Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Game of Two Halves: The Autobiography by Archie Macpherson (Black & White Publishing 2009)

Argentina, 1978, was wounding and stimulating at the same time. To watch a cheerful, personable, approachable guy undergoing an ordeal of which only a Torquemada would have approved was deeply unsettling. I had felt a personal stirring of unease, many months before, when I assisted him in a brewery-sponsored tour of the country to cities and towns, as he bathed in the glow of admiration which came from his ecstatic nation. I felt that if it didn't come off for him, the fall from grace would finish him. Failure, set against optimistic hysteria, could only mean a death warrant. When I watched him cuddle a dog on a hillside in Alta Gracia, the town we were all based in, after the defeat in the first game by Peru, 3-1, and heard him tell us that the animal was probably the only friend he had left in South America, you  could tell he was slipping into self-perpetuating misery. After the game against Iran, who we assumed were the Glenbuck Cherrypickers of the tournament  but which ended in a 1-1 draw, my colleagues in BBC television in London deliberately and maliciously edited pieces together with close-ups of Ally's contorted, tortured face on the bench which were the closest television has ever got to portraying Edvard Munch's The Scream, in a sporting setting, there really was no way back.

The win against the ultimate finalists, Holland, in Mendoza, 3-2, but which meant nothing in terms of qualification, was summed up beautifully from underneath a wide-brimmed hat in an airport lounge by a pissed-off looking Alan Sharp, the Scottish novelist, who had interrupted his screenwriting business in Hollywood to travel to the game, when he pronounced, 'We didn't win, we just discovered a new way of losing.'

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Full Time: The Secret Life Of Tony Cascarino as told to Paul Kimmage (Scribner 2000)

When I close my eyes and think of Glenn Hoddle, two images spring to mind. The first is of Hoddle the player, and that incredible goal for Spurs, when he raced with the ball to the edge of the Watford box and chipped the goalkeeper when everyone expected him to cross. The second is of Hoddle the manager, on the morning Paul Elliott arrived in our dressing room wearing an immaculate leather trenchcoat and stood there, stunned, as Hoddle the manager raced to the 'cover' of a bin in the corner and started shooting him with imaginary bullets — 'Pshhhh', 'Pshhhh' — like a five-year-old with a cowboy pistol set. What Paul didn't realize was that Glenn was trying to be funny, and when Glenn tried to be funny it was time pass around the laughing gas because he was probably the unfunniest man I have ever known, He was also completely besotted with himself.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Goalkeepers Are Different by Brian Glanville (Crown Publishers 1972)

Now and again he played in the games himself, like Charlie Macintosh, and you couldn't have had two more different players. His control was lovely, Billy's, he could do anything with a soccer ball, juggle it from foot to foot until you got tired of watching him, flick it over his shoulder with his heel, pull it back with the sole of his boot then go on again, in the same movement; he was lovely to watch. "Two stone more," the Boss used to say, "two inches more, and Billy would have been the greatest." One day Billy looked at him, deadpan, and said, "No, I wouldn't. I'd have been a player like you."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Auf Wiedershen, Pet by Fred Taylor (Sphere Books 1983)

Oz's '68 Zephyr had looked pretty down even before the three of them left Newcastle. By the time they reached the queue of traffic at the Dutch border, it was at the stage of needing terminal care. Not that Oz would admit anything that didn't suit whatever his momentary view of reality demanded.

'Afraid we're losin' Radio One,' he muttered darkly, fiddling with the car's studio. The material the knobs were made of looked suspiciously like bakelite.

Dennis grunted, took a drag on his newly-lit duty-free. 'We never had it in this wreck.'

'Canny car, this kid,' said Oz for the dozenth time.

There was no answer to that, or leastways none that didn't stray into the realms of fantasy or insult. Dennis's square, well-fleshed face creased into a frown. He decided to change the subject.

'Here,' he said. 'Why've you got a Sunderland sticker on the back? I never knew you supported them.'

'I don't. Bloke I bought it off did.' Oz stared down at the radio, gave it a final thump and treated his mates to a gap-toothed grin. 'I was goin' to scrape it off, but I was afraid I'd lose the bumper . . .' 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Killing the Second Dog by Marek Hlasko (Cane Hill Press 1965)

I should have told her all this. I wouldn't have needed Robert and his goddamn instructions to do it either. There was so much I could have told her about myself and my life, but she probably wouldn't have believed me. I could have told her how I robbed someone when I was fifteen and wasn't caught. And how three months later a friend and I robbed a ticket office at a train station; my friend was arrested, and I gave myself up so we could go to jail together, because I enjoyed his company. But she wouldn't have believed me. Nor would she believe me if I told her I lost my virginity at the age of twelve to a ripe German girl on the day of her engagement to a young lieutenant. Nor would she believe me if I told her about the German soldier who set his dog on me and then started kicking me and broke my nose just because I wanted to play with the dog—this happened when I was seven. Nor would she believe me that in 1944, in Warsaw, I saw six Ukrainians rape a girl from our building and then gouge her eyes with a teaspoon, and they laughed and joked doing it. Maybe I didn't believe all this anymore. I should have told her that I bear the Germans no grudges for killing my family and a few more million Poles, because afterward I lived under the Communists and came to realize that by subjecting men to hunger, fear, and terror, one can force them to do anything under the sun, and that no group of people is better than any other. Those who claim otherwise belong to the lowest human species and their right to live should be revoked. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Simply Thrilled: The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records by Simon Goddard (Ebury Press 2014)

In need of cheap soup and rich gossip, most lunch times Alan would wander to the Victoria Cafe, the social heart of the art school, open to students and casual interlopers, where the vain and resplendent gathered in conspicuous segregation according to their different artistic disciplines. Alan and Edwyn's catchpenny clothes stirred scornful laughs from the puffy new romantic posters of  the fashion school, but complemented the surrounding second-hand fixtures and fittings, plucked from an original site in Govanhill which had been due for demolition until rescued and reinstalled by the architecture students. The queen of the Vic was a big Irish woman called Mona, who specialised in assuring all patrons that the soup was vegetarian as she hauled the thigh bone of some poor slain unspecified beast from the same bubbling cauldron, and whose short-fuse hospitality blew at regular intervals in her cutlery-bending yell, 'Get outta ma cafe!'

The aloof fashion fops and their equilateral hair-dos aside, the art-school crowd and those who buzzed around its cafe and weekend discos were a sweet, oblivious antidote to the nice bores Alan had suffered at university. They were funny, nutty, fascinating and, to Steven's barely concealed annoyance, invariably 'greeeeeeat!'

