Today I’m delighted to welcome author and Discovering Diamonds reviewer Richard Tearle, who recently launched a new book of short stories, Melody Mayhem. It’s great to have you over, Richard. You’re such a huge supporter of indie authors. Let me start off by asking what other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Through my review work with Helen Hollick’s Discovering Diamonds Blog Spot I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of very many authors. Far too many to mention here, to be honest and I would be bound to miss someone. A good few of them have given me hands-on practical advice with my writing, but all of them have helped simply by being great and inspirational writers that everyone can learn from. I have been in awe at the extremely high standard of writing and imagination from people who are not household names yet should be. Collectively, they are a tight-knit community who are all willing to help.
You certainly read a lot of books in the course of your reviewing. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
That’s difficult! In mainstream, I would choose “Ash: A Secret History” by Mary Gentle. If talking Indie, I have two: “Coronach” by Kimberley Jordan Reeman and “The Blue Bench” by Paul Marriner. I reviewed both for Discovering Diamonds and, outside of the circle of established Indie authors, they both just knocked me out. As an added bonus, I would have to add ‘Apricots and Wolfsbane’ by Kara Pohlkamp.
How about your own work? How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Quite a number! I have a book based in Arthurian times which is complete and another one on the subject of my particular historical hero, Edmund Ironside, though it is less about him than it is about the events of that. That book has only just passed 1st Draft stage and needs a lot more work on it. Have also got a WIP about a nasty, vicious highwayman but a bit stuck on the plot line at the moment. I am continuing to write short stories, perhaps for another anthology sometime in the future
For your collection of short stories, what kind of research did you do, and how long did it take you?
Mostly online sources. Where the stories are based on true events I made sure that I had not only got my facts correct but also the smaller details. For example, in the story ‘Diamonds’ I found out exactly what make and model six-string Bass Jet Harris used when recording the tune.
How do you select the names of your characters?
That’s a great question! I truly believe that names are vitally important. Sometimes I spend quite a bit of time pondering over a particular character and what name would suit him/her best. I try to find something that will immediately give a mental picture of the class or disposition of the character, without being too cliched. Dickens was a master at naming his characters!. I will admit, though, that in one of my stories set in Anglo Saxon England, I selected the names from a ‘Name Generator’ I found online!
Quick Q & A
Tea or Coffee: Coffee
Dark or Milk Chocolate: Dark. As a diabetic I try and avoid it but sometimes it is ‘necessary’!
When were you the happiest? Probably early teens
Favourite Children’s Book: ‘Spitfire Parade’ (Biggles) by Capt WE Johns and also ‘2750: Legend of a Locomotive; the author of which I cannot remember!
Favourite Adult Novel: So many! Probably ‘Sunne In Splendour’ by Sharon Penman because it re-introduced me to Historical Fiction.
Richard, thanks for some great answers, and appreciate all your insightful reviews and support of indie authors!
Visit Richard’s blog about Historical Fiction: https://rtslipstream.blogspot.
Richard’s new “Stories” Blog: https://scrapsandscribblings.blogspot.com/p/stories.html
Richard’s Family History website: http://www.tearle.org.uk
Discovering Diamonds Reviews of Historical Fiction
Please enjoy a short story from Richard:
Just hearing that Tony Meehan drum intro took me back to a cold February night in 1963. Back to that Church hall in Friern Barnet, next to the Orange Tree pub. Back to the youth club where me, Mick, Jimmy and Paul were playing our first – and only, as it happens – gig supporting another local group, The Falcons.
And then, following Mick’s faithful intro, I came in. It was our last number and I wanted to get it just right. Leave an impression. In order to try and capture the exact sound Jet Harris made with his revolutionary 6-stringed Fender Jaguar Bass, I used a thicker plectrum – it gave the sound an authentic ‘clunk’ as I hit the lighter strings of my Guyatone standard lead and rhythm guitar. Cheap it was too, just four quid of a mate.
I had my stance and had been practising my facial expressions in front of a mirror. I closed my eyes and squeezed the notes out of the strings, fingers pressed heavily against the fretboard. I raised the neck of the guitar for the higher notes and dropped it for the lower ones. Front knee bent slightly; back leg straight, not unlike Gene Vincent. The notes dripped like melting chocolate. Paul – who never missed a chord change – kept the rhythm going; Jim plodded out a bass line. Mick’s drums threatened to drown all of us out. Johnny Adams, our manager, fiddled with my amp to get more volume.
