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20th Century Notts: 1997-1999

John Baird
Fri 9 Nov, 2018

Our journey through the last century comes to an end with another eclectic mix of storytelling.

1997

Dark Forest by Frank Palmer (1997)

For over two decades Frank Palmer was the Daily Mirror’s man in the East Midlands. Before that he had worked for the Daily Express where he once wrote the front and back page leads on the same day. Palmer took early retirement in the early ‘90s and wrote sixteen detective novels that were popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Half of his books featured D.I. 'Jacko' Jackson, and the other half, the Nottingham cop Phil 'Sweeney' Todd, introduced in Dark Forest. Both Palmer’s leads boast humanity and humour. In Dark Forest, a blast from a killer's shotgun has left 'Sweeney' Todd lame, disillusioned and seeking a discharge from the force. After his hot-tempered lawyer offers Todd employment on a missing person's case, he soon finds himself in the cut-throat world of commercial drug manufacturing.

After Palmer’s death in 2007, the Nottingham branch of the National Union of Journalists unveiled a memorial bench at Keyworth Cricket Club, bearing his familiar greeting “Ey up sunshine”.

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Written by Nottingham’s William Ivory, Common As Muckis a BBC comedy drama about the lives of a crew of refuse collectors. Running for two series it was nominated both times for a BAFTA, for Best Drama Series. The ratings winner - first screened in 1994 - featured Lesley Sharp, Tim Healy, Kathy Burke, Douglas Henshall and Saeed Jaffrey amongst the cast, as well as Edward Woodward as the group’s leader. The rebellious gang must cope with the realities of privatisation as they battle the suited bureaucrats at the council.

1998

Love Lessons by David Belbin (1998)

Rachel, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, and her new English teacher, twenty-three-year-old Mike, begin a love affair in which a fantasy becomes a nightmare. They become too close during a school drama rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet, and for never was a story of more woe than when love between pupil and teacher doeth grow. Constantly in fear of being found out, the star-crossed lovers make plans and promises they find difficult to keep. Set in Nottingham, Love Lessons is a brave and thought-provoking YA novel, originally written for adults.

For many years David Belbin was the programme leader of Nottingham Trent University's Creative Writing MA, and he led the successful bid for Nottingham to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

“He’s not paid to look at me the way he looked at me today,” Kate retorted. “You know what else he did? As I was leaving, he winked at me.” (from Love Lessons)

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Published in 1998, Beyond the Wall is an anthology of prison writing from 28 inmates from Nottingham Prison. The book of short stories and poems was edited by David Swann, the then writer-in-residence at Perry Road’s H.M.P. Nottingham. In 2010 Swann wrote a book based on his experiences in the prison entitled The Privilege of Rain. He has been shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.

1999

The Marsh King's Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick (1999)

At the age of ten, Elizabeth Chadwick came to Nottingham. That was back in 1967 and she has lived here ever since, writing award winning and best-selling historical fiction since 1990. The Marsh King’s Daughter is set during the time of King John and among his rebellious nobles is young Nicholas de Caen. Captured and injured, Nicholas ends up at a nunnery where he is nursed by Miriel of Wisbech, a woman itching to break free from her restrictive lot. Shedding light on the blood-stained Middle Ages, Elizabeth Chadwick’s novels mix fact and fiction, romance and religion, bringing history to life.

It was a glorious May morning in the world at large – soft, balmy and harmonious. At the home of Edward Weaver in Lincoln, however, a violent storm was raging. (from The Marsh King’s Daughter)

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Giles Croft became Artistic Director at the Nottingham Playhouse in this year, a position he would hold for 18 years, increasing the theatre’s in-house productions from 6 to 14 per year, and producing more than 50 new plays. His directing credits include Polygraph (2001), Any Means Necessary (2016) and the European premiere of The Kite Runner (2013). He also oversaw the implementation of the Nottingham European Arts & Theatre Festivals (neat).

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