AI John Samson - Reading Lady Chatterley in Africa
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Sudan – a place that is often in the news for the wrong reasons; a territory ravaged by conflict for over a century. As with many places where there’s conflict, there’s often incredible creativity.
TSL director Anne Samson has touched on Sudan in her biography of Kitchener: The man not the myth published by Helion.
About John Samson
Having had friends and others comment favourably on his writing but not being able to find an agent, John looked to self-publish. Cold Fiction was the outcome. Having discovered TSL Pub, he is in the process of moving his self-published novels to us. Shaka are Dead was his first novel published by TSL. Powerless was his first written novel and is the second to be published. Reading Lady Chatterley in Africa is John’s third novel, was followed by A Donkey Called Oddsock and now The Fall of the Romance Empire.
John also writes under the name RJ Whitfield.
John’s writing draws on his South African upbringing, exploring themes around reconciliation between different groups of people and circumstances. He enjoys travelling to unusual destinations.
He has been writing since about 2005 and has been an active member of the Harrow Writers’ Circle since 2006.
Apart from writing, his other main love is music charts.
Books by John
Powerless was the first novel John wrote but not his first published. For those who have read his Shaka are Dead, this is quite different, although stays with the theme of post-Apartheid South Africa.
Where Shaka is written in colloquial style, Powerless is written in standard English.
It tells of two men, one black and one white, caught in a lift when the power fails. We don’t know how long they are in the lift for, although hints suggest it could be as long as five hours overnight. Interspersed between the men’s conversations are vignettes enhancing and explaining aspects of the men’s stories. Links to how their respective loved ones are dealing with their failure to return home help set the wider context all culminating in the final climax after the power returns. The lure of Johannesburg, bank robberies, car hi-jackings, township violence, Inkhata vs ANC, conscription, the elections of 1994 all feature as the stories of the various characters intertwine, weaving a social commentary of life during Apartheid, the dreams people had of the New South Africa and the reality underlying the positive gloss post 1994. Amongst the heartache and the pain shines hope and a sense of reconciliation: it helps to talk.
What I love about Powerless are the multiple climaxes. It’s an emotional roller-coaster of a read as the two men dig deep into their inner-beings. As one of them notes: ‘Apartheid is dead but its spirit still haunts us’ – a statement still true of South Africa today, ten years after Powerless was written.
Another statement which jumped out capturing the essence of South African life then in particular was ‘Indoctrination by environment.’ John has a wonderful way of capturing the essence of a situation adding to the richness of his characters.
For those wondering, no, my love of Powerless was not determined by the images of Simon and his brother looking after cows in Natal, it’s because the story is so well structured taking me on a journey or four.
– a collection of 12 short stories inspired by the album Cold Fact by Rodrigues.
The Sugarman was afraid of sugar mice. The Gingerbread man was in search of a fix of sugar and the best quality stuff was found by licking the Sugarman. In return for a few licks, the Gingerbread man tries to help the Sugarman overcome his fear.
(Inspired by the title – Sugarman and the line ‘You’re the answer, that makes my questions disappear’)
Only Good For Conversation
A man meets a stunning girl in a pub who turns out to be a friend of a friend. However, all his advances are met with a lack of physical contact. Convinced that, despite this quirk, she likes him, he endeavours to find out why this girl, whom a stranger in the pub had referred to as the coldest bitch he knows, is only good for conversation.
(Inspired by the title and the line ‘You’re the coldest bitch I know’)
Crucify Your Mind
James has a brand new shiny secret. He keeps it in a box under his bed, but lives in fear that Tom may find it. James also collects answers, white lies, excuses and such bric-a-brac. Despite Tom warning him about the dangers of keeping other people’s secrets, he still goes out in search of more. This new secret though, ends up causing more problems than it was worth.
(Inspired by the line ‘Secrets shiny and new’)
The Establishment Blues
Major Jim Weatherman is having a bad day. The correct statistics on crime had been released to the press, leading the public to believe that he was honest. It also looks like his main rival D’Aggio (who had been jailed for submitting accurate expense claims) was about to get out early for bad behaviour, and there is a distinct possibility that he may have to lower taxes. The public would crucify him if he did. Could his day possibly get any worse?
(Inspired by the lines ‘Mayor hides the crime rate’ and ‘Public gets irate but forget the vote date’)
Hate Street Dialogue
The Childwoman escapes from the inner city which birthed her and runs into in the wilderness where she meets a pig with a hose tired round his neck. The pig tells her that in order to be free of the hate the inner city has caused her to harbour, she has to find the Hanging Tree of Hate Street and swallow the bitter leaf from the tree. If she succeeds, she will be free, but if she spits the leaf out, she will carry the hate forever.