The roll call of human specimens read as follows:

A candied darling who called himself 'Lucy Lastic'; who knew 'they' could never touch him for dragging up Sauchiehall Street as long as he didn't wear women's knickers; who knew no fear when it came to roaring 'fab doll!' at men the size of shipyards; who knew no shame when it came to recounting the gory details of his latest straight-corrupting conquest with his starter for ten, 'I've just been shafted'; and whose ultimate destiny in certain surgical procedures was beyond all reasonable doubt.

Jill Bryson, a pretty polka-dot Alice looking as if she'd missed the bus for Wonderland and ended up in Glasgow by mistake, living on the Great Western Road with her boyfriend and the rampant 'Lucy' in a flat below a dentist's surgery which rattled daily to the sound of drilling enamel.

Peter McArthur, Jill's boyfriend, a photography student and Southside punk who'd first befriended Edwyn at Glasgow College of Building and Printing, and later bewitched Alan with his shared love of Fellini, Pasolini, Cabaret and his unused ticket stub for the Pistols' phantom Apollo show. 

Drew McDowall, a performance poet from Paisley, and his young wife Rose from The Wee Scone Shop. When not surreptitiously handing out free pies to fellow punks under her boss's nose, Ross also played drums in Drew's band The Poems, once joined on stage by Edwyn and James for 'a musical recitation' of the hunting scene from War And Peace.

Gerry Hanley, Alan's usual lunchtime companion, who allowed him to join her cafe table of angry women in boiler suits, monkey boots and cropped hair, who shared a flat with the painter Adrian Wiszniewski and who herself, sometimes, could be coaxed on stage by Alan for a spot of performance art.

The tweedy man out of time called Malcolm Fisher, sufferer of untold allergies and pianist of unending jazz flourishes, who danced with his hands glued inside his raincoat pockets, whose flat, a chintz flock and floral eyesore like something from 101 Dalmatians, he shared with his similarly allergic sister.

And a punk graphic designer called Robbie Kelly, whose brother had very briefly strummed chords for the mythical Oscar Wild, and whose girlfriend, Anne, was usually seen pushing a shopping trolley down the street with a doll sat up front like a genuine baby.

As far as Alan was concerned, his new art school associates' rapturous reception to Orange Juice was an exploding plastic inevitability. He wouldn't be disappointed.

Detonation date was Friday 20 April 1979, as James Callaghan took forlorn stock of his final hours in Number 10 and as Art Garfunkel's 'Bright Eyes' bunny-hopped at number one somewhere above the shaking body of Michael Jackson, the wondering why of Sister Sledge and recently deposed yet eternally resilient Gloria Gaynor. The 1980s were but one catastrophic landslide victory and a few spins of the  glitterball away. The perfect time for Orange Juice, a name so wrong that it had to be right, to yodel their first Lifebuoy-scrubbed 'hello' to the universe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Lowlife by Alexander Baron (Black Spring Press 1963)

To this, I added afternoons reading on my bed, and visits to the library. There is a branch library two blocks from where I live, a noisy place. At one end kids scamper round the shelves of their section, shrieking with laughter till the librarian hushes them, uncomfortably quiet for a while, then soon shrieking again.At the other end the housewives chatter, waiting to rush at the librarian like gabbling hens at a fistful of seed every time she comes to the shelves with another armful of 'romances'.

At the end of one afternoon I went in to look for some thriller. I like these books, the way they scratch on the nerves as I lie in bed. Chandler and Hammett are my favourites. You don't get writing like theirs nowadays. I've read all Mickey Spillane, but he lacks class.

I was looking along the shelves when a fellow came round the end of a bookcase. It was Deaner, the husband. He said, 'Hallo. Seen anything good?'

I said no, and he held a couple of books out. He said, 'I've got these.' Two new novels, fashionable names, the kind that are praised in the highbrow Sunday papers. Every week these papers find another writer who has 'earned his place in the front rank of contemporary writing'. This front rank must be miles long by now. There must be a lot of poor nits like this Vic who are so busy keeping up with this front rank lark that they never have time to read a real book. He said, 'Do you read much?'

I said, 'Not much.'

I knew that tone in his voice. The sentry's challenge of the book-lonely. He stood there waiting for me to give the right password. Among the uneducated (which frankly is what you would call the general population where I live) the serious reader is a lonely person. He goes about among the crowds with his thoughts stuffed inside him. He probably dare not even mention them to his nearest pals for fear of being thought a schmo. There's a hunger in his eyes for someone to talk to. He watches, and from time to time when he sees someone likely, he makes his signals. His situation is very much like that of the nancyboy. I spoke to discourage him. I didn't want him falling on my neck. This Soul Mates idea doesn't appeal to me.

He said, 'I read a lot. When I have time. I sometimes wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew with this exam. I work at nights till I can't see the figures any more, and I'm still behind the syllabus.'

We looked along the shelves in silence. He said, 'Do you like Upton Sinclair?'

I should have given him the brush-off again, but too quickly I answered him. 'Not all that Lanny Budd stuff. But the early ones are terrific.'

The lights came on in his face and he was gabbling to me like a boy.

So there it was. I never have the sense to keep aloof. The semaphore blinks and I answer it. We moved on along the shelves in silence again, but Vic had a kind of relaxed look, satisfied, like a girl you've assured with a squeeze of the arm. In front of the H. G. Wells shelf we began to talk quite naturally. Wells is an old favourite of mine. This Vic for all his Sunday-paper tastes spoke like an intelligent boy.

I picked up a couple of Simenons, and we walked home together . . .

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Eighth Day of the Week by Marek Hlasko (Secker & Warburg 1956)

The waiter snatched up the empty bottle as he passed the table. Light - windows had filled with dirty light. A drunken party entered noisily. Agnieszka quickly took stock of the them: all of them were well dressed and cheerful.

'It's closing time for the night-clubs,' Grzegorz said. He jerked his head towards the new arrivals. 'Architects. They've come here for the last tankful. It's essential to preserve contact with the masses.'

The waiter came up, put the bottle on the table. 'When will you pay?'

'In a couple of days,' Grzegorz said. The waiter walked away. 'Look at them,' Grzegorz said, 'it may make you feel better.'

Agnieszka turned her head. There was a throng at the bar, the mood was that of a joyful morning. A tall greying man with noble features, dressed in a magnificently tailored suit of English cloth, was slapping the shoulder of a youngster who looked like an apprentice thief and talking loudly: 'I'm not a stranger, I was a boy just like you. From Wola. Before the war I used to go to the Roxy. I loved cowboy pictures. They played that kind at Wola. Do you know Stasiek Malinowski from Wola?'

