Arthur is a light piece about being married to a writer. In it we meet the long suffering wife of ACD, and hear her thoughts on his passion for words. As we hear, the life of being married to the man who would become one of the most famous writers in the world is not all fun. There are, as in many houses, pants on the floor that men ignore!
Zella Compton is a playwright, columnist, novelist and occasional poet. She is widely published and a Creative Lab Associate Artist with the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth. Having recently completed a musical commission for Hampshire Music Service – Ambition – Zella is currently funded by the Arts Council as Mary Rose Museum’s Playwright in Residence. She teaches creative writing at the NTR and for Authors Abroad (agency).
In 2017, Zella will be writing a piece about the Mary Rose, and has several other writing projects in the pipeline.
Plays: Five Beaches, How to be a Girl, Genghis, The Girl in the Hood, Brotherly Love, The Devil’s Rope (all published by Resources4drama)
Books: The Ten Rules of Skimming (published by Mogzilla)
Portsmouth Fairy Tales (published by Life Is Amazing)
Print: The News, The Times, The Sun, The Herald, Build It, Golfers Guide to Scotland, Your Wedding, Hiya!, Professional Builders Merchant, Professional Builder plus many more titles.
The fact that Conan Doyle spent time in Southsea and he created Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson whilst he was living here inspired me to write my story of sinister retribution, called Dear John. I used the twisted mind of a so-called madwoman to weave this dark story – and I have to add, it’s purely from my imagination. Relatives of Doyle should therefore not be disturbed or offended by its dark tone!
After completing an MA in Creative Writing, Christine published her first novel, Caught in the Web. She is now about to finish her second novel, Payback which she plans to publish this year. She is passionate about writing, playwriting, acting and directing, runs the wardrobe at Titchfield Festival Theatre. She particularly enjoys performing her own writings and meeting people. She writes at www.southwickwriterwoman.blogspot.co.uk
Christine was one of the authors involved in the Portsmouth Bookfest 20 x 12, has short stories published in Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown-ups, and Day of the Dead. She has performed at events including the Victorious Festival, Portsmouth Plugged-in, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Day of the Dead, I,II and IIIat the Square Tower and several other locations in Portsmouth, including the Guildhall, The Kings Theatre and the New Theatre Royal. Recently Christine was one of the fourteen writers who took part in the Writing Edward King project at Portsmouth City Museum which received Arts Council Funding. She performed her writing for this project in several venues across the City.
Caught in the Web is available on Amazon as a paperback as well as an Ebook on Kindle. It is also stocked in Blackwells, Portsmouth, Waterstones in Portsmouth and Fareham, as well as at The Book Shop Lee-on-the-Solent.
The story is called “Lawless and the Pompey Piglets.” I wrote this brief mystery for Portsmouth Fairy Tales [for Grown-Ups]. It features the hero of my novels, Victorian detective, Sergeant Campbell Lawless (known as Watchman because he was formerly a watchmaker’s apprentice).
In Holmesian vein, he is reluctantly drawn out of London by a plaintive letter from Rana Cawnpoor, a young lady sadly entrapped in the fleshpits of Spice Island, her innocence exploited and her honour besmirched. Can he rescue her and her friends, the Flea and the Ladybird?
William Sutton is a novelist, musician and Latin teacher. He has written for The Times, for radio and stage, appeared at festivals from Edinburgh to Eton College, acted in the longest play in the world, and played cricket for Brazil. He writes about language, music and futurology, plays bass for chansonnier Philip Jeays and cricket for Authors CC XI.
He is involved in Portsmouth’s DarkFest, in which he compères Day of the Dead at the Square Tower, and Portsmouth Bookfest, including Valentine’s Day Massacre.
He teaches classics. He has written for radio, stage, The Times, The Author, and magazines around the world. He plays bass in the bands of songwriter Jamie West and chansonnier Philip Jeays. He played cricket for Brazil, and occasionally opens for The Authors Cricket Club.
Historical mystery Lawless and the Flowers of Sin was one of the Mail on Sunday’s Books of 2016. Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square (Titan Books) unearths the stink beneath the cobblestones, while Lawless and the House of Electricity comes out later this year.