(Inspired by the lines ‘The pig and hose have set me free’ and ‘I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree’)
Dave, the lead singer of South African band The Imaginary Facts performs an impromptu version of ‘Forget It’ on the country’s prime time radio show. The pain and hurt he injects into the vocals send the group spinning into the big time and they are soon selling out stadiums across the country. But Dave is a bit unstable and obsessed with the rumour that Rodriguez shot himself on stage after singing ‘Forget It’.
(Inspired by the rumour that Rodriguez shot himself on stage after singing ‘Forget It’.)
Inner City Blues
A suicide bomber tells of his preparations to explode a bomb on the tube/subway. We follow him from his flat where he has said goodbye to his wife and daughter as though it were a normal day, out onto the streets where he is confronted by all the evils he sees in the world. But all is not as it seems with this bomber.
(Inspired by the lines ‘Going down a dirty inner city side road I plotted’ and ‘Mama, Papa stop’)
Ian Dale’s home is invaded by a group of gangsters. He is tied to a chair in his living room while his wife is kept in the bedroom. He is then offered an impossible choice – if he has sex with an ‘infected’ girl his wife will be set free, if he doesn’t, she will be killed.
(Inspired by the line ‘I wonder how many times you’ve had sex, I wonder do you know who’ll be next’)
A husband and wife, whose marriage is on the rocks, are surprised when their thoughts start being mouthed by a pet monkey in the wife’s case and a young woman patient in the husband’s case. Things get more complicated when they both encounter their spouse’s ‘thought mouthers’.
(Inspired by the line ‘Cos a monkey in silk is a monkey no less’ and Janis in the title that made me think of Janis Joplin’s song ‘Mercedes Benz’)
Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme)
69 is a Sex M digit, living in a world that is run by thought herders and genetechs. He knows a little of Gommorah, the time before, but his thoughts are constantly monitored by the T-Probes that criss-cross the pen when he lives. He has applied to have a genesplice with 13, a pretty Sex F, but his world is turn upside down when he encounters 220, who had accidentally had too much Gommorahian DNA put in his genes. 220 starts talking of a place he calls ‘outside’ a concept that nearly makes 69 mindmelt.
(Inspired by the lines ‘You know my name well’ and ‘You won’t find in any book’)
Rich Folks Hoax
A war photographer survives a village massacre while covering a story around rebels. The whole village is obliterated along with his fellow reporters. The only other survivors are a local woman and her baby. Together they bury the dead, then head off in search of help, but the rebels return.
(Inspired by the lines ‘The moon is hanging in the purple sky’ and ‘Baby’s sleeping while its mother sighs’)
Jane S. Piddy
Jane S. Piddy, an 85 year old, decides to Google her name and is astounded when she finds that a man called Rodriguez has not only written a song, the title of which is the same as her name, but it also refers to Ruth and Rosemary, her sisters. She is further amazed to see that he is playing a concert the next day at a venue not far from where she lives. She decides to attend the concert, but maybe her mind is not quite as good as it should be.
(Inspired by the line ‘Dancing Rosemary, disappearing sister Ruth’)
The Ashes – Cricket
I couldn’t resist. When this post was first written (June 2015) England and Australia faced each other to battle it out for the urn containing the ashes of English cricket. It has since been updated.
Cricket’s a game you either love or hate, although it seems that even within the sport there are strong opinions: you either love the 5-day test and detest 20/20 or vice versa. The one-day or limited over 50-ball game seems to be firmly in the middle, having moved up in the rankings of Test specialists. Coming to the game late, I understand those who have little time or interest in it. But there are some wonderful benefits to a day at the cricket. Think sun shine and a patch of grass to sit on (and a good book in the bag in case…).
TSL has been lucky to sign the BBC Test Match Special Cricket Statistician, Andrew Samson. With Andrew as one of our authors, we just had to feature a post on Cricket.
The most famous books concerning cricket are no doubt the Wisden‘s Cricketers Almanack. Our main interest though is novels or works of fiction, although if you’re interested in what the life of a Cricket Statistician entails, why not read Andrew Samson‘s The Moon is Toast?
Books mentioning Cricket
Prominent on the novel front is Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers (1836) and Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes (1857).
The game features on the cover of PG Wodehouse’s Mike (1909) and in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe (1982) the Ashes trophy gets stolen.
A game of cricket features in Shaka are Dead and Powerless by John Samson and a cricket cap in Ray Wooster‘s A Boy’s War Journal. Mention is made of the game in Anna Ryland‘s A Second Chance and David Ferris‘ The Secret Life of Creatures