Just finished reading Lord Alf. All I can say is.
It was a BLOODY GOOD READ. Hurry up and write some more like it. History, with humour only in a way a true English man can do it.
An English man with the same taste in humour as yourself. Thanks for a truly great book.”
The past year has been spent putting together my first novel LORD ALF. Falling in the genre of The History Boys and The Full Monty, the book is an introspective look into 1980’s Britain. It combines the experiences of a bunch of lads leaving senior school on their way to university with a nineteenth century literary genius and one of those quintessential British disasters, The Charge of the Light Brigade.
The title LORD ALF is taken from Lord Alfred Tennyson, the second most quoted man in the English Language. A brilliant author and poet who laid down many pieces of work that are still studied in schools today. One of his most famous pieces, The Charge of the Light Brigade used to be taught by rote in British schools; the whole class standing up from their wooden desks to recite from memory the harried lines that recalled the disastrous charge made by British Cavalry during the Crimean War.
By combining the story of Jake, our protagonist and 1980’s school boy, with that of Tennyson, a brilliant mind struggling with public adoration and a severe case of writers block, the book breathes fresh life into The Charge. Set against the backdrop of the Crimean war and Victorian Britain we also follow the fortunes of Jarvis, a trooper, who rides in the charge and experiences the horrors of short sighted empirical conquest.
Below is a brief description of the story with an excerpt from the book plus a preview of the first chapter
The hammer is poised, the metal is hot and the atmosphere in the auditorium is electric. The boys burst through the dry ice, on to the stage, and into their routine. Tennyson’s charge comes alive; a hoof-thundering dash of British humor, classic literature, wailing guitars, and schoolboy inadequacy.
It’s the end of the school year, exams are finished, and Jake and his mates are going out with a bang. The sixth form ‘Blast’ is ahead of them as the lads prepare for one final blow out. Ending their time at ‘Woldcroft Comprehensive’ and taking their rightful place in the annals of high-school history before disappearing to leafy college nowheres. They have practiced, they are word perfect, the act is finely tuned, and they sort of look the part!
‘Lord Alf’ traces the experiences not only of the boys’ performance, but of a soldier who actually rode in the charge, Tennyson himself, and his creation ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade.’ The story unfolds in the corridors of an English secondary school with all the foibles of a depressed Thatcher Britain. It takes us across the battlefields of the Crimea, placing the reader in the center of the charge, and walks the reader through the streets of Victorian England.
‘Lord Alf’ documents the quirks of British adolescence in a dwindling age of empire, a riveting story which shows depth, historical nuance, emotion and humor. It espouses the wastage of war and compares and contrasts the social issues of Victorian England with the modern age.
‘Lord Alf’ is a novel of 100K words, crafted with a flavor of ‘The History Boys’, and ‘The Full Monty.’
Excerpt from LORD ALF.
Russell watched as the cannon on both sides of the valley opened fire on the oncoming cavalry, seeing the flash of the guns and hearing the low rumble of the report as the canon was brought to bear. Vast spaces opened up in the ranks of the first wave of horsemen, the deadly iron balls carving a path through the living flesh of man and beast. Huge gouts of earth were thrown up, the valley was filled with dust and smoke, and yet through his lens he watched as the cavalrymen closed ranks, filling the gaps that had been riven between them by the Russian shot. He saw their sword arms extended, the muted cries on their lips, their lances poised for impact. The riders were at full charge now, pushing their horses toward the end of the valley and the waiting Russian guns.
The Russians opened up with everything they had. Not only were the British being bombarded from either flank but were raked with full frontal cannon fire. He counted the canon flashes, their must have been upwards of thirty guns, all with their fire belching snouts spewing their deadly loads in the direction of the doomed cavalry. It was a formidable redoubt that should have been assaulted by infantry supported by cavalry not by cavalry alone. Sheer lunacy that defied logic and went against all military prudence; how could they ever hope to succeed, how could any of them survive? Russell listened as the civilian spectators, men and women with picnic blankets laid and clutching glasses of wine, applauded and ‘Tally-hoed’ the British efforts; this was one spectacle they would never forget. In contrast the military personnel, who stood around a now clearly panicked Lord Raglan, were struck dumb, understanding completely the consequences of the Light Brigade’s actions. A French officer attached to Raglan’s staff muttered something under his breath, “C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre!”