'No,' the other said, wrinkling his low forehead.

The greying man beamed. 'You see, you see. God, those were terrible times. There was hunger, misery. You couldn't even dream of getting a job.' He raised his hand in a magnificent sweeping gesture. 'Waitress!' he said to the girl behind the counter. 'Princess! One round for all. We'll all drink to the working class of Wola.' He added in Russian, 'It's on me.' And, turning to the boy, 'My name's Andrzej, and yours?'


'Well, good for you.' He handed a glass to the boy. 'Here's to you, Kazik. And to Wola!'

Grzegorz rose from his seat. He poured the entire contents of the bottle into a mug, and walked up to the counter. He bowed to a lady in a low-cut gown. 'May I join in the toast, gentlemen?' he said.

'Make yourself at home, make yourself at home,; several voices said.

'To the working class of Wola,' said Grzegorz. He splashed the vodka into the face of the greying man and jumped back. A knife gleamed in the hand of the boy with the low forehead. Grzegorz drew out a gun. He raised his left hand. 'Quiet,' he said. 'Don't move. I won't fight the peasant way. I'll shoot.'

They walked out. Outside, Agnieszka said, 'Feel better?'

'A little,' he said. He put the gun back in his pocket. She gave him a sideways glance.

'I can't say you lack Polish characteristics.'

He shrugged his shoulders, then smiled weakly. 'He said himself he liked cowboy pictures,' he said. 'We must penetrate into the dreams and aspirations of the working class, understand its strivings . . . ' He paused. After a while he asked, 'Will she come on Sunday?' 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Going Off Alarming: The Autobiography: Vol 2 by Danny Baker (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2014)

Yet, despite the regularity of the work, in the mid-eighties I still felt as if it was all a larky distraction before I would return to writing of some sort. Or something. Fact was, I hoped I would never have to confront this dilemma – at least not in the next hundred and fifty years. This nebulous career plan was brought into clearer focus one day when I read a description of myself in a newspaper as ‘an old person’s young person’. That’ll give you pause, I can tell you. Another phrase that seemed to routinely be tagged to any press I got was ‘professional cockney’. I genuinely never understood what that was supposed to mean. I might concede to it if I were, like so many in the media, hiding some kind of public school background or an upbringing in one of the leafier parts of Surrey, but that not being the case I recognized it for what it was: the superior sneering of a relentlessly privileged middle-class industry. It’s a form of control, pure and simple. What they meant by ‘professional cockney’ was actually just ‘cockney’, and they really didn’t like the uppity working classes anywhere in their game unless they were in the canteen, post rooms or maintenance. I’m not sure if it has changed that much today. Even the most liberal university types go on the back foot when they meet someone who has simply got by on their wits, and they tend to feel threatened if that person is actually brighter than they are. So they resort to suspicion and the curled lip, attempting to denigrate this intruder by suggesting the whole ‘working class’ thing is an act and, really, all these ‘chavs’ have to offer is an accent. Thus even now you will read that someone is a ‘professional Geordie’ or ‘professional Scouser’; back in the eighties, you’d even come across a ‘professional black person’. Nobody who has come through the correct middle-class upbringing with the benefit of a few quid in their family coffers will ever be so disparagingly described. No, you’ll find they will simply be ‘professionals’.

While we’re here, I may add that, far from being a typical working-class ‘bloke’, I could never claim to be even marginally competent in the traditionally masculine field of home improvements. Away from a typewriter, latterly the computer keyboard, I am not only a disaster at DIY, I fancy I rather stand alone as the most clueless exponent of the handyman’s skills. This is another area where I am totally my father’s son. Though Dad was a terrifically hard worker, whether in the docks, clearing railway arches of rubble, or as part of an early morning office-cleaning gang, he could not for the life of him build, repair, install or decorate anything. Despite this, during the sixties he was given little choice in the matter, being required by Mum to wallpaper the front room in our maisonette roughly once a year. The rest of the family soon learned that it was absolutely essential for us to retire to another part of the house and cower in safety until it was all over. Like me, Dad had no finesse, no patience and genuinely believed you could inflict pain on any particularly finicky inanimate object that pushed you too far. I’ve no idea how many rolls of wallpaper it took to cover our small living room. Let’s say it was six. Dad, knowing how these affairs went, would order ten. This was because when a patterned section he was holding folded in on itself or refused to match up with one already in position, he could only achieve catharsis by furiously mashing it up into a ball, screaming ‘You dirty bastard!’ at it and throwing it across the room. Sometimes Mum would hear this happen four times in as many minutes and call out from the other side of the door, ‘You all right, Fred?’ to which he would explode, ‘No, I’m fucking not!’

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Original Stan The Man by Stanley Bowles with Ralph Allen and John Iona (Paper Plane Publishing 1996)

Malcolm thought I was hanging around with the wrong type of people, and resented the company that I was keeping. He was hearing reports from all quarters that I had been seen in the seedy places in town, and there was an ongoing argument between us. Malcolm frequented night-clubs such as the Cabaret Club, and was known as Champagne Charlie. He had a bee in his bonnet about me and wherever he went the conversation would, at some point, come around to me. People would always say to me: "Oh, Malcolm's just been in, slagging you off." Wherever I went, it seemed that Malcolm had already been there.

He was an excellent coach; very creative and passionate and not afraid to take chances in a game, or use innovative tactics. But, at the same time, he was very flamboyant, bold and abrasive, and found it difficult to handle people  - unlike Joe Mercer, who everyone regarded as a sort-of uncle. You certainly wouldn't go to Malcolm with any personal problems, because he might fly into a temper at the slightest provocation. Despite this, he thought of himself as the manager of the club; and didn't like it when anyone questioned that view.

When I broke into the first team in 69/70, our outside-left, Tony Coleman, used to say: "Do you want to come out for the night?" So I would go out with Tony and we became very friendly. In the end I was staying with him a couple of nights a week. We used to go round everywhere together. Tony was a great one for the birds, but I wasn't — because I was already heavily into horse racing and was happily married. Everybody went to discotheques at the weekends, this being the heyday of soul music, but I would just be at the bar, not dancing.

One night I was drinking at the Cabaret Club with Tony, when Malcolm came to our table. A row started between the two of them. Tony was a lot older than me, and Malcolm was trying to accuse Tony of leading me astray, saying: "What are doing bringing a young player into a club like this?" Tony kept quiet, but I couldn't: "Why don't you shut up?" I said.

