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Archive for the tag “Enoch Powell”

Guest Post by Andrew Smith

I’m delighted to welcome Andrew Smith back to my blog for this event.  Last year his book, ‘The Speech’ was published and it has been doing well.  Andrew has written a guest post.

 

WRITING POLITICAL HISTORICAL FICTION IN THE AGE OF ‘POST-TRUTH’

You’d think that when M.P. Harold Wilson, who was destined to become Prime Minister, patted me on my six-year-old head, he may have endowed me with an instant interest in politics. But the truth is I was a disappointment to my parents, staunch Labour supporters at the time, who’d placed me in front of Wilson at a Labour Party event. As I grew older it was painfully obvious to everybody that I had no interest whatsoever in political debate. Later, as I watched my fellow art students campaign and demonstrate, I couldn’t understand the point of making such a fuss. I was a spoilt recipient of the considerable benefits of a post-war welfare state. What reason was there for me to protest? It wasn’t until the draconian days of Margaret Thatcher, when the country became more polarised than ever, that my interest was aroused. And then it was less about policies and more about individuals. Thatcher in particular fascinated me. I wondered about a person who could inflict obvious harm on so many — miners and their families in particular, but others too — with absolutely no apparent regret, or any attempt to compensate. As politicians came and went, it was their personalities that interested me, more than any particular policy or platform.

In 2012 I found myself looking around for a subject for a second novel. My first had had an actual event at its centre — the internment of Italian men living in Britain during World War II. I’d enjoyed writing imaginary characters whose lives were immeasurably altered by that dark episode in Britain’s history. I was hoping for a similar phenomena around which to build a story worthy of a full-length novel. Then, one day, listening to a particularly bigoted and racist speech by a UKIP member — perhaps Nigel Farage — the name Enoch Powell popped into my head. I remembered the brouhaha Powell had caused when he gave his so-called Rivers of Blood speech back in 1968, when I was a student. I felt the excitement every writer wishes for when a light bulb turns on in one’s head. The late 1960s was certainly a defining time, and one with which I was familiar. And if I’ve had any small-p political zeal at all, it’s been in defence of the victimization of the less fortunate, hence my interest in the cruel internment of innocent British Italians in my first novel — the objects of UKIP’s and Powell’s racist rhetoric also had my heartfelt sympathy. The elements were all present for a project tailor-made for me.

I spent the following months researching everything I could find that concerned Enoch Powell. I poured over two comprehensive biographies, numerous newspaper and magazine articles, TV and radio interviews, documentaries, several books and academic papers on the Rivers of Blood speech, Powell’s own papers stored in Churchill College, Cambridge, and various other ephemera about him and his family. And, perhaps most valuable of all, I talked to the few surviving people who’d actually known Powell.

I remember distinctly a moment during my research when the thought occurred to me that, whatever I eventually wrote, I had a duty to do Enoch Powell justice — flawed and prejudiced as he obviously was. My resolve to portray him in an unbiased and accurate manner may have come when I began to have intimations of the complexity of his character. When, for example, I learnt that he’d voted to decriminalise homosexuality. Or when he voted to abolish capital punishment. Or maybe it was simply when I learnt from various sources, his own writing included, what a solitary and pressured childhood he’d had. The sense of journalistic fairness I experienced may well derive from my time working for a newsmagazine for which I was art director. I well remember the endless debates at editorial meetings about what could and couldn’t be reported. There were huge efforts to ensure that whatever was published was true, fair, and as unbiased as possible. The exact opposite, it seems, to the policies of some publications today, in the age of so-called ‘post-truth.’ But most of all, I realised that it was vital to make Enoch Powell — as one ought to do for any character in a novel — as fully-formed, rounded, and complete as possible.

I believe this to be true of all aspects in any historical fiction, particularly political historical fiction. And what historical fiction is not, in some shape or form, political? Successful historical fiction takes a vast amount of research coupled with a burning desire to accurately portray whatever era and individuals appear. I certainly strived to do this in The Speech — for the 1960s, for the imaginary characters who represent the population of the time, and for Enoch Powell.

