the issues that needed to be addressed.

Meanwhile, in 1990, a group of gay police officers met in secret at the home of an officer based at Battersea Police Station in South West London. They had to meet in secret because, even as recent as 1990, they risked persecution and being thrown out of the force if they were found out to be gay. The meeting marked the beginning of the Lesbian and Gay Police Association, which later changed its name to the Gay Police Association. This group committed itself to offering advice and support to fellow officers. Three years later, in 1993, Marc Burke, a former police officer, wrote his landmark book Coming Out of the Blue, which exposed the homophobia that lesbian and gay officers faced on a daily basis. However, with the exception of PC Harry Daley’s autobiography, This Small Cloud, published posthumously in 1987, hardly any documentation exists that informs us about the lives of gay police officers before Daley died in 1971.

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In the days when gay officers had to hide in the closet, Daley, who served with the Metropolitan Police from 1925 to 1950, was an exception. In 1930, wearing his uniform, his portrait was painted by the gay artist Duncan Grant. Around the same time he began a love affair with the novelist EM Forster, but Daley was too indiscreet for the closeted Forster. The risk of being found out and imprisoned alarmed Forster to such a degree that he terminated the relationship. Until he retired from the force and joined the merchant navy, Daley happily continued to engage in unlawful acts while upholding the law. As the ‘human face’ of the British bobby in BBC radio broadcasts in the 1930s, he may have inspired the writer Ted Willis to create PC George Dixon, the friendly copper who pounded the beat in BBC TV’s popular Saturday night drama Dixon of Dock Green, from 1955 to 1976.

When I was growing up in Peckham, in South East London, in the 1970s, if I saw a policeman I didn’t ask him the time, I ran for it! If the copper happened to be PC Cole, there wasn’t any point in running away because he’d know who you were and where you lived. For 30 years, from 1953 to 1983, PC Cole walked the beat in South East London. He never moved from his base – the notorious Carter Street Police Station, situated off Walworth Road. Legend has it that villains used to beg their arresting police officers to take them anywhere but Carter Street. Now and again, PC Cole visited my school – a rough secondary modern – and spoke to us at morning assemblies. Though PC Cole was more approachable than his colleagues, in those days in South East London, almost everyone feared and mistrusted Lily Law.

After I left school in 1977, PC Cole became well known as the bobby who wrote a series of best-selling books, in which he related his experiences of walking the beat. This entertaining collection offers insights into an interesting and eventful life. When he died in 2008, our borough commander described him as ‘a talented man with a tremendous sense of humour. His books did much to enhance the reputation of the police service – his amusing anecdotes showed the other side of policing – the human side. He had a real sense of loyalty and passion for policing and for Southwark borough.’

When I read PC Cole’s book, Policeman’s Story, published in 1985, I was intrigued by his brief reference to PC Jimmy Davenport – not his real name – a ‘homosexual’ officer he befriended when he joined the police in 1953. Curious about PC Davenport, in 2004 I tracked down the then retired Harry Cole to find out more. What transpired was a revealing insight into attitudes towards a gay serving police officer in London in the 50s.

Harry informed me that his publisher insisted that he cut the references he made to Jimmy’s gay life, so Harry revealed what was left out of Policeman’s Story: ‘I met Jimmy when we arrived that first day for training at Peel House. Jimmy was in the next bunk to me and we became quite friendly. When we were at the training school, Jim was always singing in the shower. One of his favourite songs was Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Good for nothin’ men are good for nothin’’. Then Jim and I were posted to Carter Street, on the same shift and on the same beat. I liked walking with Jim because he was such a good-looking fella, and all the girls would always be looking at us. He was a tall, upright bloke. He had a baby face. And the funny thing was he had very big hands! But he never seemed to know what to do with them!”