There was a huge silence, then Malcolm threw a punch at me. So I threw one back, and it all started again. Tony jumped up and smashed a pint glass on the table.

It could have become very nasty, because Tony was a real handful in those days, but the brawl was broken up by the guy who owned the club. That was to be my last battle with the Manchester City establishment.

Soon afterwards, I went into training one day and Dave Ewing said: "Malcolm wants to see you and, unfortunately, he's going to get rid of you." So I picked my boots up and left. I knew I was walking away from one of the biggest clubs in England, but I wasn't bothered either way. At the time I was too reckless to care. I'd half expected it anyway, so I just got on with life as usual.

The official version was that City had decided to release me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Morning's Toonage

The Sleaford Mods and their plea for global harmony, 'Jolly Fucker'.

Must be played LOUD  . . .  but not in front of the kids:

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Jack Carter and the Law by Ted Lewis (Alfred A. Knopf 1974)

Jimmy is wearing a neat red satin dressing gown but there's nothing neat about his face, foreshortened and distorted in my sights; he looks like an astronaut experiencing twenty Gs. The filth who's shepherding him out is superfluous. Jimmy really doesn't need any guidance, and as he hurries down the garden path away from the flames, to safety, I steady the rifle so that the cross is resting perfectly on the middle of Jimmy's furrowed forehead, and then I pull the trigger three times, and immediately the last bullet leaves the barrel I turn away and run back down the side of the house, and as I pass the open door I glance into the house but there is no sign of the man who'd been putting out the milk bottles. That's the trouble with the world today, I reflect. A lack of public spirit. Nobody seems to be prepared to have a go these days.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis (Michael Joseph Books 1970)


The rain rained.

It hadn't stopped since King's Cross. Inside the train it was close, the kind of closeness that makes your fingernails dirty even when all you're doing is sitting there looking out of the blurring windows. Watching the dirty backs of houses scudding along under the half-light clouds. Just sitting and looking and not even fidgeting.

I was the only one in the compartment. My slip-ons were off. My feet were up. Penthouse was dead. I'd killed the Standard twice. I had three nails left. Doncaster was forty minutes off.

“I looked along the black mohair to my socks. I flexed a toe. The toenail made a sharp ridge in the wool. I'd have to cut them when I got in. I might be doing a lot of footwork over the weekend.

I wondered if I'd have time to get some fags from the buffet at Doncaster before my connexion left.

If it was open at five to five on a Thursday after“noon in mid-October.

I lit up anyway.

It was funny that Frank never smoked. Most barmen do. In between doing things. Even one drag to make it seem as if they're having a break. But Frank never touched them. Not even a Woody just to see what it was like when we were kids down Jackson Street. He'd never wanted to know.

He didn't drink scotch either.

I picked up the flask from off the Standard and unscrewed the cap and took a pull. The train rocked and a bit of scotch went on my shirt, a biggish spot, just below the collar.

But not as much as had been down the front of the shirt Frank had been wearing when they'd found him. Not nearly so much.

They hadn't even bothered to be careful; they hadn't even bothered to be clever.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Time to say goodbye . . . .

. . .  to my email signature.

I guess eleven plus years is long enough:

Peter Saville (Enzo Cilenti): "The posters." 
Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan): "You've got the posters? It's the fucking gig!" 
Peter Saville: "Yeah, I know - it just took ages to get the right yellow." 
Tony Wilson: "The gig's over." 
Peter Saville: "I know." 
Tony Wilson: "It looks fucking great actually - yeah, really nice. It's beautiful - but useless. And as William Morris once said: "Nothing useless can be truly beautiful."' 
From Michael Winterbottom's '24 Hour Party People'

 I always enjoyed it more than other people.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Taking Le Tiss by Matt Le Tissier (HarperSport 2009)

That wasn’t the only time on that tour that there were a few problems after Bally had had a few to drink. I’ve said that he had something of a love-hate relationship with Lawrie McMenemy, who was Director of Football. Bally was passionate, impulsive and wore his heart on his sleeve while Lawrie was the restraining voice of reason. They needed each other and worked well together but there was some rivalry and jostling for position, and that meant they did have some blazing rows—including one over dinner on that tour.

The wine was flowing and Alan launched into a lengthy rant. The gist of it was, ‘You’ve had your effing chance, I’m in effing charge now. Why don’t you eff off back to England and let me effing get on with it?’ So Lawrie did just that and jumped on the first plane home while Bally went and slept it off, again. When he woke up and discovered Lawrie had gone, he picked up the phone and said, ‘What the effing hell do you think you are doing? Why are you back in England? I need you here.’

They were like an old married couple in many ways, often arguing but with a deep mutual affection and respect. Lawrie also curbed Bally’s impulsive excesses in the transfer market—apart from the time he made the mistake of taking a couple of days off. He got back to find Bally had signed a centre-back from Exeter by the name of Peter Whiston, a nice lad but never Premier League quality. I never quite figured out the reason for signing him, but it can’t have been a footballing one.

That 1994-95 season was probably the most enjoyable of my career. I played great football and scored a lot of goals, largely without the fear of relegation. I also won the BBC’s Goal of the Season for what was my favourite ever goal—largely because it was against my old mate Tim Flowers. We were at Ewood Park and I picked up the ball just outside the centre circle, beat a couple of players and spotted Tim just off his line. I hit the ball from 35 yards and it went exactly where I wanted it to go, straight to the top left corner. It was a wonderful moment, not least because Tim got nowhere near it and ended up floundering in the net. It was my second goal of the match but, even then, Tim had the last word because Blackburn won 3-2.

My form in the early part of the season was helped by the fact we’d signed a terrific player who was completely on my wavelength, both on and off the field. It was great piece of business, and it came about in the most bizarre way. After another 1994 pre-season tour, this time in Holland, we’d checked into a hotel with its own football pitches in the middle of nowhere. It was a popular venue with a lot of clubs, including Barcelona who were staying there when we arrived. They were managed by Johan Cruyff who knew Alan Ball well. They were both big stars in world football and had a strong mutual respect and friendship. Cruyff was a legend and we were in awe of him. I was the only one of our squad brave enough to ask him for his autograph.

