There’s no mistake, I smell that smell, it’s that time of year again – though this year’s IOW festival line-up indicates that we are steadily moving to the stage when it will be indistinguishable from a Radio One roadshow. Still, money talks, punters are prepared to pay for it, and the idea that festivals offer some kind of gateway to a new way of life has long been put to bed. When Paul McCartney and co can so easily be drafted into the service of the establishment for a Jubilee concert, the transformation of popular music from scourge of the elites to their willing bedfellows is almost complete.
69ers looks back to a different era. If the thought of Gary Barlow consorting with Prince Charles and the military wives curdles your coffee, you will surely enjoy re-experiencing the hope and idealism that lay behind the first great UK festival, when Bob Dylan emerged from exile to appear at Woodside Bay, Isle of Wight, in August 1969. But the novel does not go in for simplistic nostalgia: it dissects the naive idealism of the hippy project and explores the contradiction in capitalism which would eventually end in the triumph of a more permissive form.
It’s also a coming-of-age story, a love story, a review of the the 1969 music scene, and contains some of the most excruciating sex scenes ever committed to print. Just click on the book to the right and a signed copy could be yours in a couple of days. The novel is also available close to the festival site at Newport Waterstones.
My latest royalty statement shows that 69ers is actually selling quite well in the USA, despite the fact I’ve not marketed it there, nor sold any books personally stateside. The world of booksales is a perennial mystery. I’m looking forward to promoting the book further in 2012, on the back of two big publishing events for me: The Last Free Cat is being brought out in the US by top publishers Albert Whitman, and my 100,000 selling picture book You’re A Hero, Daley B is being reissued by Walker Books. I’m hoping to do some promotional events with illustrator Axel Scheffler – Daley B was the now famous illustrator’s first picture book.
For music fans, I’m now putting the finishing touches to This is the Sound of Adamsdown which will be released shortly, as will a CD of my own songs as sung by me!
69ers is still selling well – Waterstones on the Isle of Wight have now ordered their third boxfull and my own online store on Amazon has been consistently busy. There are numerous reviews on the web, all of them very complimentary: fans of the book have been most generous in spreading the word.
I have had many editors during my 25 year writing career, of varying abilities, but there is one person whose opinion is more important to me than any other: Natalie, my partner of 16 years. The best-read and most literate person I’ve known, a published writer herself and an experienced BBC journalist (not to mention a fantastic mum!), I trust Natalie’s judgement implicitly: if she tells me a story or book is not worth publishing, it’s back to the drawing board.
Though 69ers is set before Natalie was born, she gave the novel the thumbs-up – though she did find a couple of flaws, I’m glad to say. At 55,000 words, it’s a bit short for her tastes, but then I write for people with a short attention span, like myself!
When a couple had sex in a pile of foam at the 1969 IOW festival, the papers all gleefully reported it, with the usual hypocritical condemnations. The event is woven into the narrative of 69ers, with the hapless central character, Scott, finding his ankle used for purchase by the happy couple, to his considerable discomfort.
Here’s me reading part of the scene at the June event in Isle of Wight Waterstones.
The Isle of Wight has often suffered criticism that it is stuck in the past, but on Monday 27 June 2011, it really was 1969 in Newport Waterstones. A host of local talent performed the songs of Bob Dylan while I waffled on about the famous Dylan festival, read from 69ers and fielded a few questions from an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience. Many thanks to Waterstones manager Paul Armfield for organising the event, on the back of featuring 69ers in the store’s window during the recent IOW festival. The book is selling very well: now we hope word-of-mouth will keep the ball rolling.
I’ll post video of the event shortly, but for now here is a clip of Paul entertaining the remaining crowd after the event was over.
Now that 69ers has been successfully launched, I’ll be making some personal appearances to promote the book. On June 4th (2.30pm), I’ll be at the Hay Festival in the Hexagon: though this session is devoted to one of my recent books for children, I’ll have copies of 69ers with me and will be happy to talk about it informally afterwards – and sell it of course!