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Everyone at Carter Street knew Jimmy was gay, but Harry said this didn’t create any problems, even at the height of the ‘homosexual witch hunt’. This intensified in Britain in the 50s around the time Harry and Jimmy worked together as police officers. Up and down the country, gay men were hounded, persecuted and imprisoned because, at that time, there was a perception that homosexuality was morally reprehensible and also politically dangerous. The medical attitude was that it was an illness, that if treated successfully, homosexuals would become ‘normal’. Police officers were encouraged to arrest any gay men they encountered, and gay men were often arrested and prosecuted after they unwittingly made advances to plain clothes police officers. These were known as agent provocateurs, French for ‘inciting agent’. And yet, in South East London, PC Jimmy Davenport avoided detection and carried on with his career as a police officer throughout the ‘witch hunt’ of the 50s. Harry explained, ‘If you have 15 policemen in a shift, in that 15 there’s going to be one you could kill, some you avoid, some you like intensely, others you don’t mind. And Jim was on the good side, if you like. If you have to work with another officer, you want them to be someone you like and get on with. Jim fitted in. Though we guessed he was a homosexual, it wasn’t an issue.’

Harry remembered that Jimmy used to visit a local gay ‘character’ called Maurice who owned a chemist shop in Westmoreland Road, off Walworth Road: ‘Maurice was as queer as a nine bob note, and he had these parties, for homosexuals, but we turned a blind eye. And if a bobby was wandering by, on his beat, especially on a cold winter’s night, Maurice invited him in: ‘Come in, dear boy. Come and have a drink.’ Everyone knew what Maurice was like. He was like a Wild West doctor. Abortion was illegal then but women, whose young daughters got pregnant, went to Maurice and he sorted them out. And there was always a copper who’d put some girl in the family way, so we’d tell him to take her to Maurice. And then, when the Richardson gang started up, if any of them got injured and couldn’t risk going to a hospital, they’d blag Maurice into helping them. He was around for years.’

PC Jimmy Davenport was stationed at Carter Street for several years and then he was transferred to Wimbledon, because his ‘other secret’ came out. In his spare time Jimmy was singing in a pub and getting paid for it! Harry explained, ‘A police officer didn’t earn much in those days, so money was always tight. Jimmy was discovered moonlighting. That wasn’t allowed. It was frowned upon. Things were very strict then. Some years later, it must’ve been in the 60s, I went with a mate to a club in Old Compton Street. When the show started, to my surprise, it was Jim who came on stage and sang! He had such a good voice. And that was the last I saw of him. After that, other officers said they recognised Jim in various West End shows. So he must’ve left the police and pursued a career in showbusiness.’

What PC Harry Cole didn’t tell me was that homophobia was rife in the police service – and if an officer was discovered to be gay, it could lead to instant dismissal. When I interviewed a gay inspector who’d joined the service – outside of London – in 1978, at a time when gay officers remained firmly in the ‘closet’, he told me: ‘You can’t imagine how racist, homophobic, and sexist the police was. If homosexuality was mentioned, it was always about perverts and poofs. Gays were a dirty minority who frequented gay pubs and haunted toilets. I never saw a copy of Gay News. I never heard about the Gay Liberation Front. I never heard about Gay Pride marches until 1986. I knew there were gay pubs in London, but I had no desire to visit them because, as a police officer, I was terrified of being found out and blackmailed. Gays weren’t tolerated in the police and I bitterly resented that, but there was nothing I could do about it.’ I also interviewed a detective constable who’d joined the Metropolitan Police in 1979. He said: ‘We were a police force, not a service. It was very disciplined. We learned nothing about blacks, homosexuals, religion or domestic violence. We had women officers, but they were expected to make the tea. In those days, the Met was made up of a lot of ex-servicemen, so it was a very macho environment.’ He added that the terms used to describe gay men were all offensive: ‘Queer, homo, poof, bender – they were all used in a derogatory manner. In the old days, because we believed we were the finest police force in the world, we thought we could do everything on our own, but we couldn’t. At first we resented people telling us how to do our work. But not now. That’s changed. We no longer see community advisers as busy bodies but as useful allies.’

In 2003 Stephen Bourne was named Volunteer of the Year by the Metropolitan Police for his pioneering work on tackling homophobic crime in the London Borough of Southwark and for his independent advice on critical incidents.

Words Stephen Bourne