Beyond the Beehive

Beyond the Beehive front cover (squared)Beyond the Beehive is about to make its first appearance into the world.  It has been a long time coming but now it is really happening.  I shall be reading the first chapter at Waterstones in Covent Garden on 2 September at 6 pm.

It’s a book I’ve wanted to write for most of my life, because it seems the world has not paid much attention to the lives of mod, working class girls, and I wanted to redress the balance.  When I was about 10 I started to write a book about a girl who didn’t go to boarding school.  Somehow, apart from the Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton, there weren’t that many books around about children who went to day school.  All those boarding school kids had to have their adventures in the long hot summer holidays, whereas in my world we were having adventures on weekdays and weekends. I say adventures – I mean writing the local newspaper, cooking ourselves little restaurant meals, putting on plays for the other kids in the street, and following someone on the estate we were convinced was a spy and noting his movements down in our notebooks (a spy with a very dull life, it turned out).

The problem grew more acute as I got older and became a mod.  There were limitations with being a mod – if you weren’t interested in clothes and music and possibly scooters and if your mum and dad would not have let you go to Clacton or Margate on a Bank holiday, even if you’d wanted to, then there wasn’t  much going on – but there was still a life, and one with a lot of action.  The film Quadrophenia demonstrated that people were interested in mods, but the girls don’t get much of a look in, in the story.

So, out came the notebook and over the pages flew my pen, and then my word processor and then one computer after another.

I hope I’ve captured some of the essence of the excitement of Saturday nights, walking into a dance hall in time to the rhythm of Green Onions, or the smell of Wishing perfume by Avon, or seeing people you knew wearing parkas and leather coats, swooping along the road to park outside the mods’ coffee bar.  It was a great time.

Beyond the Beehive front cover

Beyond the Beehive is out on 26 September 2016.


Thinking about what a friend had said

A 45 record

I was looking at Twitter this morning (part of my 24 hour a week habit) and noticed a tweet by @thomhickey55 talking about the recordings of the song Sea of Love by Phil Phillips, Tom Waits and Del Shannon.  My heart always flutters a little at the name Del Shannon, famed for Runaway, Hats Off to Larry and Little Town Flirt, songs that accompanied my first steps into love and romance and also songs to hear, with breathlessness and expectation, at the fair, because of the organ music and the echoing sound, and the prospect of what might happen next.

But the main reason my interest was piqued was because it reminded me about the 1989 film Sea of Love starring Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin. I love that film.  Ellen Barkin is such an interesting actress, husky voice, lopsided smile, good with one-liners.  The film is funny, clever, romantic, erotic and it’s a thriller.  What more could you ask? It even has John Goodman.

It made me think about the films I love.  There’s the Big Easy (1986) another Ellen Barkin movie, this time with Dennis Quaid.  Another thriller, with atmosphere and romance and some great Cajun music.  When I first saw it I wasn’t that impressed.  Perhaps it was the cinema seats – not comfortable, people talking, no good snacks.  I don’t know, but when I watched it again and again, I really enjoyed it.  Dennis Quaid is the laid back cop in down town New Orleans and Ellen Barkin is the out of town big shot who comes in to shake up the team and root out corruption.  Sparks fly.  What do you expect?

And last weekend I was talking to my niece about films everyone should see.  My immediate response was Klute (1971) (I’d just been to see The Trial of Jane Fonda at the Park Theatre – worth a visit, catch it before it closes).  Klute is the story of a man from a small town who goes missing in New York, and small town cop Klute (Donald Sutherland) comes to look for him and meets the wannabe actor but for the time being call girl Bree Daniel, who is being followed. Another thriller. I loved it then for the story and for the look of Jane Fonda, her life, living in New York in an odd, pretty apartment, reading books in bed at night, buying flowers, and Donald Sutherland, tall and loping, easy going but yearning, and a beautiful couple.

And Cabaret (1972) because of the story – Germany in the 30s – and the way the politics are explained and described.  It’s so neatly done.  The wonderful Liza Minnelli really is extraordinary.  It was the first time I had really enjoyed watching a musical – Oklahoma, South Pacific and the like had never done it for me – because in Cabaret, the songs add something, they highlight and enrich the dialogue.

Then rushing through to the 21st Century The Connection (2014) – a French film, La French, this is the French reply to the French Connection.  It’s a great film with Jean Dujardin (known for the 2011 black and white movie the Artist), as the local magistrate who has been dealing with family cases but who is given the task of breaking up a successful drug ring. It’s fast, pretty and tense, based on a true story.

They say the weather this weekend will be good, but if it rains – it’s one to watch.