Literary Leicester: Graham Joyce 

Graham Joyce press picture. Design by James Walker.

The following article is a rough outline of a talk I gave at Literary Leicester on how writers inspire us to make a difference. My chosen writer was Graham Joyce.

Graham Joyce was born in Keresley, Coventry on 22 October 1954. But Leicester was his adopted home.

I first encountered Graham at The Writing Industries Conference in 2010 where he delivered the keynote speech, warning writers that the days of a hefty advance for their novels were over. Anyone serious about becoming a professional writer needed to diversify their output. Digital technology and social media were transforming the literary landscape. Best get involved than be left behind.

Graham was good to his word. He helped develop storylines for computer games, scripted the short film Black Dust, and cowrote song lyrics with Emilie Simon. He was eclectic with genre, writing horror, ghost stories and a form of speculative fiction which defied classification. Some see this as magical realism; I prefer to think of his words plucked straight out of the hedgerow. He described his work as having ‘the flavour of dreams’ but his novels are also grounded in family, relationships, and an infectious zest for life.

Despite his reservations about the financial rewards of novelists, he was incredibly successful. As well as winning the World Fantasy Award in 2003 for The Facts of Life, and collecting an O’ Henry Award in 2009 for the short story An Ordinary Soldier of the Queen, he was the winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel five times. If he was a football team, his dominance of the genre would make him a Man City. A Pep Guardiola. Graham would appreciate this metaphor, but not the team. He was a Coventry City fan, occasionally writing for fanzines. He also played in net for the England Writer’s Football Team which he detailed in Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular.

Talk at Literary Leicester on 26 March. Photo: Aly Stoneman

So, why was he such a successful writer?

To answer this, you need to look at his life. He grew up in a mining village, worked at Butlins in Skegness, and spent ten years as a youth worker in Leicester where he believed the three R’s would get anyone back on track: Respect, recognition, responsibility. Each of these jobs and environments required an ability to connect with people. It’s this humanity which greets you on the page.

Graham was very much a writer who you could enjoy a pint with. He loved the energy of people and enjoyed sharing tales. He had courage and charisma about him. It’s this that led him to start an arts magazine in Leicester in 1980 with Sue Townsend who published a short diary entry about a certain ‘Nigel’ Mole. It was this that led him to quit his job as a Youth Worker in 1988 and drive to Lesbos with his girlfriend Sue, later to be his wife. They lived on a shack on the beach with no water or electric. But what he did have was the freedom to think and the time to write. One year later, his first novel, Dreamscape, was accepted for publication. Aspiring writers out there take note…   

Graham was awarded a PhD by publication from Nottingham Trent University where he taught creative writing from 1996 up until his death. As fate would have it, I now teach parttime at NTU and occupy his former office.

In 2013 I began work on Dawn of the Unread, an online graphic novel series celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. Graham was one of the commissioned writers but soon afterwards was diagnosed with lymphoma and unable to complete the work. He passed away on 9 September 2014.

The following year I was in Leicester with Lydia Towsey who I had commissioned to host some writing workshops. During the break I popped outside for a fag and got chatting to a young woman and her mother about the project. When I explained that Dawn of the Unread was a celebration of dead writers and aimed to bring them back to life by encouraging people to read their books, the young girl, then seventeen, said, ‘My dad was a writer, his name was Graham Joyce, have you heard of him?’

To cut a rather lovely and long story short, it turned out that Ella Joyce – the seventeen year-old women I was talking to – was about to start a Foundation in Art. I asked to see an example of her work and was absolutely blown away. I gave Ella her first commission and she illustrated the ‘Shelves’ comic in Dawn of the Unread.

I know that Graham would love the symmetry and peculiarity of this story. But he would also appreciate that youth had been given an opportunity. The commission gave his daughter respect, recognition, responsibility. We have since gone on to collaborate on Whatever People Say I Am, a series of comics challenging stereotypes.     

Ella’s artwork in Dawn of the Unread issue 14.

I’ve not read all of Graham’s nineteen or so novels. And this is deliberate. Books are precious. You can’t binge watch them like the latest series on Netflix. They need time to settle. I treat myself every three years or so to a new one. This year I will be reading The Year of the Ladybird.

