Tag Archives: 1950s

Hellooooo, muse!

A few days ago I heard of an equestrian short story competition which closes in a couple of months’ time. Regular readers of this blog – hah! All two of you! – will realise I haven’t written either a short story or blog post here for ages. I’ve had a painful start to the year, losing my Mum over Christmas, and my muse simply threw up her hands dramatically and flounced off. For the last five months I couldn’t so much as write ‘bum’ on a wall. 

However … the short story competition has piqued my interest. Back in the 1980s I used to write horsy stories and had them regularly published in The Horse Magazine under various noms de plume (I didn’t want to seem too greedy, having half a dozen stories published per year under my own name). It’s been a while since I’ve been in the saddle, holding the reins and riding a horsy plot. So I got thinking. And plotting.

I’ve had for a while ideas for a story – or novel – set in a fictional town in NSW in the 1950s. I have misplaced the notebook I wrote them in, so I can truthfully say I’ve lost the plot! The competition meant a bit of a rethink around some of the elements I’d scribbled down for my novel. And oh bliss, the muse came back (a little frustrated with me, and nagging me to pull my finger out and keep it out), and I had a plot. I also had 6,000 words to play with, which gave me plenty of scope for character development and action. So I wrote. And wrote. I have a first draft for the competition. It’s 5,997 words. I had to edit it down to get under 6,000 as the muse was shouting loudly at me and distracting me.

Obviously I can’t publish it here as it may (oh, I hope!) get selected on a shortlist for the competition. If it doesn’t, you’ll see it here. If it wins, you can buy it on Amazon, with proceeds going to charity.

Back to editing now…

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Remember Me by Derek Hansen – coming of age gracefully written

Remember MeYou’re at a trivia night. You’re asked to name a writer who’s known as an Aussie but wasn’t born in Australia, and who worked in advertising before becoming a full-time author. You confidently write Bryce Courtenay and feel very smug but are devastated when the answer is revealed as Derek Hansen.

Derek WHO?

If you haven’t read any of Derek Hansen’s books, start now. I was given the superb collection of short stories, Psycho Cat, in 1997, and I was hooked on Hansen’s humorous and elegant prose. The man is a true storyteller (which is probably why he was a very successful ad man), and Psycho Cat was the inspiration for my own psycho cat story, The Million Dollar Cat. If you are very, very lucky you’ll find Psycho Cat at a church fete or second hand book shop. Fight for it if you have to.

In 2007 Hansen wrote a coming-of-age novel set in New Zealand in the 1950s – Remember Me. I sense it’s a fictionalised semi-autobiography. The hero, like Hansen himself, was born in the UK and moved to New Zealand at a very early age. The sense of time and place is very real, the twelve-year-old hero’s voice totally believable. What happens to the boy is fiction, but it’s so well-written, with irony and humour, that you believe it’s true.

Kids are kids: the hero and his friends refer to local nun Sister Gloria as Sister Glorious and dream about what she wears under her habit – that delicious Hansen sense of humour again. The dialogue between the gang of boys is a delight; the schemes they get up to and scrapes they get into are a reminder of my own 1960s early childhood, when parents weren’t helicopter parents, and you could get into all kinds of mischief and if you were careful, not get found out.

This is an enchanting book, written through the eyes of an observant child who discovers a wartime secret, writes about it in an essay and polarises the local community, making enemies, turning friends against each other and destroying the fabric of friendships and relationships.

During World War II a local fisherman, Mack, has an encounter with a U-boat which has drifted off course. The captain of the U-boat gives Mack freedom in return for a tank of diesel and total silence. Mack must never mention it, and he is true to his word. Until one night he lets his guard down and tells our hero the story, and the boy tries to find a happy ending for Mack, who has lived with being a traitor since that terrifying wartime day. With memories of the war still fresh in adult minds, let’s say things don’t go smoothly when the story gets out and a stranger lands in town. Not smoothly at all. Is there a happy ending though? You’ll have to read it to find out?

I love this book. I’ve read it twice so far and will undoubtedly read it again. Discover Derek Hansen – you’ll be glad you did.

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