Thursday 17 October 2019

About "An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Leicester," edited by Jon Wilkins

By Jon Wilkins

I love writing crime fiction. I also love reading crime fiction and this is the story of how reading about a Parisian private eye led to an anthology about Leicester.

Cara Black is an American Francophile who introduced detective Aimée Leduc to the world seventeen or so novels ago. Aimée has developed from a chic woman about town beating men off her to a chic one-parent mother beating off her baby’s sick and changing nappies. Her best friend Rene was relaxing and reading a book in the sixteenth novel, written about Paris by Georges Perec. Rene was intrigued by the book and so I investigated his An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris further. What a wonderful work.

I sat at the local Deli in Kirby Muxloe, trying out Perec's technique, writing about everything I saw, and found it strangely compelling - and then I too began to wonder: how can you wring everything out of a city in a creative writing sense? Is it possible to write about a place and exhaust every avenue so that there is nothing left to write? Can you fill a book about Leicester and then be left with nothing, a void?

This was what I wanted when I asked writers to offer me a piece showing me their love of Leicester, to be produced in an anthology of creative writing: An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Leicester.

I was overwhelmed by submissions, well over a hundred, and so the answer was clear: you can never write everything there is to know about a place, as you will always find something new to write. What was exhausting was the selection process - to whittle it down to a manageable project, the best of the work offered, and the end result of 68 contributors.

Among the contributors, there is a wide age range, from 12 to 72, a fairly balanced gender range, as well as contributions from all over the world - including the USA by a Leicester ex-pat, Poland, and Finland from someone who was over here for a university semester. There are poetry and prose poems, non-fiction and fiction, ghost stories, dystopian tales, memoir, futuristic dreams, as well as lots of nostalgia for a well-loved and well-remembered city. And it wouldn’t be about Leicester if King Richard didn’t pop his head up in various guises. We meet the Vikings and Oscar Wilde, both visiting Leicester for the first time, and take a trip down the Golden Mile and the River Soar. There is an amazing street art piece journeying through the city landscape as well as poems all about places we know and love in Leicester. Charnwood and Bradgate Park are explored by an intrepid young reporter as well as some well-known Leicester poets and we have an acclaimed writer honouring The Curve in a poetic piece. Among the highlights are the pieces by unknown writers, young and old, as well as schoolchildren working on the Colonial Countryside project, who wrote about Calke Abbey, which has been claimed by Leicester for this anthology.

Illustrating the book is the work of that wonderful local artist Sarah Kirby, who shows the beauty of Leicestershire alongside the words.

Here is an extract from my own piece:

Yellow hatted man
Black Merc parks on Market Street
Black Ford SUV blast horn at him
                                                   Pink haired woman wandering
Diet conversation continuing
Stop drinking seems to be the message
Beggar back
As is sleeping bag
Silver Toyota passes
                                Asian women chatting
                                Sikh man in yellow turban
                                Woman in Blue 60s mod cap
Asian couple, one bald
Purple VW
Girl with “Fight Animal Testing” bag
Older couple pass, then they split up walk in different directions

Black Merc now flashing warning lights
               Deliveroo down Horsefair Street
               Cyclist down Gallowtree Gate
               Cyclist towards Market Place
Yellow bin lorry into Market Place
                                                                                So many pigeons
White Enviropest van
Woman on bike passes me by
Pipe Centre lorry on Granby Street
White Uber taxi
                                                                                                88 bus
Older couple in pink and grey puffer jackets
Young Asian girl walks towards Gallowtree Gate
Man with vape
First vape of the day
Road sweeper slowly cleans the gutters of Granby Street
Boy with subway
Silver VW
                                2 Asian chaps in conversation
Painter in spattered dungarees passes down Horsefair Street
Asian couple chatting
I get up and stretch to the sky
Sun shining
I pack away my notebook
                                           My pens
                                                           Finish my cold coffee
                                                                                              Make my way home

There is something in the anthology for everyone. The book is available at Visit Leicester, to order from local bookshops, on Amazon or and it will be formally launched at the end of this month.

Events are being held all over Leicestershire to celebrate publication, look at our Facebook page or the Eventbrite ticket site. All events are free and you will have the chance to purchase the book at a discounted price as well as books written by the many contributors.
The wonderful thing is that there will always be something else to write and hopefully this anthology will encourage you to do just that. Why not write a poem or a story, a blog or a script about a place you love? Write it and keep it. You never know when I might be asking for contributions to volume 2!

About the author and editor
Jon Wilkins is 64 later this month. He has a gorgeous wife Annie and two beautiful sons. He is a retired teacher, lapsed Waterstone's bookseller and former Basketball Coach. He taught PE and English for 20 years and coached women’s basketball for over 30 years. He regularly teaches at creative writing workshops in and around Leicester. Latterly Jon has been taking notes for students with special needs at his two local universities.

Jon has always loved books and reading. He has had a few pieces published and exhibited and has his writing on various blogs. He enjoys presenting papers at crime fiction conferences - it keeps his mind active and is a great way to meet new people and gain fresh ideas for writing. He also loves writing poetry. 

For his MA from DMU, he wrote a crime novel set in Utrecht. It is part of a series of murder mysteries planned based in the Dutch city. It’s great to wander the streets of Utrecht or drink coffee next to the canal, watching and listening to people for his book. Jon is also writing a crime series set in the Great War and the early 1920s. The first part, Poppy Flowers at the Front, will be published by Brigand Press in February 2020. He feels it is a pity that he can’t retreat back to the Roaring Twenties! 

No comments:

Post a Comment