The cavalry had somehow managed to reach the end of the valley and were now amongst the Russian gunners who were running for their lives. The boom of canon had stopped and the surviving horsemen were cutting and hacking their way through the grey clad enemy, exacting their revenge for the fallen comrades who even now lay on the valley floor. There was no escape. Russians tried to hide under gun carriages but were prodded and poked by the lancers who speared them like fish. Running men in long grey overcoats were chased down and sabred by the blood lusted British who carried death with them at the point of a sword. Swords rose and fell and the British cavalry turned like a school of mackerel as they pursued and harried the hapless gunners; the bright silver of their swords flashing in the sun as they slashed and stabbed at the enemy. A bugle call sounded faintly in the distance and Russell watched as the horsemen turned and pointed their mounts in the direction from which they had come.
“Mad bastards,” thought Russell, “poor brave mad bastards. What the hell had they been thinking?”
The surviving Russian gunners were returning to their canon, dragging the corpses of their comrades from the gun carriages and picking up their dropped tools. Sponging out the long barrels, packing their charges, and ramming home the canister and chain shot which would destroy the retreating British racing for home. Slowly the guns began to fire the report of shot reaching the ears of the spectators on the Heights. Urgency took over the transfixed spectators who willed and shouted the cavalry to safety, urging them on to ride faster as they embraced the desperate deadly day at the races which was unfolding before them; shot and steel scythed down the survivors like corn at harvest time.
Russian cavalry had come to the aid of the gunners, joining the melee in an attempt to prevent the British cavalry from escaping. The remains of the Light Brigade rode on, tearing and ripping a path to safety. Russell watched as one cavalryman brought down his sabre on a grey coated rider who crumpled and fell to the ground. He saw cavalrymen tearing at the air as though attempting to climb invisible ladders as the cannon fire caught them from the rear. Then unexpectedly, canon erupted in a coordinated barrage delivering death and destruction into the massed ranks of both Russian and British, the iron shot unable to distinguish between friend and foe, smashing through the packed ranks, shredding the bloodied bodies to pieces.
MR. TREVOR (WOLDCROFT COMPREHENSIVE:1984)
C.R.JAMES 2010 (c)
ALL RIGHTS REMAIN WITH AUTHOR.
Once upon a time in Yorkshire…….
England, Yorkshire. June 14th 1984…
The sound of guitars filled the gymnasium – the raw electric of second-hand Stratocasters bouncing off the wooden trestles, assaulting the ear drums of the captive audience. Two Led Zep songs, followed by something the band had written in a religious education class brought the first and last performance of the very nearly famous Agricultural Anarchy to an end. Parents stood and applauded, the Upper Sixth, the graduating class, going bananas in a way that only an Upper Sixth can! The mix of medieval witch hunting fervor and borderline mental illness continued as cameras flashed in the darkness, cigarette lighters sparkled, and the musically inarticulate called out for more. Only too happy to oblige the band broke into a well-practiced medley of both of Gary Glitter’s hits!
The Upper Sixth Blast was the climax of seven years of hard labor or rather the final hurrah before dispersal to green college campus pamphlets or whatever else the real world had in store for them. Their formative years at Woldcroft Comprehensive forever behind them, only to be remembered in brain-addled reverence when reunion envelopes were pushed through letter boxes every five years.
Mr. Trevor stood at the side of the stage jabbing a frenetic finger at his watch – he’d explicitly told them no encores. Didn’t they understand he still had the Woodwind Club, the Lone-Juggler and the Literature Society to exhibit? More importantly if things didn’t start to hop along a bit he’d miss last orders down at the The Feathers on George Street – a thought he didn’t relish, as a pint of Wickster’s Old Particular and an initial meeting with the possibly lovely Ms. White(‘Sleepless in Yorkshire’) created a poignant sense of urgency. Having weighed both delights in his mind he wasn’t sure if it was the brown foaming nectar or the as yet unseen pen-pal correspondent that had him all of a dither.
Mr. Trevor was not an attractive man. Years of teaching state-funded education along with copious amounts of beer had left him with bursting shirt buttons and a weak bladder. He’d been single now for just over three years, ever since Mrs.Trevor had run off with her tantric instructor to Bridlington. Bloody Sting had a lot to answer for! He consoled himself with his Real Ale Society membership and his weekly game of snooker with the metal-work teacher, Mr. Thorpe. A fellow sad bastard and brother in pathetic loss!