That night Bally had dinner with Cruyff and half-jokingly asked if he had any players he could spare. Next morning Alan got up to find Barcelona had checked out but had left behind a young Danish lad by the name of Ronnie Ekelund with the message, ‘Take a look at him and if you like him, he’s yours.’ He trained with us that morning and it was immediately obvious he was a top-quality player. He had great vision and technique, and could pick out a pass. We clicked straight away and Bally immediately set the wheels in motion for us to take him on loan, pending a permanent deal. I detected some reluctance from Lawrie McMenemy, either because the deal had nothing to do with him or because he didn’t want another Peter Whiston. Lawrie was back in Southampton completing the transfer of Bruce Grobbelaar who flew out to Holland to join us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Fuck-Up by Arthur Nersesian (MTV Pocket Books 1997)

Perhaps the price of comfort is that life passes more rapidly. But for anyone who has lived in uneasiness, even for a short, memorable duration, it’s a trade-off that will gladly be made. When I was in my teens, I made an appraisal of how comfortable my life could turn out when I became the age I am now. Because of a mechanical failure, the prediction was inexact. Things reversed. I ended up living somewhere I once avoided, with a woman whom I genuinely once disliked.

Recently we celebrated our seventh anniversary together with a decent dinner and a not dreadful film. I got out of work early that evening and took the F train to Forty-second Street. I crossed Fifth Avenue toward the Main Branch of the Public Library, but paused in the middle of the crosswalk. It was filling up with the evening rush hour crowd: men in trench coats, secretaries in tennis shoes, cabs in the crosswalk, cars honking, leviathan buses zooming inches, braking, zooming again, and bike messengers slicing through it all. The last time I was in that spot, seven years ago, there wasn’t a person in sight.

Seven years ago that day, as dawn rose, I remember standing in roughly the same spot watching as the traffic signals hanging over each intersection slowly turned yellow then red. Cars zoomed forward, headlights still on, staying ahead of the changing lights; at dusk they could make it all the way down without a single red light.

At rush hour, the entire avenue was gridlocked. But I could still faintly make out the small white crown of the Washington Square Arch at the very end. The anniversary of my relationship coincided with that dawning, and although that morning marked something that eluded celebration, it couldn’t be forgotten either.

Something honked at me, so I crossed the street, reboarded the packed F train, and returned to Brooklyn for the anniversary dinner.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Second Half by Roy Keane (with Roddy Doyle) (Wiedenfeld & Nicolson 2014)

We brought in some players in January. Carlos Edwards, from Luton; Anthony Stokes, from Arsenal; and Jonny Evans – we got Jonny on loan from Manchester United. They were all good signings, brilliant, and just what we needed. One of the reasons they worked, I think, is because I knew a bit about them, beyond the stats – something about their personalities.

Carlos had played against us when we beat Luton earlier in the season, and I’d seen what a good player he was. He gave us a right-sided midfielder. He had pace, and he could get us up the pitch; we could counter-attack away from home.

Jonny was a centre-half. He had the qualities of a Manchester United player, and he was bringing them to Sunderland. For such a young man – he was nineteen – he was very mature, and a born leader. Jonny was unbelievable for us. He lived with his mam and dad in Sale, near my home, so I picked him up there and brought him up to see the set-up at Sunderland. I knew I was on a winner; I knew him, and I knew what he was about. I remembered an incident when I was still at United; there’d been a fight in the canteen and Jonny had looked after himself well – I think he knocked the other lad out. I knew Jonny was tough.

Stokesy got us vital goals towards the end of the season. He was a good signing for us, because there’d been a lot of competition for him. Celtic and Charlton, who were still in the Premiership then, were after him. So signing Stokesy sent out another message: we could compete with other clubs. I spoke to Stokesy’s dad and, for some reason, he thought I’d be able to keep his son on the straight and narrow – because Stokesy was a bit of a boy.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Class Act

I am a lazy bastard when it comes to updating the blog - especially the 'booksiveread' section - which is shame because my two remaining readers miss out on such gems as this from Sue Townsend.

She was writing about this stuff in 1989. The intellectuals on the 'left' are only getting their head around this sort of stuff now twenty plus years later.

She really was my favourite sort of Labourite.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Masculine Ending by Joan Smith (Fawcett Crest Mystery 1987)

Loretta had decided to forgo a starter to give herself plenty of time to recount what had happened in Paris, as Tracey tucked into broad beans and artichoke hearts she gave him a bald account of everything she remembered about the weekend. Apart from a rather feeble joke about the Fem Sap conference—Tracey found any manifestation of organized feminism positively terrifying—he heard her out in silence. When she finished, he pushed away his empty plate and thought for a moment. Above their heads, the rain still drummed on the canvas of the canopy and splashed off on to the pavement.

"There really was a lot of blood?" he enquired at last. "Too much for the sheets to have been used to clean up after an accident? More than if someone had been having, er, a period?" He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Loretta suppressed an urge to smile. "Much more," she said.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014


That moment you find a copy of a book for $2 in a bookshop when the cheapest copy available on the internet is $63. That.

Let me correct that. The only copy available on the internet is $63 . . . and, for all I know, it's in worse condition than the copy that I just picked up.

The copy I just picked up is falling to bits as I write and won't survive a second reading - like I ever read a book a second time - but I never thought I'd see a copy of the this most wanted book this side of winning the lottery. (And, trust me, I looked for it.)

Tom Mann by Joseph White (Manchester University Press 1991)

" . . . Perhaps the first thing to be noted is its resemblance to a main theme in Paul Lafargue's unjustifiably neglected pamphlet 'The Right to Be Lazy', which was written at about the same time. (Lafargue was, among other things, Karl Marx's son-in-law. There is also something to be said for the contention that he knew only too well whereof he wrote.) If anything, 'What is Ca' canny?' is far blunter than anything Lafargue wrote in 'The Right to Be Lazy', which is in the main a discussion of popular culture and the need for more leisure time. Secondly, whether or not Mann knew anything of Lafargue's literary efforts (and there is no evidence that he did), was he perhaps 'theorising' his own lessons and experiences of 1890, when, as we have seen, the dockers of London indeed engaged in a fair amount of 'ca' canny' of their own? I think it is quite plausible. Finally, one can ask whether the leaflet prefigured syndicalism and was possibly influenced by anarchist thought? Again, there is a strong case to be made that it was. The syndicalists, particularly the IWW, indeed advocated 'ca' canny'. In Dynamite, Louis Adamic tells the story of the construction labourers in Bedford, Indiana, who in 1908 took their shovels round to the machine shop to have them shortened. 'Short pay, short shovel', they said.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Drop by Dennis Lehane (William Morrow 2014)

Bob found the dog two days after Christmas, the neighbourhood gone quiet in the cold, hungover and gas-bloated. He was coming off his regular four-to-two shift at Cousin Marv's in the Flats, Bob having worked behind the bar for the better part of two decades now. That night, the bar had been quiet. Millie took up her usual corner stool, nursing a Tom Collins and occasionally whispering to herself or pretending to watch the TV, anything to keep from going back to the seniors home on Edison Green. Cousin Marv, himself, made an appearance and hung around. He claimed to be reconciling the receipts, but mostly he sat in a corner booth in the rear, reading his racing form and texting his sister, Dottie.

