Monthly Archives: September 2018

…Authors, fear not, the ‘business’ of story-telling is limitless…

…the phrase, ‘there are only seven story plots’  is an old chestnut, averred by alleged ‘literary’ pundits over the years… I’m not convinced, but my take on it is a bit broader… even if the assumption of the surreptitious, silvery, slippery seven is correct… how does it explain the millions of books, novels and stories that have filled our libraries and bookshops for the past coupla thousand years?… p’raps the not-so-secret clue is in the actual ‘telling’ of the story… ask any theatre performer what differentiates a great performance from a merely good performance, and they will say “it’s in the ‘business’ on stage”… in other WURDS, “it’s the way they tell ’em”… such it is with any great book…

…granted, there are those authors whose use of vocabulary is outstanding, but even the simplest unfolding of a narrative can contain that magical element that glues readers’ eyeballs to the pages… that hypnotic ‘sum’thing’ that makes the reader put the book down when finished and think, “…wow, that was a terrific read…”… as an author, I don’t think it’s normal to approach the writing with the intent to create a book that elicits such a reader response… it should flow naturally… it takes practice… it demands constant attention to honing the scribbling skills… it demands an eye to grammar, syntax, and all the usual suspects for producing a good novel or book…

…but above all, it requires the imagination of the storyteller… the imagination that has lived down through the centuries in every language… the ability to conjure images in print that sparkle in the minds of every person who deigns to read the book… myth, fable, and fact all get thrown into the mix, and the creative ‘take’ from the writer makes that blend compelling… and when it comes to that, then forget about the ‘only seven stories’Authors, fear not, the ‘business’ of story-telling is limitless… and we, as readers and as writers, we thank the literary Gods for that… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…of Gaelic airs and grace notes in the Park Bar in Glasgow…

…this cutting from The Oban Times, dated around 1970, sent to me recently by Eric Macintyre, the youngest son of the incomparable Angus Macintyre, my Manager at the Clydesdale & North of Scotland Bank branch in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull… Angus was a legend in the ceilidh circuit in Argyllshire and beyond… the article has my passport-version English name ‘Jim’... the ‘Seumas’ evolved from the Gaelic after becoming a successful Mod multi-medal winner for Celtic singing back in the day… the piece evoked mem’ries galore, not the least of which was the regular visits to Glasgow, where the famed Park Bar was a magnet for all visiting and Glasgow-based Scottish Highlanders and Islanders…

…every evening featured ad hoc ceilidhs, with usually always several people present who had won singing medals at local or National Mods in their time… there was little in musical accompaniment, the Gael being well able to carry a song without instruments, although on occasion an accordionist or fiddle-player would turn up to add to the party…

…there was no formal leader… sumb’dy would say, ‘hey, Seumas, give us a song’, or ‘Mhairi, how about a duet’, and off it would start… one of the regulars who turned up was the marvellous Donald Macrae

…what a tenor voice… no ‘big-shotism from any of those who joined in, many with singing achievement credentials that would have made their Mammys proud… the songs of the glens and the islands rang loud and lilting, with that communal camaraderie that defines the Scot… of course, added to the mix, the ubiquitous ‘electric soup’ was quaffed in splendid quantity… when the barman’s ‘last drinks please’ call closed the ceilidh, often the ‘after-ceilidhs’ in sumb’dy’s digs sprouted easily… the next morning’s hangovers were a small price to pay for such superb entertainment… I miss it greatly, but I can still conjure up in my head the resonance of Donal’ Macrae’s’ Dark Island’, and Calum Kennedy’s ‘Mo Mathair’ … have a wee nostalgic listen here…

…and I am partly sated… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…

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…weaned on a television viewing diet of Hughie Greens, Arthur Askeys, Alma Cogans, and the Good Old Days…

…in the late 1950s, the Gallacher household in Docklands Govan, in Glasgow, sum’how eked out enuff from father’s frugal income to buy a television on Hire Purchase… as with Christmas presents, as much fun was derived from playing with the huge cardboard box in which it arrived in our wee slum dwelling as watching the programmes…

…the cheapest model consisted of what resembled a standing cabinet with a teeny-weeny 12-inch screen with a curvature from the middle of it to the sides… we had black and white, or white and black, and all shades of grey… colour programming was a thing of the far distant  future… the BBC ROOLED the roost until the commercial channels began to appear… ours had Scottish Television, whose standard reception seemed to be a flurry of snow permanently across the screen… but never mind, it had advertisements and jingles, which oft-times were far superior to the programmes… ‘McEwans is the best buy, the best buy in beer!’, ‘You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent’, and Bing Crosby crooning away ‘I’m going Shell, I’m going well, I’m going Shell, Shell, Shell,’ all accompanied by us kids sitting in a semicircle on the floor around the ‘box’, singing in the key of ‘very loud’… but the evening entertainment, especially at weekends, gave us endless pleasure… …we were weaned on a viewing diet of the Hughie Greens, the Arthur Askeys, the Alma Cogans,

…and The Good Old Days, and loads of other names now long since faded from our immediate mem’ries…

…given the garbage I see offered up most of the time now,  mostly slot-fillers, I yearn for a Frankie Vaughn warble, a Brucie Forsyth and Angela, ‘giving us a whirl’, and the haunting trumpet-playing wrapped around the credits for Coronation Street… gone are the ‘open the box!, or take the money! audience shrieking in the quiz shows…

…and the unflappable Richard Dimbleby, the doyen of broadcasters,  describing Royal weddings and funerals of the great and the good… hardly surprising that I watch very little on the television these days other than sport… emb’dy else get that gnaw of nostalgia?… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…you keep great literature alive by giving it away…

…a quick tally of books inhabiting my small cabinet/converted bookcase will not tax emb’dy’s counting abilities… I have a sum total of only approximately 120 books… an eclectic assortment of mostly fiction, and a smattering of nonfiction… some of the greatest writers’ opus productions (Steinbeck, Dickens, O’Hara, Ruark, Conan Doyle, Solzhenitsyn, Churchill) sit comfortably alongside two Oxford Dictionaries (yeez can never have enuff WURDS), some author-signed copies of writers whose scribblings I admire, a bible, a copy of the Quran, some ad hoc compilations of humorous and other quotations, a few treasured over-a century-old Gaelic poetry and prose collections, and of course, my own Jack Calder crime thrillers…

…it seems a lamentably minuscule residue from all the books I have purchased over the years… having lived abroad for decades, trips to London always included a purchasing raid on Waterstones, where tomes were bought by the luggage-terrorising mega-kilo… prior to leaving the UK, my appetite for reading was honed by chomping on the best offerings from various literary giants of England, Europe and the USA… a voracious intake, diminished over the years only by the immersion in the opposite end of the cycle by becoming an author myself… the through-put of reading material must aggregate in the thousands of books, so why the metaphorical mere ‘drop in the ocean’ reading on my shelves?… easy… apart from those ‘keeper’ volumes mentioned above, I rarely read a book a second time… thereafter, they serve principally as dust gatherers, albeit with treasures between their flyleaves…

…happily, along the way, I’ve met and enjoyed the company of many others who also admire good authors, and I freely give to them books I have read and savoured, with the request to pass them on when they have finished with them…  in my not-so-‘umble opinion, you keep great literature alive by giving it away… what about you, fellow bibliophiles?… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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