©Simon Smalley 2022

S

home about my memoir reviews my writing haven my backpages Desire Love Identity my literary loves order

Desire, Love, Identity

within the National Justice Museum


“True authorship being conferred by having a book physically published

 - a thing you can hold in your hand, purchase in a bookshop.”

William Boyd - ‘Any Human Heart’.


Pressing firmly down on the fast-forward button of time, in January 2019 my curiosity was immediately aroused when I received an e-mail informing me of an exhibition at the National Justice Museum here in my hometown of Nottingham, named Desire, Love, Identity: LGBTQ History Trail. Organised by The British Museum in London, the limited touring exhibition displayed incredible homosexual artefacts ranging from Grecian and Mayan ephemera, assorted manuscripts and a miscellany of twentieth century treasures – and most engagingly, the actual door from Oscar Wilde’s cell in Reading Gaol.


With the resting level of mercury in my literary thermometer ascending rapidly, I enthusiastically attended writing seminars for aspiring local authors to record their experiences of homosexual life. These empowering events within the esteemed walls of the National Justice Museum would eventually be edited, collated and published by Global Wordsmiths as an anthology sharing the exhibition banner: Desire, Love, Identity.


The official book launch at the National Justice Museum was captured for posterity by a film crew from Notts TV. The green carnation gracing my lapel was of course in honour of Oscar Wilde.

It was a surreal event of celebration within the sobering atmosphere of the former court at Nottingham Gaol. In this arena of judgement, men had been sentenced to imprisonment for their homosexuality before the Wolfenden Report of 1957, which concluded that the criminalisation of homosexuality was an impingement on civil liberty. Particularly poignant for me was that I’d known one of the unjustly incarcerated men. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until a decade had passed before only the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality came into force.


The word limit for each individual contribution to the anthology was five thousand words, which I joked was a mere note to the milkman. My final submission crossed the finishing line carrying the well-distributed weight an additional five hundred words granted to me by the editors, Nicci Robinson and Victoria Villasenor of Global Wordsmiths. Immediately I knew that I’d found my niche, my forté, my metier, and quite possibly, my raison d'être - and that is your actual French, as the aforementioned Julian & Sandy would say.

 

Maybe the ethereal spirit of Oscar Wilde had imbibed me when I’d reverentially laid my hand upon the stout door which had once kept him from freedom, as it was evident I was only beginning my hopefully adventurous literary journey. During the celebrations, keeping one eye out for the roving film crew whilst practising my best Norma Desmond, “Alright Mr de Mille, I’m ready for my close-up”, I asked myself a question: How do I continue? I received swift assurances from Nicci and Victoria. “You can’t stop here! You’re a born writer with a unique authorial voice that needs to be heard!” Therefore, I decided to begin my memoir in full, realising that the many thousands of my words lying dormant within the dusty depths of my computer hard drive should be freed and committed to paper.


Further validation arose when I was invited to read some of my work at Nottingham’s 2019 Hockley Hustle Arts Festival, and from my participation in the 2020 Nottingham LGBTQ Literary Festival – not only reading from my fledgling memoir, but also being one of the authors on a Q&A panel.


During our first editorial Zoom meeting on the new year, my editor Nicci Robinson announced that she was forming Butterworth Books, a new independent publishing house, and invited me to publish my memoir under this new imprint. October 2021 saw the final full stop placed in ‘That Boy Of Yours Wants Looking At’. Advance Reader Copies were distributed for review, and the pre-order link for the Kindle format became active.


I’d done it. Two-and-a-half years of fingertip-blistering writing had resulted in my first book being published and stocked in Nottingham’s only independent bookshop, Five Leaves Books, just in time for Christmas 2021. What a present to myself!

Back to the top of the page