I can't believe I've done all this blogging and not gone on about H.E.Bates. Many will know of him through the adaptations his son filmed of the Larkin novels (as pictured here) starring David Jason, and indeed it is on these books that his fame mostly rests. But Bates is much, much more than this, and is well worth tracking down. I continually go back to his writing, particularly the short stories and novellas, and as a start I would thoroughly recommend The Lighthouse (from Colonel Julian 1951) and The Grass God (from The Nature of Love 1953). H.E.Bates was born in Rushden in 1905 and many of his early stories are set around this Northamptonshire boot and shoe town, and in the neighbouring Ouse Valley. As his work sold he moved to Kent, and it is here that his English war and post-war stories are mainly located. His economic style is perfectly suited to his bucolic story-telling of Hardyesque figures in the landscape, although I think the sun shines more in Bates' Kent than in Hardy's Wessex. I first came across him when many of the stories were televised in the early 70s in a series called Country Matters, but I must confess my interest heightened greatly when my uncle (who knew Bates in his newspaper days) complained to me that the novelist seemed inappropriately obsessed with girls' breasts. I think I ran all the way to the bookshop.
Alan Aldridge: Tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
22 hours ago