A new novel sees Manchester in the 80s as the backdrop for a music writers love affair with the city, the music and an old flame…
CHORLTON AUTHOR RECREATES 1980s MANCHESTER IN NEW NOVEL
The former City Life music writer conjures up memories of legendary venues The Boardwalk, The Hardrock and Free Trade Hall.
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A Chorlton writer has published a novel that lovingly brings large parts of 1980s Manchester to life.
Robert Graham, a lecturer in creative writing, says The Former Boy Wonderpublished by Lendal Press on February 24, 2022, is in part a chronicle of his love affair with the music-loving city he settled in nearly 40 years ago.
cThe book, his second novel, follows the ups and downs of 49-year-old music journalist Peter Duffy as he increasingly finds hard-to-find work in fictional versions of Mojo and Uncut magazines, where he has been independent for over 25 years. The story follows the music fanatic and father of one as his first love, Sanchia, seems set to return to his life. Belfast-native Peter plunges into a full-blown midlife crisis, risking his relationship with his teenage son and his wife.
The novel is not autobiographical, although Graham, 66, was also born in Belfast and cut his teeth as a music writer with the late Manchester What’s on Guide City Life, after moving to Hulme in 1984 .
The haunts of old Manchester revisited in The Former Boy Wonder include the San Marco cafe, which was located just off Spring Gardens, as well as The Boardwalk (Little Peter Street), The Gallery (Peter Street) and The Hardrock concert halls in Stretford, a 3,000-seat pop-up venue that has hosted concerts by acts including Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. Situated on Greatstone Road for just three years in the mid-1970s, a B&Q was later built on the site, which itself closed in 2015.
Other historic hotspots whose names are verified in the book include the Free Trade Hall, where in 1966 Dylan was barracked for ditching folk music and going electric (one of the onlookers told him shouted “Judas”) and the Manchester Poly Cavendish House student union. , where U2 once played in front of a few hundred people.
Goulden Road in West Didsbury and Beech Road in Chorlton are two essential settings as the plot unfolds.
Graham said the book, with its themes of midlife, first love and fatherhood, has been on his mind for at least a decade and he’s thrilled to finally have it printed.
The story takes place across multiple time zones and locations: Manchester in the early 80s and 2010s, Northern Ireland in the 60s and 70s, and Notting Hill in the early 80s.
Graham, who taught creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University between 2004 and 2014 and (briefly) fronted Manchester punk band Membranes, said: “I moved to Manchester in 1984 and saw the city changing its skin and reinventing itself several times.
“It’s what Manchester does best, and I don’t mourn the disappearance of places, bars, restaurants and neighborhoods that no longer exist. Manchester is a city looking to the future. It has always been the from the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal to the Commonwealth Games to the creation of Media City, but I had a lot of fun recreating the Manchester I knew in the 1980s – flatshares in West Didsbury , the studios in Fallowfield and the many venues I saw the bands of the day play in. I think readers of my book will also enjoy taking a nostalgic trip back in time.
Graham said that, like his protagonist Peter, he had been an obsessive music fan since childhood.
“Growing up in Belfast during the Troubles, where the bands I read about in the NME never played, prepared me to be blown away by life in Manchester with its impressive musical tradition and what was happening here in the 80s” , did he declare. .
“It was possible to see any major band that passed through town, from Elvis Costello and The Clash to the Stones, but also to be part of the scene when local talents like New Order, The Smiths and The Fall were breaking through. .
“Working at City Life, the magazine of lists, I was able to interview Morrissey and Marr just before the release of their first album and Mick Hucknall before Simply Red signed with a major record label. For a boy who grew up in Band-starved Belfast was a transformative experience.In this and many other ways, Manchester became a part of me, and as soon as I moved here I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
“In fact, Manchester figures so prominently in the book that he’s almost a character in his own right.”