Woldcroft, an austere building, was built by the socially conscious Victorians back in the 1880’s. Although originally meant to facilitate the children of the small market town, the school had expanded over the years to accommodate the middling classes who’d moved into the area, rather like a giant hamster’s playground – a labyrinth of add-ons, pre-fab’s and trailers. Despite the changes separate entrance gates for boys and girls still stood as archaic sentinels, guarding against any impropriety between the now unsegregated sexes. The gates were connected by a four-foot-high stone wall that had once been the base for a wrought-iron fence. Now long gone, only rusting stumps of metal were still visible. The railings had been removed during the war to help Britain in its hour of need to manufacture Spitfire parts and heavier munitions to kill more Germans. Time had marched on, the second war to end all wars done and dusted. With the rise of the welfare-state the school had been the recipient of a moderate amount of government expenditure. New tax-funded amenities included a gymnasium, a science block, and an information technology center- or the Space-Invaders room as the pupils liked to call it. Despite bureaucratic neglect and financial misappropriation of funds by the Tories for some member’s duck pond in middle England, Woldcroft Comprehensive had scraped by.
The standing joke in the small Yorkshire town of Pickerington was the last time anything had been refurbished was when some Jerry bomber had jettisoned its load over the local fertilizer factory. The Luftwaffe pilot, trying to escape the wrath of a revengeful Pole in an R.A.F. Hurricane, released his bombs in a desperate attempt to maneuver a little faster. It wasn’t until the Polish pilot’s cannon shells ripped through the aircraft’s canopy that Oberflieg Offizier Heinz Lachbech realized the game was up!
The bombs crashed to earth – or rather they crashed through the roof of J.S.Emmett and Son, killing two Italian P.O.W.s who thought they’d got it made! Offering protected work to the local population Emmett’s had been the major employer in the area, thanks to the potentially war winning product it produced. Britain’s necessity for the nitrogen-ammonia mix meant Emmett’s was vital to the war effort. The nurture of fertile pastures and bigger turnips paramount in defeating fascism and ensuring Nazi Jackboots never trampled England’s pastures green.
Because the factory closed, the local malingerers who prided themselves on being war workers were forced into the ranks. Two of them actually made it onto Sword Beach, one even making it to the wire above the sand dunes. Hitler probably rued the day he’d bombed Emmett’s, realizing in the closing years of the war that this had undoubtedly been the defining turning point, the start of his own demise.
The anthem to rock and roll drew to a hellish drum soloing close – the stage now ready to be cleared. As the last of the denim jacketed anarchists waved to his mum, the heavy brigade moved into position. The instruments had to be removed for the Lone Juggler, the drums and smoke machine manhandled behind the curtain. The self-styled roadies, a bunch of lads too savvy for class who’d managed to accumulate at least one G.C.S.E. between them, were dressed in black t-shirts, embossed with the legend ‘Class of ’84’, replete with grinning skull and crossbones. Moving with military precision across squeaking stage boards with as few expletives as possible the boys safely stowed the gear. Apart from the single deafening roar of a cymbal crashing to the ground the execution was impeccable.
Mr. Trevor was pleased – his prospects for a timely conclusion looked positive. The audience coughing had gradually died down after the emergency exit had been opened to clear the fog from the smoke machine. Only the shrill sound of the emergency exit warning still hung in the gymnasium. Yes, things were shaping up nicely and ‘Sleepless in Yorkshire’looked like she was in the bag. The juggler made his way onto the stage and even the sight of a bouncing rubber ball escaping the juggler’s accomplished grasp could not dampen Mr. Trevor’s spirits.
Lights, camera, action! Like a well-oiled machine. Trevor congratulated himself on his organizational skills, vowing to celebrate with a pickled egg and a bag of cheese and onion crisps when he finally reached The Feathers. Thank God this was the last night. After three months of practice and preparation, dress rehearsals, and final nights he was exhausted. His absence in the pub had been remarked upon. He hoped his video recorder had turned on as Chelsea was playing tonight, and a win at Stamford Bridge would wrap things up nicely. What a shame Mrs. Trevor hadn’t stayed to witness his multitasking brilliance and organizational ability.