I ventured a glance at the crowd. Small but growing; they hadn’t come to see us, after all. But they seemed to be enjoying our set of bog-standard instrumentals. Shadows stuff, mostly. Obscure album tracks. We’d played Walk, Don’t Run by the Ventures and that had been good, as had Chariot by Rhett Stoller. And an instrumental of ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone‘ which Paul’s dad had liked. A shame none of us could sing.
I stepped back from the mic, played softer and Johnny fiddled with the amps so that we almost recreated the fade out pretty well.
And it was over.
I bought myself a coke from the table selling soft drinks and crisps. I hadn’t realised how hot and thirsty I’d become and I demolished the drink in two long gulps.
“That was good,” a voice said. Female.
I turned. She was blonde, about five foot five and had the most vibrant green eyes. Like emeralds. Diamonds. She wore a tight white sweater a flared short skirt and white knee length boots.
“Thank you,” I said. “Erm – Would you like a drink?”
“Thank you. Coke. Please.” Then: “ I love that tune.”
“Diamonds. The last one. I like Jet Harris. My favourite Shadow. When he was with them,” she added needlessly.
“Mine too.” It wasn’t just a line to attract more attention from her; it was true. The name, the really cool hairstyle. Jet was ‘the man’ in my eyes. I offered her a cigarette. Perfectos I smoked in those days. King size. Impressive, I hoped. She accepted and I held out my lighter for her. She bent her head, flicked her hair away from her face and then blew smoke out. “I’m Stephanie,” she said. “Most people call me Stevie.”
I told her my name. She smiled and said, “I know.”
I took her arm and steered her away from the table, indicating a pair of lonely chairs on the other side of the hall. The Falcons were setting up.
“You’re really good,” she said, sipping her coke.
I thanked her. I knew that I wasn’t really that good, but I’d done alright tonight and was happy. No bum notes and only once did I finish a tune before the rest of the group.
The Falcons began their set. Please Please Me. A song by a new group called the Beatles. Then an obligatory Chuck Berry number.
I sighed. “None of us can sing,” I said. “we would do that stuff if we could.”
“You don’t have to be able to sing,” she laughed. “I saw a group last week. The Rolling Stones. They can’t sing!”
“But it’s having the guts to stand on a stage and do it. That’s the problem with us.”
“Never mind, she said and looped her arm through mine. “It’ll come.”
“Do you live far from here?” I asked tentatively.
Stevie smiled and confirmed that she was only a few streets away.
“Can I – can I walk you home?”
“Later,” she said. “Let’s have a dance first.”
We dropped our cigarettes onto the wooden floor and I ground them both out with my Cuban heeled Chelsea boots. As we progressed from a gyrating twist to a slow and smoochy number, I caught Paul’s eye over Stevie’s shoulder. He grinned and winked and I gave him two fingers. But there was a smile on my face as I did so.
Later, in the chill of a dark February night, I walked Stevie home. Cloudy and moonless it was and the only stars to be seen were in my eyes. And hers, I noticed as we shared a first kiss outside her front door.
There were to be many more times that I walked her home; all carried the same magic as that first, wondrous night. After two years of courtship we became engaged and two years after that I made Stevie my wife. Our first solo dance at our wedding reception was to the tune of Diamonds. By special request.
We never really got anywhere with our music. Paul decided he would take on some vocals so we changed our name from The Survivors to The Soul Survivors and again to The Purple Trolleybus (I kid you not!). It didn’t work and we didn’t actually get any gigs. Paul got into The Blues and we suffered from the inevitable ‘musical differences’ reason for splitting up.
Beside me all the time was Stevie. She came to all our rehearsals, offered words of advice and encouragement all the time. When it all went pear shaped, she just told me to shrug my shoulders and walk away. She was right.
I still kept up playing – we had a lot of fun singing together and later to the kids when they came along. At some point, I joined a friend as a Country and Western duo. George had a terrific voice and, in all truth, we weren’t bad and completed two summer sessions in a local pub. But that was as far as we got.
The oh so familiar tune came to its fading end, Jet Harris’s bass still true after more than fifty years. I raised my head as an organ began to play and I stared at the coffin as it rolled away to the furnace. Stevie’s coffin. The purple curtains closed silently and I whispered a simple ‘Goodbye, Stevie. Love you’. Tears blurred my vision and when I rose I stumbled slightly. Hands supported me and I mumbled my thanks.
I was led outside. Another grey February day. Fitting, I suppose.
Someone somewhere whispered, “Strange choice of music.”
But Diamonds had always been ‘our song’.
ARTIST: JET HARRIS and TONY MEEHAN
WRITER: JERRY LORDAN