On June 27th I’ll be over on the Isle of Wight for what promises to be a great evening at Newport Waterstones (starting 7pm). I’ll be giving readings from the book, then it’ll be over to some local talent to give us some Dylan songs. I’m hoping to arrange a couple more events in the area and will advertise them if and when they happen.
It wasn’t an easy choice to publish this book myself after twenty-seven years being published by the likes of Hodder, OUP, Penguin and Heinemann, so I shall be most grateful to my readers for getting reviews online and spreading the word that this is a well readable book, which of course it is!
To buy a copy from me at Amazon, click on the cover to the right. It will be available in bookstores also: the Welsh Books Council has agreed to distribute it within Wales, and all other stores are able to order it. I see it is even available in India, at a very reasonable price, and am happy to have had fan messages from Alaska, where an enterprising library got hold of it before I did!
There is a facebook page for 69ers, though I haven’t done much to promote this yet, so please join if you like the book.
STOP PRESS: Waterstones Southampton West Quay is now confirmed for Thurs 30 June. I’ll be signing books there from 12 to 2pm.
69ers will be launched, as promised, on Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, Tues 24th May. The launch will take place at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, at 7pm. I should have copies by Friday 20th, however, so it’s worth putting in an order now by going to my bookstore on Amazon. Check out extracts from the book here. Unfortunately the horrendously embarrassing sex scenes aren’t suitable for posting, so you’ll just have to buy the book to read these!
Check out the archives here if you’re new to the site, and have a look at the videos – especially the French tv documentary which gives such a unique insight into the 1969 event.
If you know anyone who may be interested in 69ers, don’t forget to send them a link!
69ers is now in production and should be ready for sale in about a month: I haven’t decided the exact launch date yet, but it will certainly be before Dylan’s 70th birthday as planned. The cover is shown here (click for larger image) and I’ll post details of where the book may be purchased shortly.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. It’s worth mentioning in passing that Lennon was also at Woodside Bay in August 1969, sitting on one of those wooden chairs in the VIP area as his friend Dylan took the stage. Rumour had it that the Beatles might actually be up there with Bob (Dylan mischeivously stoked that expectation).
Here is the opening passage of 69ers, which also features JL:
“Standing in the dock at Southampton,
Tryin’ to get to Holland or France,
The man in the mac said, you got to go back,
You know, they didn’t even give us a chance”
The Ballad of John and Yoko was widely derided as the worst Beatles single to date, but Scott liked it. Not only did it feature two misunderstood outsiders against the system, but it also namechecked Scott’s home town, unaccountably overlooked by composers despite its evident charisma as Britain’s greatest passenger port, the city of Spitfires, first and only port of call of the Titanic, original departure point of the Pilgrim Fathers and unwitting harbour of the Black Death.
Yes, Southampton had a lot to answer for, besides the scowling handsome boy at Scott’s side whose Dansette tinnily blared the Beatles’ recent charttopper. Gerry was still fuming at Scott’s idiocy, buying an old-fashioned canvas tent from the Army and Navy which weighed so much that Gerry was forced to carry both the haversacks, also canvas, frameless, and themselves backbreaking, all the more so because of the Philips EL3302 cassette tape recorder within, the key to Gerry’s future, one of sufficient wealth and fame to net the girls of his frequent wet dreams.
Not that Scott saw it like that. He was merely concerned with posterity and spreading the messages which would surely change the world, just as the target of their flimsy microphone had predicted.
Meanwhile the old world stubbornly held out, in the shape of an endless stream of Minis, Cortinas, Imps and Heralds cutting off the grammar school fugitives from the Red Funnel terminus and their ultimate destiny.
The senseless oppression of the Jesus-like Lennon at Southampton Docks was apparently caused by the fact he wanted to travel on the France ferry without a passport. His wait was finally ended by the arrival of a private jet.