“Extravagant and thoroughly enjoyable” Allan Massie, The Scotsman
“An extraordinary novel.” Morning Star
10 brilliantly talented storytellers will be joined by musicians, a projectionist and a duellist on Wednesday 28th June at the Square Tower to celebrate Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in Portsmouth.
The writers who will be regaling us with their stories include internationally published authors of Victorian crime fiction, local authors with a knack for spinning the perfect yarn and song writers, too.
The story tellers are:
William George Sutton – creator of the Campbell Lawless series of crime novels
Diana Bretherick – doctor of criminology and author of City of Devils and The Devil’s Daughters
Tony Noon – experienced storyteller well-known for his appearances at the Square Tower’s Day of the Dead event
Justin MacCormack – prolific author across genres, with a wicked sense of humour and a sense of the creepy
Christine Lawrence – author of Caught In The Web, with a unique brand of story-telling
Alan Morris – joyous performer who loves to dress up in Victorian gear and regale us with something unexpected
Zella Compton – playwright, short story writer, News columnist and children’s novelist
Charlotte Comley – organiser of Lovedean Writers’ Group and one of the funniest, wryest and most brilliant tale tellers in the south.
Amanda Garrie – smooth deliverer of intriguing tales.
Find out more about the musicians and the duellists, soon.
In his book A Study In Southsea, Geoffrey Stavert traces Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in the seaside town, partially through Doyle’s fictionalised account of Southsea life in his novel The Stark Munro letters. His real-life surgery at No. 1 Bush Villas, was renamed “Oakley Villas”, while St Jude’s was newly Christened “St. Joseph’s”. Stavert writes:
At “Elmwood”, a pleasantly commodious Thomas Owen house situated just off Elm Grove between Grove Road South and the Woodpath (on part of the site now occupied by Telephone House), with lawns and hedges on three sides, lived the Reverend Charles Russell Tompkins, a curate of St Jude’s Church, Southsea. Not content with a wife and seven daughters to minister to his creature comforts, the Rev. Tompkins also maintained a cook, a housemaid and a nurse. It sounds as if St. Jude’s was a comfortable parish in 1883.
I suspect the Rev. Tompkins was the original of the un-named “High Church Curate of St. Joseph’s” whose encounter with the new tenant of Oakley Villas is described in The Stark Munro Letters. The curate had been one of the first to call after the new doctor had put up his plate, with high hopes of welcoming him to the flock, and had been considerably taken aback when he was firmly told that the doctor had no intention of becoming a regular attender at his church or any other…
Come and celebrate Conan Doyle’s life in Portsmouth at Holmes Fest on 28th June 2017 at The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth. Tickets are selling, so book your seat here before it’s too late. https://www.wegottickets.com/event/401304
One fine day towards the end of June 1882, a young man stepped ashore from a coastal steamer at Clarence Pier, at the western end of Southsea Common. He was tall, broad-shouldered, with plump cheeks, a well-developed moustache, and a pair of sharp, bold eyes which hinted that although it was only a month after his twenty third birthday, he had already been a round a bit and could look after himself nicely, thank you. He was dressed in comfortable tweeds, complete with waistcoat and stiff collar and tie, despite the time of year. With him he had all his worldly possessions: a tin box containing his top-hat (every Victorian gentleman with any pretensions to professional respectability had to have a top-hat, and consequently a box to carry it in) and a leather trunk.
It must have been a pretty heavy trunk, because not only did it contain his best suit, spare pair of boots (shoes were not commonly worn by men, being considered effeminate), linen and toilet things and a few essential books, but also a brass plate inscribed with his name and medical degree, and his photographic gear, comprising at least a large wooden box camera, separate lens, and a set of glass photographic plates. Young Doctor Conan Doyle had arrived to seek his fortune as a general practitioner in Portsmouth.
– From “A Study In Southsea”, by Geoffrey Stavert.
