©Simon Smalley 2022
Wholeheartedly encouraged by my parents, and enthusiastically supported by my two elder sisters, from an early age I have always read voraciously and written with a matching zeal. Regrettably, an uninspiring secondary modern comprehensive school education was far from stimulating. Instead of nurturing developing abilities, a blanket of disinterest from teachers soon snuffed any spark of my individuality.
It appeared to me that the mandate was to hurry you along the conveyor belt of conformity and out through the school gates for the final time. I soon understood that there’d be no applause for difference or uniqueness. Instead, those characteristics were to be feared and quashed. However, if you could kick a football and score goals, run like a cheetah, or successfully lob a shot put, then the celebratory Olympian laurel wreath was yours for the taking.
Some of my earliest recollections of literary adventures are adhered to ‘Timothy the Little Brown Bear’, a sartorially trendsetting young bruin clad in blue dungarees adorned with white polka dots. Despite wisdom imparted by the wise owl, Tim’s stubborn refusal to learn to read resulted in myriad mishaps. My tears cascaded without shame when, unable to read the warning notice, my furry friend sat on a freshly-
With a change of wind, my capricious loyalties then transferred to ‘The Inquisitive Elf’, a slim tome not troubled by lengthy word-
Thrills abounded with the adventures of the nosey elf who scampered through the woodland clad in a fetching ensemble comprising of a crimson coloured one-
I adored Enid Blyton and aged eight, I sat before the coal fire gripping my gifted copy of ‘The Mystery of The Invisible Thief’, my eyes popping out like the proverbial chapel hat pegs at the developing tale of amateur detection. This story holds some level of responsibility for my enduring dislike of annoying small men, precociously judgemental brats, and out of control yapping little dogs.
Then my choice of mystery solvers matured from The Five Find-
When I was eleven, my dad recommended that I read the works of H. E. Bates, certain I’d love the descriptiveness which he said reminded him of the short stories I’d compose on the old Corona typewriter he’d brought home from work for me -
Without releasing spoilers for my book, in 1977 during one of my routine self-
As well as high-
Purchasing Armistead Maupin’s fabulous Tales Of The City was essential as I’d been entranced with San Francisco ever since a young boy. The first volume gloriously fed my insatiable appetite for all things San Francisco, and after several revisits had to admit that I was a Tales Junkie. However, I’d encountered Armistead Maupin before. In winter 1980 I’d bought the September issue of the American gay magazine, Blueboy. Fortunately for me, a progressive newsagent opposite the city bus depot imported the periodical. Beneath the red letters of the name, white letters announced: Living In The Promised Land: SAN FRANCISCO NOW! Within the pages was an article by Armistead Maupin: ‘The City That Dare Not Speak Its Name’. The eighteen-
For my thirtieth birthday a friend presented me with a wrapped, book-
Circa 1967, showing off my Enid Blyton Bedtime Book.
Elm Avenue, St. Ann’s, Nottingham, where my two elder sisters shared a flat.
Read my book to learn the story of those shoes…
My literary loves