30. Fictionalising recent history (part 1): Alan Parks & Eamon Somers
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30. Fictionalising recent history (part 1): Alan Parks & Eamon Somers

Fictionalising recent history (part 1): Scottish crime fiction author Alan Parks & Irish writer Eamon Somers tell We'd Like A Word presenters Paul Waters and Stevyn Colgan about how they set their stories in the recent past and get it right. Alan Parks is the author of The April Dead, published by Canongate, set in 1970s Glasgow, featuring detective Harry McCoy. According to Peter May (who we've also had on We'd Like A Word), Alan's "1970s Glasgow is hewn from flesh and drawn in blood." The Times said "Detective Harry McCoy is so noir that he makes most other Scottish cops seem light grey." Alan's books come out in the month mentioned in the title - The April Dead follows Bloody January, February's Son & Bobby March Will Live Forever. If your book is hundreds of years ago, fewer people will be able to spot your mistakes or have strong opinions on how it really was. But if, like Alan, your book is set in the 1970s, or, like Eamon, your book is set in the 1980s, brace yourself for close scrutiny. It also means there'll be as many "true" versions of your time period as there are readers who remember it. We hear how Alan and Eamon scatter subtle signals of the time - using musical references, the weather, smoking - and in Alan's case, a sinister thread on torture by members of the British military in Kenya, Malaya and Northern Ireland during the years of decolonisation. Before he was an author, Alan worked in the music industry. So we also ask about his time with Enya, New Order and All Saints. Alan's website is https://www.alanparks.co.uk

Eamon Somers is the author of Dolly Considine's Hotel, published by Unbound, which switches back and forth between the 1980s of the Irish abortion referendum and previous decades. It's inspired by his own time working in a Dublin shebeen near the Gate Theatre, where the likes of film and theatre director Peter Bogdanovich and politicians would linger for illicit drinking. Eamon was a campaigner in Ireland's fledgling gay liberation movement, serving three terms as spokesperson for Ireland’s National Gay Federation. When he moved to London he worked for a while Haringey Council’s Lesbian and Gay Unit (including the anti-Clause 28 campaign). But he says he certainly did not want to write yet another coming out misery memoir - he was determined that the gay leading character must NOT die. His website is https://www.eamonsomers.com

We also talk about why authors put racist language only in the mouths of baddies - painting too rosy a picture? And Abba, Orson Welles, Bay City Rollers, how the Scottish Liberation Front might have blocked Stiff Little Fingers from stardom (SLF), TV's Country Matters, Fat City directed by John Huston, The Red Balloon, The Graduate, how the '70s were really orange, Mau Mau, abortion, Mother Ireland & writing the past through the lens of the present.

We'd Like A Word is a podcast & radio show from authors Paul Waters & Stevyn Colgan. We talk with writers, readers, editors, agents, celebrities, talkers, poets, publishers, booksellers, audiobook creators about books - fiction & non-fiction. We go out on various radio & podcast platforms. Our website is http://www.wedlikeaword.com for information on Paul & Steve & our guests. We're also on Twitter @wedlikeaword & Facebook @wedlikeaword & our email is [email protected] Yes, we are embarrassed by the missing apostrophes. We like to hear from you - questions, thoughts, ideas, guest or book suggestions. Perhaps you'd like to come on We'd Like A Word to chat, review or read out passages from books. And if you're still stuck for something to read, may we recommend Blackwatertown by Paul Waters or The Diabolical Club by Stevyn Colgan.

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