 

Links

‘The Speech’ is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-speech/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Speech-gripping-historical-thriller/dp/1911129511/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489314980&sr=1-1

Twitter – @andrewaxiom

 

Interview with Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith

Earlier this week I hosted a guest post written by Andrew Smith.  He was also very keen to be interviewed.

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For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about your book which is being published later this year?

The novel is titled THE SPEECH. The narrative takes place in Wolverhampton, during ten days in 1968. A violent crime brings a group of disparate characters — some fictional, some real —  together. The real characters, the ones who actually existed, are Conservative Member of Parliament Enoch Powell and his family. The fictional characters include Mrs. Georgina Verington-Delaunay, a Conservative volunteer; Frank and Christine, who are art students inadvertently caught in an undercurrent of intolerance; and Nelson and his aunt, Irene, who are Jamaican immigrants striving to make a life for themselves in an atmosphere of turbulent emotions and polarised opinions concerning Britain’s immigration policies. The speech of the title is Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech which he made on April 20th of that year, and was considered by some a racist diatribe. Set against the 1960s background of ‘subversive’ music, radical fashions, and profound change in ‘moral values,’ these characters attempt to bring a fair conclusion to an unjust investigation.

In and around this unfolding plot we learn about the brilliant but deeply flawed Enoch Powell. We’re privy to his life — both public and private — leading up to, and immediately after, his infamous speech, and to some of his hidden motivations.

 

How long have you been working on it for?

The seed of an idea (to write something surrounding the Rivers of Blood speech) has been there for a very long time, but I only began to research it seriously in 2010. I finished the manuscript for the novel in the Autumn of 2015.

 

For how many years have you been writing?

I published my first non-fiction piece, a magazine article about a trip to the Himalayas, in 1990. Soon after, I took some creative writing courses and started publishing my short stories around 1992.

 

I’ve seen on your website that you’ve had a couple of non-fiction books published. What subjects do you write about?

I’m a keen gardener, if only sometimes in my head, depending on where I’m living. My interest in plants led me to write a book about the cultural history of some of our most common garden flowers. And the same interest brought me to write, together with two friends, a cultural history of cannabis.

 

What awards have you received for your writing?

I received a Gold Award for Fiction for my first novel, Edith’s War, at the Independent Publisher’s Book Awards, and I’ve received several awards for short story writing.

 

Have you got any other writing projects on the go?

At present I’m part way through a sequel to The Speech, following the same characters some thirty years later. Frank, the art student, has become an alcoholic paparazzo, he eventually married and divorced Christine, who is now a celebrated fine artist. Nelson, the Jamaican, has become a successful song writer and recording artist. Enoch Powell is dead, of course.

 

Do you see yourself still writing in ten years time?

Yes, but, as I think John Lennon said, ‘life happens when you’re making plans.’

 

How did you discover Urbane Publications?

Word of mouth. A man I’d interviewed for The Speech, Nicholas Jones, is one of Urbane’s authors. He suggested I approach Matthew Smith, the publisher.

 

Would you like to see any of your books made into a film or TV series?

I’ve always thought my first novel, Edith’s War, would make a terrific film. Many people have commented how ‘cinematic’ it is. But it’s a difficult chore finding someone who might even be interested, and then the long journey to final film. I sent the book to Terence Davies because he’s made films set in Liverpool in the 40s and 50s, which is where and when Edith’s War is set. He graciously replied, but said he was too busy to read it. I’d like film director Steve McQueen to read The Speech. I’ve heard he’s in the process of making a BBC series about Jamaican immigrants in London, beginning in the 1960s. So I’m sure he’d find the book of interest, but whether he’d consider it as a film? I don’t know.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love stories and story-telling, so I read a lot of fiction, see lots of films, go to theatre when I’m able, and occasionally to opera, or to any performance piece with a narrative. If there’s time left over and depending where I am, I’ll garden and cook, and then eat … lots.