In the last blog published on his website, Graham writes about the Anglo Saxon heritage of Wistow and how Charles Ist once galloped past here seeking refuge in Leicester. As he courts ghosts of the past, the Sence gently bubbles away on its way to meet the River Soar. He talks about his own mortality and ‘the shocking clarity that cancer brings’ only to discover later that a missile has randomly downed a plane in Ukraine and killed 300 people. This has more resonance today, given the current political climate. He then asks, ‘why anyone would want to die?’

It’s at this point a dragonfly whispers in his ear, ‘I have inhabited this earth for 3 million years old and I can’t answer these mysteries. Just cherish it all.’

And then his old friend, the heron, appears, and asks: ‘Why can’t our job here on earth be simply to inspire each other?’

Let’s make this our mantra today. To inspire each other as Graham Joyce and other writers have inspired us.

Literary Leicester is an arts council funded festival that ran from Wednesday 25 March to Saturday 26 March. The above talk was given during the festival closing event, Mi Duck: Writers Changing Leicester  

grahamjoyce.co.uk

The Curious Case of Leonardo’s Bicycle

Brick illustrated our Sławomir Rawicz issue in Dawn of the Unread and more recently was the artist for ‘The Bigger Picture’, which kicked off our follow on project Whatever People Say I Am. In between these commissions and other projects he’s been working on a story that’s intrigued him since the 1980s. In this guest blog, Brick tells us about the 40 year itch that is The Curious Case of Leonardo’s Bicycle

I first became aware of this story in the late Eighties, a little over a decade after the world was informed that evidence had come to light proving that Leonardo da Vinci had invented the bicycle over 300 years before history tells us it was invented. An argument was raging in academic journals, the cycling press and New Scientist, between the out-and-out poo-pooers and those who believed the mechanics of a bicycle were well within the possibilities of medieval technology and that knocking up a self-propelled wooden horse was a walk in the park for a genius like Leo.

Having cycled across a couple of continents, I had a strong affinity with that vehicle of delights and more than a passing interest in its evolution from Draisienne (‘Hobby Horse’ in the UK) to the sophisticated expeditionary vehicle carrying me across deserts. After all, that was my and every other cyclist’s journey, starting as a kid on a trundle bike (no pedals and properly called a Draisienne). I began following the arguments for no better reason that I couldn’t believe intelligent people were actually having them.

As with everybody who unwittingly gets sucked into the controversy, I rapidly and reluctantly found myself flipping between the poles. Each new piece of evidence raised more questions than it answered, each disputed fact, rebuffed approach and blatant obfuscation fuelling the drive to crack the case. It was only when I started digging deep into the substrata of circumstantial evidence that the conundrum began to make sense, and that took time, a lot of it spent exploring narrow twisting alleyways.

Artwork by Brick

It was one of those investigations where you begin to wonder if there will ever come a time when you believe the questions have all been answered and the case proven. I had boxes of clippings, lever files groaning with notes, a library of authoritive texts, thousands of emails, hundreds of web hits, videos and DVDs galore, and very little of it about bicycles. As Alfred Hitchcock would say, the bicycle bit was just the ‘MacGuffin’ in the story.

What was emerging was a convoluted case that would take me into academic mendacity, state terrorism, Vatican corruption, a German democratic uprising and a global natural disaster that produced climate change the like of which the world has never experienced before or since. It also took me into the lives of two great human beings, both creative geniuses, both lonesome outsiders wracked with self-doubt, both sorely treated by society then and now, the one a 15th century jobbing painter, the other a 19th century jobbing inventor.

What finally clinched it for me was the appearance of the prehistoric ‘Lu Ban bicycle’ in China in 2010 and the bizarre reaction in the press. Suddenly and unexpectedly I had the full story, case proven, and it takes nothing from the book to confess that there remain niggling loose threads and grey areas. You have to be suspicious of any case that that is totally stitched up. Chances are it is precisely that.

Artwork by Brick

During those decades I wrote a number of articles for various international magazines on the subject; dry – almost academic articles – that failed to capture how ridiculous and downright funny the controversy had become. Certain highly respected academics, antiquarians, medieval technologists and bicycle nerds in Italy, German, France, Britain, Russia and China were at each others’ throats, adamant theirs was the nation that could authentically claim to have invented the very first bicycle. The emergence of the Internet then provided a platform to all manner of outrageous theories and conspiracies propagated by any number of misguided geeks who really needed to get out more.