Friday, September 26, 2014

32 Programmes by Dave Roberts (Bantam Press 2011)

Then suddenly, midway through the first half and after several hours of watching cars whizz past us, a Terry lookalike in a beaten-up VW slowed down and came to a halt. Seeing the red brakelights got my heart beating rapidly with excitement. Kevin, the driver, just nodded at us knowingly, and uttered the word 'karma'. We got in and Terry sat in the front, taking care of the conversation, while Dave and I took the back seat where we sat in a cloud of Brut. The driver didn't know where the ground was, which I saw as conclusive proof that most hippies don't like football, but said he'd drop us off in the city centre.

He was as good as his word, and half an hour later we were in the middle of Southampton, frantically looking around. Dave asked a woman where the football ground was and she gave us detailed directions. It was within walking distance, but we ran. It was now 3.55 by my watch so we were still in with a chance of watching the last half hour or so, as long as we could get there quickly. Eventually the floodlights came into view, and not long after that I saw a road sign saying THE DELL and heard the sound of the crowd. We arrived at the turnstiles dripping with sweat, but we'd made it. In a rare piece of good luck we didn't have to pay to get in, having missed about three quarters of the game.

Exhausted from all the physical exertion, we wearily clambered up the step terracing just as a chorus of boos was ringing out. What was going on? We arrived at the top just in time to see a lone figure in a white shirt trudging off the pitch, head bowed. The referee, Lester Shapter (Paignton), was brandishing a red card and pointing towards the tunnel. I didn't need to see the number 7 on his back to know that the dismissed player was George Best.

According to the jubilant Saints fans standing next to us, George had taken exception to the awarding of a free kick and had made his displeasure known to Mr. Shapter with an extensive rant. The only  consolation was the possibility of George being the first player ever to get a red card (the card system was in operation for the first time that day), but he was narrowly beaten to that honour by Dave Wagstaffe of Blackburn.

We had hitched all the way to Southampton to see our hero walk sulkily off the pitch. We had major hangovers, we hadn't slept, and we would now have to stand in the rain and watch an irrelevant Second Division game that, without its main attraction, none of us would have watched even if it had been played in our back garden.
(From Chapter/Programme 12 - Southampton v. Fulham, 2 October 1976)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Mavericks by Rob Steen (Mainstream Publishing 1994)

Three days later, Rodney was still floating when he took the roadshow back to Loftus Road to face Bournemouth, scoring twice in a 4-0 romp: "It was the only time in my life I've ever played drunk.' If Stock was aware of his condition, it evidently didn't bother him. 'He played so-oo well that night. I sat on the touchline and at one point I asked the referee to keep the game going for another half an hour, just to see what the big fella could do. After the game, the Bournemouth chairman, who also happened to be an FA councillor, comes up to me and says, "That Marsh, he ain't half a lucky player." "That's funny," I said, "but he's just scored his 39th goal of the season and that's more than your lot have scored this season." People can be very bitchy in football. If someone has a good player we are inclined to say "he's not very good but we could do something with him if we had him".'

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Friend Maigret by Georges Simenon (Penguin Classics 1949)

When the detectives had passed the yacht, Mr Pyke spoke again, slowly, with his habitual precision.

'He's the sort of son good families hate to have. Actually you can't have many specimens in France.'

Maigret was quite taken aback, for it was the first time, since he had known him, that his colleague had expressed general ideas. Mr Pyke seemed a little embarrassed himself, as though overcome with shame.

'What makes you think we have hardly any in France?'

'I mean not of that type, exactly.'

He picked his words with great care, standing still at the end of the jetty, facing the mountains which could be seen on the mainland.

'I rather think that in your country, a boy from a good family can commit some bêtises, as you say, so as to have a good time, to enjoy himself with women or cars, or to gamble in the casino. Do your bad boys play chess? I doubt it. Do they read Kant, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard? It's unlikely, isn't it? They only want to live their life without waiting for their inheritance.'

They leant against the wall which ran along one side of the jetty, and the calm surface of the water was occasionally troubled by a fish jumping.

'De Greef does not belong to that category of bad characters, I don't think he even wants to have money. He's almost a pure anarchist. He has revolted against everything he has known, against everything he's been taught, against his magistrate of a father and his bourgeois mother, against his home town, against the customs of his own country.'

He broke off, half-blushing.

'I beg your pardon . . . '

'Go on, please.'

'We only exchanged a few words, the two of us, but I think I have understood him, because there are a lot of young people like that in my country, in all countries, probably, where morals are very strict. That's why I said just now that one probably doesn't come across a vast number of that type in France. Here there isn't any hypocrisy. Perhaps there isn't enough.'

Was he alluding to the surroundings, the world the two of them had been plunged in since their arrival, to the Monsieur Émiles, the Charlots, the Ginettes, who lived among the others without being singled out for opprobrium?

Maigret felt a little anxious, a little piqued. Without being attacked, he was sung by an urge to defend himself.

A shopping basket of rogue prices

On this day of days, if you spot a 500ml bottle of Irn Bru in a supermarket in Manhattan you just have to buy it . . . even if it was at the eye-popping rip off price off $2.49 (plus tax).

And it wasn't even cold.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson (William Morrow 2014)

"I hear you were keen, quite a firebrand."

"Are you trying to embarrass me with my youthful politics now, Mr. Banks? What does that have to do with anything? Are you going to arrest me for being a communist forty years ago? Yes, I admit it, officer, I was a member of the Marxist Society. It was a long time ago. I was young and idealistic. Weren't you ever young and idealistic? I thought communism would solve all the world's problems. I still believe in equality, whatever you may think of me. Maybe you'd call me a champagne socialist. Isn't that the term today for rich people like me who spout on and on about inequality and social injustice? Guardian readers? I think everyone should have Veuve Clicquot rather than Freixenet, if that's what they want."

"Or a decent single-malt whisky," said Banks. "I couldn't agree more. Though I doubt the distillers and the winemakers would agree."

Lady Chalmers smiled. "Capitalist pigs." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What can I say? We were young, naive, privileged intellectuals. There were people around then with the real will and power to do things, to change things, to do it violently, if necessary, through social upheaval. I was a bit too queasy for that. They could cause serious political and social unrest. We were intellectuals, theorists and ideologists. They were activists. The front line."

"The unions?"

