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Saturday, 20 July 2019

BOOK REVIEW - A RIVER OF BODIES BY KEVIN DOYLE

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 
Published CV available on request.
joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan



A River of Bodies
by
Kevin Doyle

The Blackstaff Press

'Noelie Sullivan, disaffected ex-punk and grassroots activist, has every reason to be afraid.  His investigation into Danesfort Industrial School and the boys who went missing from it is attracting attention. Special Branch want him to disappear and he's made enemies of the powerful Walsh and Donnelly families. But Noeli is determined to get to the truth. He won't walk away. At least that's what he tells himself until his friends and family start paying the price.

A River of Bodies is the gripping sequel to To Keep a Bird Singing and the second part of Kevin Doyle's Solidarity Books trilogy.'

I have not read the first book of this trilogy and I may have been disadvantaged by missing out on back story details and character connections but as a stand-alone novel A River of Bodies works extremely well. It didn't take long to get me up to enough speed to understand what drives the plot.

I like thrillers where the reader feels part of the gang, in this case a group of like-minded people out to uncover child abusers from the past. I was drawn in to their world, enjoying being party to their secrecy and plans.

Mix together the dark abusive side of the Catholic Church, local gangsters, corrupt cops, undercover shenanigans and mysterious deaths and there is a concoction of murky deceit, lies and cover-ups to make retrospective investigations feel like a mission impossible.

But Noelie Sullivan and his cohorts have good personal reasons and much determination to cope with dead-ends and blind alleys. They operate in a world where trust is never certain, even amongst themselves. They disagree. They argue. They console and reassure each other. They hit the ropes and bounce back. They suffer loss. They find themselves in cul-de-sacs. But they get lucky too. And, whilst failure outweighs success as they plough on, they gradually pull enough strings together to get as good an explanation of the past as possible, to identify the names of guilty individuals and to gather enough evidence to hopefully deliver justice.

A River of Bodies is well-researched and well-written. The main characters are interesting personalities, with Noelie as the central 'lost soul' guy trying hard to decide what to do with the rest of his life. The writing has addictive pace, the plot thickens nicely, and as it is part of a trilogy, book two ends with a cliffhanger. Damn it! Now I'm hooked!!

Kevin Doyle is to be congratulated for producing a thoroughly entertaining and edgy novel. 

Monday, 15 July 2019

BOOK REVIEW: TWELVE THOUSAND DAYS BY EILIS NI DHUIBHNE

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 
Published CV available on request.
joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan





















Twelve Thousand Days
A Memoir of Love and Loss

by

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne

The Blackstaff Press


Éilís Ní Dhuibhne's candid and moving memoir tells the story of her thirty-year relationship with the love of her life, internationally renowned folklorist Bo Almqvist, capturing brilliantly the compromises and adjustments and phases of their relationship.

Twelve Thousand Days is a remarkable story about love, grief and time, shot through with wry and sharp observations on Irish life, culture and morality.

One of a number of events I attended during the 2019 Belfast Book Festival featured Éilís Ní Dhuibhne talking about her memoir, Twelve Thousand Days, the approximate amount of time she knew Bo Almqvist. It was a mesmerising conversation with Bernie McGill, emphasising the depth and strength of a loving relationship from its exciting beginning through to some desperate, frustrating and heartbreaking times in Bo's final years of illness exasperated by health service incompetence. 

But love shines through the book, a love of stories, of travel, of two people: 'I was in love, in love with Bo. I had been in love with him for a long time, in a way, ever since I had read in his eyes that his heart was broken. And there were other reasons. His good looks. His Swedishness. His enthusiasm, brilliance, learning. His fearless and confidence and wit.'

There are other passages in the book of great warmth and happy times with family and friends, and of many irritations and red anger at the way her husband was treated, or rather not treated in hospital. 'Bo suffered and untimely, painful, and unnecessary death. It is difficult for me not to think of the Irish public health service - sloppy, careless, and ageist - as a murder machine.'

The desperately sad ending to the memoir - the feeling of guilt: 'Bo stepped on a weak spot in the health service. The thin ice gave way. He was pulled to the bottom, and I could not save him' - is tempered in a way by the eventual acceptance that grief needs to be recognised and managed on a road to coping with the loss and allowing life to go on. It is handled sensitively and emotionally in the wonderfully descriptive, poetic and always honest writing. 

There is much joy here and much sorrow too. As a reader accompanying Éilís Ní Dhuibhne on her journey, it has been easy to smile along with the good times and impossible not to shed a tear on the other path.

I recommend her book highly, and I will treasure my signed copy. 