The Day of the Dead includes macabre, ghastly and chilling tales – all dealing with the subject of death, from writers connected with The Portsmouth Writers’ Hub. 28 strange and ghastly stories are brought to you by 20 writers, including experienced hands at crafting a spinechiller, as well as relative newcomers.
Established novelists such as William Sutton, Diana Bretherick and V H Leslie, rub shoulders with shining new talents, respected short story writers including A J Noon, Justin MacCormack, Jacqui Pack, S J Butler, Glenda Cooper, Sue Shipp, Tom Pinnock and many others.
The book is all about Death – but don’t think that it’s only a collection of dark tales. Magical stories of ghostly visitors mingle with comic tales of neighbourhood watching and cannibalism. Zombies are employed in one story to help claim an inheritance, while another is a broad comedy about a Victorian murder.
Shudder, weep, laugh… and enjoy – the authors of Day of the Dead invite you to join their celebration of all things mortal – before it’s too late.
Things have been a little quiet on the website of late, but Life Is Amazing has been pushing on with producing more of the niche books associated with Southern England, and making new friends.
Recently we had several great reviews for Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light.
Dr Tom Ruffles, writing for The Society for Psychic Research described the book as “an attractive package,” noting that:
[the book’s] real service is not just in reprinting articles and letters, valuable though that is, but locating them within the debates between those who saw Spiritualism as a new religion, those who saw it as a return to a more authentic Christianity, those who saw it as an enemy of Christianity, and those critics who saw it as an enemy of reason. There was an intense intellectual ferment, and by including material by other writers Wingett shows how Spiritualism tapped into a wider discussion about the place of religion in a world which could contain so much suffering and loss. The various threads are tied together by his impartial commentary.
One of the great journals of paranormal investigation is The Fortean Times, and Alan Murdie (Chair of The Ghost Club, 0f which Conan Doyle was also a member), wrote:
Wingett does a valuable service for scholars and historians by reproducing every article and letter that Doyle wrote for the publication between 1887 and 1920. But he also goes further in examining the impact that Doyle made and the controversies which erupted as he set forth to convince the world of the spiritualist case for survival after death.
This is a great review, though you’ll have to buy The Fortean Times number 343 to read it all, since it is not available online.
Also very positive was Roy Stemman’s review in Psychic News:
Not only does Wingett’s book give us an insight into Doyle’s thinking on a subject that he would ultimately regard as of the utmost importance to the world, but it also lifts the curtain on Spiritualism and is leading exponents in the early part of the last century.
By Celia’s Arbour by Walter Besant and James Rice is an extraordinarily vivid Victorian novel set in Portsmouth in the 1840s and 1850s. Born in Portsmouth in 1836, Besant lived in the old walled town before the ancient fortifications were pulled down, and the precise descriptions of Portsea, Portsmouth and the old Dockyard bear testimony to his intimate knowledge of his hometown.
Matt Wingett talks about Sir Walter Besant’s By Celia’s Arbour
In his talk, Matt Wingett describes the life of Walter Besant, who grew up in the shadow of St George’s Church in St George’s Square, Portsea, and the insights he provides on the Victorian town. From the rows of old sailors sitting on the The Common Hard with their peg legs, to the debauchery in the town, the vibrant Polish population and the deep sense of history in which the town is steeped. Besant makes the Portsmouth of the 1840s jump to life.
Matt Wingett celebrates the town as it once was, and gives a description of the ancient fortifications, revealing how Portsmouth was once the most heavily fortified settlement in Northern Europe.
He also delves into Besant’s rich descriptions to evoke not only the town as it once was, but the fields and massive millpond that surrounded it, and further off, the heathland of Southsea Common, that grew wild around Southsea Castle.
Besant himself was a fascinating figure. A prolific author and co-author of more than 40 novels, he was highly regarded in his day. He was cited by two fellow Portsmouth-associated writers as an inspiration – namely Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He founded the Society of Authors and was knighted for his charitable work. This talk opens a doorway into the wonderful characters and vibrant world evoked by Besant, and reveals, finally, the position of romantically named place in the fortifications where the reader first encounters the book’s protagonists: Celia’s Arbour, or the Queen’s Bastion.