"Yes, for the most part. As you might remember, they were very militant back then. There was the romantic idea of the true revolutionary hero, the proud worker standing on the barricades brandishing the red flag, not the bloke you see by the roadside leaning on his shovel and having a cup of tea every time you pass by some roadworks. Establishing the true workers' state. It was a very powerful idea. Very real."

"Mostly I remember the power cuts," said Banks. "Why did Gavin Miller telephone you after all this time?"

Lady Chalmers let out another breath and said, "He wanted to touch me for some money, for old times' sake. A few hundred pounds, just to get him on his feet. Apparently he'd fallen on hard times."

Slipping Standards

465? Wow!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Iron Staircase by Georges Simenon (A Helen & Kurt Wolff Book 1953)

The first note was written in pencil, on a sheet of writing paper the size of a postcard. He did not think it necessary to put the date in full.

"Tuesday: Attack at 2:50. Duration, 35 minutes. Colic. Ate mashed potatoes at lunch."

After the word "lunch," he drew a minus sign and circled it. This meant that his wife had not eaten any of the mashed potatoes. For years she had avoided starch, for fear of putting on weight.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mr Love and Justice by Colin MacInnes (Panther 1960)


Than a prison there is only one place more impressive to the human spirit and even more a symbol of our mortal condition: a hospital. In prison there is the allegory of sin, punishment and (in theory at any rate) redemption. In a hospital, the deeper allegory of birth, death and (occasionally) resurrection.

Friday, August 22, 2014

On Leave by Daniel Anselme (Faber and Faber Inc 1957)

"Well?" Jean Valette asked in a drawl. "Well, so when's it going to happen, then, the end of the war? When will it come?"

"Soon," Luc Giraud said slowly. "A war like this can't last long."

"Why not?" Jean Valette asked.

"Because five hundred thousand young men," Luc Giraud said, syllable by syllable, "five hundred thousand . . . well, that gets about in the country. Because half a million young men over there means a whole mass of French families are affected by the war. Ask your sister."

"Yes," Colette chipped in. "Five hundred thousand young men over there means hundreds of thousands of mothers and wives and sisters and girlfriends fearing for their sons, husbands, brothers, and lovers. And that gets around in the country."

"Well then," Jean Valette said, "you mean that the more we are over there, the more it gets around over here?"

"In one sense you are right," Luc Giraud said. "It's dialectical. The more the war affects the masses, the nearer we are to peace."

"So tell me, then," Jean Valette said in a louder voice, "how many million soldiers do we need over there to make the masses move?"

"Jean!" Madame Valette said.

"No," Luc Giraud responded calmly, "that is not what I said."

"He's doing it on purpose," Colette said.

"What am I supposed to be doing on purpose?"

"Contradicting. Contradicting just for the sake of it."

"I'm just asking a question."

"An anti-Party question!"

"Colette, cool down," Luc Giraud ordered. "Let him speak for himself."

There was a pause, and then Jean Valette asked in an uncharacteristically tentative voice, "Luc, explain what you meant . . . You have to explain . . . you have to . . . "

You could feel he was trying hard to hold something back, but you couldn't tell, as his face was hidden by shadow, if he was on the brink of tears or of an angry outburst.

Another pause. For the first time Luc Giraud seemed uncertain.

"It's for you to explain yourself," he said at last, gravely, almost solemnly.

"I think what Jean meant to say . . . " M. Valette broke in softly.

"No," Luc Giraud cut him off. "It's for him to speak, if he wants to."

Jean Valette said nothing. He had his head in his hands and was looking down.

"But what is this all about?" Lachaume asked eventually. He did not understand what was going on.

Luc Giraud, to whom the question was addressed, raised his hand as if calling a meeting to order. Then, after allowing Jean Valette another moment for his last chance, he shrugged his arms as if to say, "I give up," and smiled at Lachaume. In fact, he looked relieved, and Lachaume guessed he had as much to do with Giraud's relief as did tongue-tied Jean Valette. In his mind all these little puzzles were somehow connected to the "proposal" that Luc Giraud was going to make to him. Lachaume was still thinking, seeing and listening to everything exclusively in the light of that "proposal." All through the long and frequent pauses in that tense and awkward conversation, and when nothing had caught his eye through the window, the thought of the coming "proposal" had made his heart beat faster.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Toasted English by Marghanita Laski (The Riverside Press 1948)

It is difficult after the passage of years to recall the precise emotions with which the population of England switched on their radio sets one summer evening in 1945 and prepared to hear that the Tories had won the General Election. It is even harder to enter into the feelings of five British subjects marooned on an island in the inscrutable East awaiting news of the elected governors who were to lead the destinies of the distant nation, to which they hoped - with luck - soon to return.

They had all escaped together from Singapore. Chance had united them at the same quayside, had tumbled them into the same launch, had omitted to endow any of them with any sense of navigation. Chance had led them to the Swiss Family Robinson's island just off New Guinea; Father and Mother Robinson had long since died out, and the descendants of fritz, Ernest, Jack and Franz were running successful hotels in the Engadine, the Grindelwald, the Ticino, and one, indeed, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; but the far-seeing patriarch had so well and conveniently stocked his island before his demise at the age of one hundred and three that all amenities incumbent on comfortable living were to be found there. These included, fortunately, a store of tinned foods and a tin-opener; else, the other conveniences might have gone for nothing, for none of our party could cook.

This was composed as follows:

First, our hero, James Leigh-Smith. After reading for a Pass Degree at Oxford, James had, after some brief spells raising coffee in Brazil, sheep in Argentine, and nitrates in Chile, been sent to try his luck on an uncle's rubber plantation in Malaya. His enrolment in the local defence force had not served to stay the tragedy of 1941; nor had his knowledge of primary production processes stood him in much stead since.

Next, Martin Wetherall. Unlike James, Martin had taken a First at his university, and followed it up with a brilliant treatise on nuclear fission in the lesser molluscs. It was, then, inevitable that the exigencies of war should demand his presence in Singapore at the crucial moment, together with a party of fellow scientists all sent out at Government expense to study the effects of submarine blast on embryonic barnacle-geese.

Then Penelope Bosworth. Penelope was the eldest of the seven daughters of the Earl of Starveleigh. No one could say that she hadn't been given a fair chance. She had had her London season, her year in India, her six months in Cairo and Peking; but though her disposition was charming, her mousy appearance, exiguous wardrobe, and lack of any dowry, had so far failed to achieve results. Indeed, had it not been for the war, she would long since have been called home from the East to make way for her second sister Esmé.

