September 27, 2018

Dance to the Music of Time.

Last night my partner and I went to hear a blues band called The Blueswater at a small local venue. The evening kicked off with the singer performing a Skip James number (before the rest of the band joined him) with just a guitar on his knees and a bottle neck. He did it really well. The band followed up with a load of my favourites – numbers made famous by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and the like, numbers written by the God, Willy Dixon.

We’d been to this venue before, and at the bar prices are astronomical. We smuggled in our own beer.

The music and the smuggling reminded me strongly of my misspent youth. I became quite nostalgic, except for two factors. First, everyone was over 50; second, no one was dancing.

Years ago, at Crawdaddies, the Marquee or the Station, everyone would’ve danced their little socks off. What has happened to my generation?

Then the band played a number from Dr John’s ‘Gumbo’ and I remembered seeing Dr John live in the Racetrack in New Orleans. He had a dancer on stage with him and he kept an eye on her, and on the audience – he was actually playing for the dancers.

The next time I saw him play live was in Bristol. This time only a handful of us got up and boogied on down to the front and danced. But sure enough – we were who he was watching and playing for. When the set was over going back to my seat I caught some disapproving glances and a few remarks about showing off, and spoiling someone else’s view. Sad, I thought – can’t they see Dr John wants to be danced to?

So I thought last night, as we sat at our tables and applauded politely that in one respect at least we knew better how to behave when we were young. Early blues music, played properly, has a wonderfully heavy, seductive beat. It’s downright rude to sit still.

Selected Works

Don't judge a book by its cover, or a bag lady by her appearance. "I didn't always look like this," she says. "Being barmy doesn't mean I'm stupid." Lady Bag does have her problems - her close relationship with cheap red wine, for example. When she gets hammered she talks to her dog. When she's extra-hammered her dog talks to her. Guess who makes better sense. She and her greyhound, Electra, wander through the streets of London, seeing a Dickensian side of the capital city that's only visible to the homeless. Together they accept the kindness or unkindness of strangers with the same wry patience. Until, on one dreadful day, they meet the Devil outside the National Portrait Gallery.
All Birdie Walker wants is some justice for her husband, Jack. But since Jack was a rock star and the justice has to come from the music business, Birdie absolutely has to take some extreme measures.Click on the title for more information.
Short stories
All my short stories up to 2003 are in this collection. It includes two written specially. Click on the title for a bit about how I came to write short stories and more information.
The Anna Lee series
I wrote six novels about Anna Lee. Click on the titles for more information.
The Bucket Nut Trilogy
Professional wrestler Eva Wylie appeared in three novels in the '90s. Click on the titles for more information.
Other stand-alone novels
RIFT is set in the Ethiopia of the 1970s. BALLAD is the story of a girl with a miraculous musical talent. MISS TERRY is the story of what happens to someone who looks different from her neighbours when a grisly discovery is made. Click on the titles for more information.
The story collections I co-edited for Britain's Crime Writers' Association.
In the early '90s I helped edit these three books - aiming them to be more annuals than anthologies. They include many things we're proud to have published. Click on the titles for more information.