Wednesday, 10 July 2019

MEL BLANC, THE MAN OF A 1000 VOICES

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan


The sublime voice actor, Melvin Jerome Blanc, died at 81 thirty years ago today. He was, is and will forever be the cartoon king, at least to my generation. He was the voice of (deep breath):

Bugs Bunny
Daffy Duck
Tweety Bird
Sylvester the Cat
Pepe Le Pew
Porky Pig
Yosemite Sam
Wile E. Coyote
Road Runner
Foghorn Leghorn
Barney Rubble
Mr Spacely
Woody Woodpecker

and many, many others in the golden age of TV cartoon shows.

He was born in San Francisco in 1908. He started out on a radio career in 1927, using his talent for voices in variety shows, including those of Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello and Burns and Allen. He built a reputation as a versatile voice actor and was snapped up by Warner Brothers (Looney Tunes) and later, Hanna-Barbera (The Flintstones and The Jetsons). His place in television and cinema history is secure. There was no one like him and today, I salute him for his talent and for the hours and hours of entertainment he provided with all those quirky, unforgettable voices.

He died on 10 July, 1989 and is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This is his gravestone.



Monday, 8 July 2019

MARTY FELDMAN



eyE Marty
The Newly Discovered Autobiography Of A Comic Genius
by
Marty Feldman
Coronet
2015

Marty Feldman was born on 8 July 1934 and died after a heart attack on 2 December 1982, aged 48. This autobiography was discovered 30 years after his passing. “None of his writing has been changed and all of his attachments have been included,” says Mark Flanagan, trustee of the Marty Feldman estate.

“I can never see myself as an old man, not because I don’t want to but because I just don’t feel my distance will be that far.”

“My looks are my comic equipment, and they are the right packaging for my job. Not the right packaging for a brain surgeon or the pilot of a 747, but I have the right packaging for a clown.”

I must admit I had forgotten about Marty Feldman but as soon as I was aware of this book and saw his distinctive features on the cover, a lot of very fond memories came flooding back.  His wild and crazy TV shows were, in the main, big hits and at least half of his ten or so films were popular successes. He was always a writer first and then a reluctant performer when he was encouraged to take centre stage.

Marty Feldman was the son of Jewish immigrants and saw himself as a solitary child, a sort of odd-one-out as a kid in the war years when he, the city boy from the East End of London, was farmed out to country families as an evacuee. He left school at fifteen and worked in a Margate funfair before getting the showbiz bug writing and performing as part of a whacky variety trio. He developed a huge love for jazz and in his early years as a budding musician, he was considered to be the worst trumpet player in the world. His passion to learn and his devotion to jazz kept growing throughout his life. He got some gigs with bands and made some money but, more often than not he would have no idea where he was going to sleep or what he was going to eat on any given day or night. But, it seemed, nothing was going to get in the way of his independent spirit.

He had the good fortune to meet, befriend and eventually collaborate with Barry Took, the two occasional performers finding their niche as a brilliant writing team. They wrote for “The Army Game” and “Bootsie and Snudge” on television and “Round The Horne” on radio. 
Marty Feldman became script editor on “The Frost Report” and one of his many classic sketches involved John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett doing the famous “I look down on him, I look up to him” sketch. He was firmly part of the group that became Monty Python and included John Lennon, Harry Nilsson and Ian McShane amongst his closest pals.

His TV career as writer/performer hit gold with “Marty”, a series of sketches and was followed up with more of the same, pacy, crazy and very funny shows loved by millions. (There’s a ton of Marty Feldman stuff on YouTube.)
He moved to Hollywood with his wife Lauretta, “the love of my life”, and first with Gene Wilder and then with Mel Brooks, he found a new lease of life as an actor and a new level of fame worldwide in movies. He liked Los Angeles but found out fairly quickly that you are only as good as your last film’s box office receipts. His most famous role was as Igor (pronounced Eye-gor) in Young Frankenstein. He also featured in “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother”, “Silent Movie” and “The Last Remake of Beau Geste”. He died during the production of the pirate film “Yellowbeard”, a project that included his friends Graham Chapman, Peter Boyle, Peter Cook, Eric Idle and many others. His body was laid to rest in the Hollywood Hills Cemetery in a grave close to that of his comedy idol Buster Keaton.

This is a beautifully written book with a flowing narrative style, descriptive, funny in parts and told from the heart. Occasionally, the flow is paused for poems about love and life with all its distractions, foibles and beauty. On the whole it is a happy autobiography but it is difficult not to read it without a degree of sadness now that Marty Feldman is no longer with us. Towards the end of the book he gets more reflective about politics, religion and the absurdities of life. But the overriding features of his story are twofold; he was happy in his own skin as a clown and he loved his wife Lauretta to bits.