Ughtred Thicknesse was descended from a cadet branch of the great Thicknesse family of Thorpnesse-in-Holdernesse. The power and plenty that had accrued to the family under the patronage of Ethelred and, later, Edward the Confessor, had long since been dissipated, and Ughtred, after a a lifetime of devoted service in Passport Control, had come to Singapore for his last post, being only three months from his retirement date when the avalanche overtook him.

None of them, even after five years on the island, knew anything of the background of Janice Brown. She was very blonde and very beautiful, and chance remarks she let fall seemed to indicate that at the time of the débâcle she had been staying at Raffles Hotel in a double room.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Repetitive Beat Generation by Steve Redhead (Rebel Inc. 2000)

G. L. I think it was Simon Frith that told me this, that when he was working with Melody Maker the editor's idea of the ideal very loyal reader was somebody (male) who stayed in a town just outside Middlesbrough who didn't have a girlfriend. This was what they looked forward to every single week, this was the highlight of their week - reading Melody Maker or NME. Most of the provinces, and the towns that surround the provinces, things like the music they take a hold. Punk was still strong for a long time up here. Acid house was still very strong up here. The Scottish hardcore scene, the happy hardcore scene, it is basically acid house what 'oi' was to punk - it's that kind of boom boom boom all the time. It's just taking the basic elements. Things like that do stick longer in the provinces. We rely more on this. We don't have the same input from friends and all that to change us. My friends who I talk with about records are very good but there's not an awful lot. It's not a matter of somebody saying 'Have you heard this great new record?' and all that sort of stuff. That doesn't happen all the time. It happens with my good friends fairly regularly but then again I'm getting the same sources as they are - through the radio, through the papers, whatever. It's not a case of people I know going to clubs and saying 'I heard this great tune at a club blah blah blah'. Again the money thing came into it. You didn't have the money to go out and see too many bands. You can also tie that in to a love of the journalists from the music press at that time. The stalwarts - the Nick Kents, the Charles Shaar Murrays, the people who came in with punk, particularly Tony Parsons, Julie Burchill and Paul Morley - a 'Manchester' man, still a big hero of mine. He could have done anything. I once sent stuff off to NME where I reviewed a couple of records. It didn't get printed. It was probably rubbish. That was just after my mother died.
Gordon Legge in conversation with Steve Redhead

Thursday, August 07, 2014

God Save The Kinks by Rob Jovanovic (Aurum Press 2013)

Raymond Douglas Davies was born 21 June 1944 and, with six older sisters to coo over him, was instantly the star of the show. The girls used to take turns walking around with him to try and get him to sleep, and would play the gramaphone to help him settle. But his position as baby of the family did not last long.

Shortly after the end of the war, Annie was pregnant again, and Ray's brother, David Russell Gordon Davies, arrived on 3 February 1947. 'Ray's probably resented me since he was three years old,' said Dave. 'I fucked it up for him. He was the baby of the family, the centre of attention for three years. Then I cam along and stole his thunder.'

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie (Hard Case Crime 2005)

The day he found out his daughter was dead, Joe Hope was at Cooper's flat watching horse racing on Channel 4. Joe's filly was a couple of lengths off the pace with less than two furlongs to go. He yawned and cupped his hand over his mouth. They'd been working late. It was early afternoon, Joe had had hardly any sleep and by now the adrenaline of the previous night had all but drained away. He was hot and tired and thinking about saying goodbye and going home.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Tramps, Workmates and Revolutionaries edited by H. Gustav Klaus (Journeyman Press 1993)

The military had taken control of the tiny station, but he hung about aimlessly, thinking to be of service to the indifferent officers. As the day waned parties of troops filed out of the village, 'pickets' the officers called them. They would be on the watch, he thought for  . . . for federals, bands of fellows like Nat Sayer, Jimmy Algood, Geoffry Field and young Chris Wrigley, and others who had gone from Wickworth. It wasn't pleasant to think of their being shot down by these crisp soldiers. Somehow they seemed too much alike, the troops and the rebel villagers. But it was no business of his, Ben Thatcher's; he was a loyal subject - never got himself mixed up with politics.
(from 'Sabotage' by H. R. Barbor)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cassidy's Girl by David Goodis (Blackmask 1951)

Cassidy turned. He looked at Shealy. He said quietly, “What's wrong with you?”

Shealy did not reply. He was sending his eyes through Cassidy's eyes and trying to see the core of Cassidy's mind.

“All right,” Cassidy said. “Let's hear the sad music.”

The white-haired man folded his arms and gazed past Cassidy's shoulder and said, “Leave her alone, Jim.”

“For what good reason?”

“She's helpless. She's a sick girl.”

“I know that,” Cassidy said. “That's why I won't leave her alone. That's why I'm staying with her.” He hadn't meant to state his complete plans, but now, as though Shealy was challenging him, he met the challenge and said bluntly, “I won't be going back to Mildred. I'll never be with Mildred again. From now on you'll find me living with Doris.”

Shealy moved toward the ladder and gazed up at the top shelf where the sweaters and working pants were stacked. His eyes were appraising and finally he seemed to be satisfied with the arrangement. But he went on looking up there at the merchandise as he said, “Why not take it further than that? If you're out to help all the poor creatures of the world, why don't you found a mission?”

“You go to hell,” Cassidy said. He started toward the door.

“Wait, Jim.”

“Wait nothing. I come in to say good morning and you give me the needles.”

“You didn't come in to say good morning.” Shealy was with him at the door and not allowing him to open it. “You come in because you want assurance. You want me to tell you that you're doing right.”

“You? I need you to tell me?” Cassidy tried a sarcastic smile. All that showed was a scowl as he said, “What makes you so important?”

“The fact that I'm out of it,” Shealy replied. “Entirely out of the show. Just a one-man audience, sitting in the balcony. That gives me a full view. I can see it from every angle.”

Cassidy grimaced impatiently. “Quit the syrup, will you? Talk plain.”

“All right, Jim. I'll make it as plain as I can. I'm just a worn-out rumhead, slowly rotting away. But there's one thing left alive in me, one thing working and holding me in line. That's my brains. It's my brains and only my brains telling you to keep away from Doris.”

Here we go, Cassidy said to the wall. “Now it starts with the preaching.”

“Me preach?” And Shealy laughed. “Not me, Jim. Anyone but me. I lost my sense of moral values a long time ago. The credo I hold today is based on simple arithmetic, nothing more. We can all survive and get along if we can just add one and one and get two.”

“What's that got to do with me and Doris?”

“If you don't leave her alone,” Shealy said, “she won't survive.”