 

Are there any authors who have influenced your writing?

All writers seem to read voraciously, especially when young, which I did, so it’s difficult to be conscious of specific writers who’ve influenced me. But writers I admire are: Ian McKeown, Julian Barnes, Alice Monroe, Mavis Gallant. And more recently I’ve been impressed by Ned Beaumont, Gillian Flynn, and Joshua Ferris. And totally blown away last year by a little known American with one novel to his name, Sergio de la Pava, but I suspect he’s an acquired taste, and probably more of a writers’ writer.

 

Have you got any good advice for anyone wanting to write a book?

It may have been Margaret Drabble who said something like, “the only secret to writing is to put your bum on a chair and do it.” There’s no magic, no insider information to make it easy, it’s simply hard work. You just have to choose something that interests you, and then sit down and put in the hours it takes to think, research, and write about it. That said, it’s a huge privilege to have the time and the circumstances to be able to do it.

 

Guest Post by Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith is having his novel, ‘The Speech’ published this Autumn.  He has written a guest post about Enoch Powell.

 

THE  SPEECH, a novel 

How I came to NOT hate Enoch Powell

As a student in the 1960s, I lived in the British Midlands town of Wolverhampton — in the riding for which Enoch Powell was Conservative member of parliament. Technicolor hadn’t long been invented, but my world, and that of most of my peers was black and white, cut and dried. An old person was anyone over 30, who was always wrong until proven otherwise. All police and most other authority figures were ‘pigs,’ and the only music worth listening to was that of the decade, with the exception of some earlier blues numbers and the occasional classical piece. Capitalism was a pariah, socialism was to be celebrated. So when Enoch Powell made a speech on April 20th, 1968 that was deemed rife with outrageous and unacceptable racism by people I and my peers respected — and known forever after as The Rivers of Blood speech — we fell over each other in the race to be the one to hate him most. But that was then.

Now, in the twenty-first century, the subject of immigration, the issue which sparked Powell’s 1968 speech, is a white-hot item once more. I decided to put Powell at the centre of a novel together with other characters from the period, fictional everyday people, as a way of looking at immigration in the hope that Powell’s and their stories might be pertinent to today’s events.

I started by reading the complete Rivers of Blood speech, uncertain if I’d actually read it back in 1968. (Only extracts can be heard, because only part was recorded.) There’s no doubt in my mind that Powell’s sentiments and statements ARE bigoted, intolerant, and misguided. But now that I’m mellower and, I hope, wiser (slightly ironic that this has come to pass in my sixth decade), I wondered how such an intellectually clever man had come to put forward such extreme and hate-mongering ideas — and orated them in such a bizarrely dramatic style.

I read every biography and book about Powell I could get my hands on, the writers being representative of the full spectrum of political ideology. I went to Churchill College, Cambridge, the repository of his papers, to pore over diaries, copies of other of his speeches, letters, etc. I talked to people who’d known Powell, and I made note of previously untold stories. I read copious newspaper cuttings of the time. I solicited reminiscences from friends and acquaintances of various skin colour, and I read accounts by an array of people — black and white — of their experiences before and after Powell delivered the speech. I revisited Wolverhampton to gaze at his old house, and I walked the pavements he would have walked.

I became as intimate as anybody can be with a person one has never met, which is considerable with Powell, given the voluminous records — public and personal. Slowly but surely, as I got to know this complicated, brilliant yet deeply flawed man, the hate and disdain I thought I felt as a young person morphed into simple understanding and even a degree of empathy. Not that I make any excuses for him. (He would certainly never have admitted his behaviour necessitated any excuse.) It’s clear he acted, to use one of his favourite words, in an ‘evil’ way. But I do hope the humanizing of Powell in a novel will lead readers to understand why he did what he did, and — just maybe — hold a less polarized, and polarizing, view of today’s world.

 

Visit Andrew Smith’s Website – http://andrewsmithwrites.com/

Twitter – @andrewaxiom

 

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