It is amazing and wonderful that Mark Flanagan not only found this book but also that he ensured it was published as a lasting tribute to Marty Feldman, a journeyman writer whose life’s path took him from the golden age of radio comedy in the 1950s to the British comedy explosion in the 1960s to the heights of Hollywood in the 1970s.


It is not exaggerating to say he was unique.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

REQUEST FOR EDITORIAL HELP

Over the years I have tried to write short stories, amongst other things from 500-word flash to 2,500-word efforts. Like a lot of writers, I assume, I know what I want to say but I can't always seem to find the right way to say, shaping the tales so that they appeal to editors/publishers and competition judges.

In recent times, I have had five published but I want to strengthen my writing credentials in this area.

So, by way of this blog post, I am looking for an editor(s), proven professional(s), reasonably priced to help me get my stories into respectable conditions for submission.

I need some background (not a lot - a very mini-CV) and a quotation price along these lines (just ballpark figures - we can agree on actual fees later depending on the actual word lengths):

Edit 500 words - £

Edit 1,000 words - £

Edit 1,500 words - £

Edit 2,000 words - £

Edit 2,500 words - £

Any and all responses will be appreciated, and replied to. I am not a bottomless pit but I do want to get my stories out there.

With the right choice and relationship, this could be a long-term arrangement.

If interested, please contact me via joecushnan@aol.com.

Thank you.

👍

Portfolio of published features, reviews, some poetry, some fiction.

Friday, 5 July 2019

NEW POETRY - POTENTIAL BY ISABELLE KENYON


Drawing your attention to a forthcoming chapbook publication:


Potential by Isabelle Kenyon

It is available from 12 July 2019.

Isabelle is not only a published poet. She is also a freelance editor (she once did a great job for me), a book marketing consultant and Managing Director of Fly on the Wall Press. Some links below.



Published as part of the much-loved Ghost City Press summer series, Isabelle Kenyon's micro chapbook is a brave and prickly collection which touches on a new relationship, the-thing-between-her-legs and sexual assault. Light in tone, it is an exploration of the wonderful and the horrible things which can occur alongside love.

Here's a sample poem:
******

Playing House 

For five days I pretend the key is mine 
I take friends to your flat for coffee; 
I make breakfast and eat at your desk. 

For five days I leave hair on all surfaces available to me, 
like glitter you cannot erase them; 
like snakes they spool around your fingers. 

For five days I tolerate all your rules of cooking,
unnecessary appliances, over – salted water and diluted soaps –
I itch to make your mess mine; your space mine.

******

Fly on the Wall site:

Signed print copies:

Ebook version:

Good luck with it, Isabelle! 👍


BELFAST NEWSPAPER ADVERTISEMENTS CIRCA 1960

Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too. 

joecushnan@aol.com & @JoeCushnan

A while ago, I paid several research visits to the splendid Belfast newspaper archives, down the side of the Central Library and couldn't help but notice that, in the early 1960s, advertisements dominated front pages. Here's a few to show how the world changes.



'The most wonderful gift a wife could wish for...' 
A woman's place and all that back in the day. I can feel the heat of boiling blood from 2019!


WANTED - Dead or Alive
'Free collection service throughout N Ireland.
Live animals humanely destroyed by our agent before removal.
Prompt payment for all carcasses over 3 cwt, degutted.'


Ciggies for Christmas. 'The ideal gift'.


More ciggies for Christmas. '7'6 for 50'


'Where are they off to in such a hurry? They're off to the corner cafe where they'll meet their boyfriends and have a glass of milk, the way the young do these days.'


You looking' at me? Ciggies are cool!


'What a disgrace! Muddy boots, in and out, and the doorstep's filthy again. So first things first - get it clean before the neighbours see, and then take in the milk. Pour a pinta. Sip it slowly. Feel the better for its pure cool creaminess, and then get cleaning again.' Ha, ha, ha. You almost feel they were going to add: WOMAN!


Ciggies are romantic.


'He really does think she is beautiful. They've been out dancing several Saturdays now and each time he's fallen for her a little bit more. Now he's almost prepared to say so! Dancing's fun - but in the circumstances so is just sitting and talking. And sipping a long cool pinta. When he's had his, anyway, he reckons he can out-twist anyone in the room - and she can keep up with him and look beautiful doing it.'


Did I mention, ciggies are romantic?

There's a treasure trove of nostalgia in the newspaper archives. Might be a few articles or even a book about the good old bad old days!