Certainly I wasn’t the only gumshoe working the case. Better brains than mine were sticking oars in on both sides of the argument, and I’m grateful to several of them for their steers and revelations. By far the most generous was Prof. Dr. Hans-Erhard Lessing, Karl Drais’ biographer, who still works tirelessly to champion Germany’s inventive genius in a homeland that seems embarrassed by him. By contrast, our cycle city is proudly twinned with Karl’s birthplace, Karlsruhe, because of his seminal invention.

Twenty years in it became obvious that somebody needed to present the definitive story, mostly because it was shaping up to be a cracking detective story, one the Internet couldn’t leave alone. Since the controversy was all about a drawing, since much of the evidence was visual, and since nobody else seemed to be considering the evidence I was unearthing in the substrata, I settled down at the back end of 2010 to produce the graphic investigation that has become ‘The Curious Case of Leonardo’s Bicycle’.

Interestingly, the full story could only be presented using the comic book form. A prose narrative with evidential illustrations would never get to see the light of day, and for no better reason than the bill for reproduction rights of the images would have been untenable. But the copyright laws are clear; as soon as I built a copyrighted image into a comics page the law regards the image as a quote, rights free. I was off and running.

The complexity of the case demanded that each element be presented as a self-contained block or chapter that the reader stitches into an ever-expanding tapestry as they progress through the narrative. Some of the elements, such as the ‘Godforsaken Years’, were so far from most people’s awareness it seemed the best way to present them was through imaginative fictions. Holding the whole thing together my incredulous sleuth jumps through historical eras and lurches across continents, examining every thread with the jaundiced eye it deserves. In the process, unexpected revelations slapped me in the face that demanded weaving in, like the shocking truth that Leonardo da Vinci really wasn’t the inventive genius the international art market needs us to believe to keep the bucks rolling in.

Nine years later I finished the artwork and began the soul-destroying process of trying to find a publisher. I approached around thirty in the UK and overseas. Par for the course, many blanked me. A few rejected my efforts on the grounds that my cartooning was, well, cartooning and not the glorious technicolour smorgasbord they were looking for of their next graphic eyed-candy. Fourteen took the trouble to contact me (itself an achievement) with appraisals ranging from ‘neat’ (from the US of A) to ‘a masterpiece’ (from France). A couple, notably Myriad Editions, even put a whole lot of work into the manuscript, suggesting improvements, searching for sponsors and shoving it in front of imprint houses. None took it up, mostly (they said) because nobody could figure where it might fit in their catalogue.

Quite simply there was no way I was going to die without seeing my ‘magnificent obsession’ (Tim Allan) in print, so I did it the old way, the way so many of the tenacious writers in previous centuries did it. I saved the money (mostly from working overtime erecting garden fences for the grapevine), found a good local printer who would suffer my interference (Temple Printing, recommended), and turned out the limited and thoroughly unique edition now available to you as a monograph, signed, numbered and seal stamped.

But I don’t recommend it. People I respect had given the manuscript the thumbs up, but for all the encouraging accolades the trade bestowed upon the work, bottom line, they weren’t prepared to publish. I was bound to have huge doubts about the wisdom of my gross indulgence; that is until the reviews started coming in. They were glowing and my relief was akin to staggering into base camp having bagged a perilous and previously unconquered peak.

Now all I need is for you to buy it, please, so I can get back my bank account and life.

BRICK

For more information, trailer, flip-through flick and to purchase go to leonardosbicycle.co.uk.

Macbeth at Elsinore

SLAV
My Long Walk With Slav by Brick was issue 2 of Dawn of the Unread.

It was around this time last year that artist John ‘Brick’ Clark was helping us kickstart Dawn of the Unread with his very long walk with Slavomir Rawicz in Issue 2. He’s now turned his attention to Shakespeare… 

In the year we celebrate Shakespeare through the 400th anniversary of his death, the call went out for short graphic pieces to accompany a conference on Graphic Shakespeare to be held at Elsinore (né Kronborg) Castle, Denmark. The brief was simple enough. Either choose one of four short scenes from Romeo and JulietMacbethHamlet or Twelfth Night and illustrate them in four A5 pages, or choose a scene from whichever of Shakespeare’s plays you so desire, with no limitations on page count. With roots in Broughty Ferry, I naturally went for the Scottish play, Act 1 Scene 1.

CROP OF MCBETH
A panel from Brick’s commission for Gothic Shakespeare

Not having to worry about consistency through the whole play, I decided to update and transpose the scene to a desert in the present-day Middle East (in the play, the background conflict is, after all, a civil war) and changed the Weird Sisters into army medics since witches were most commonly village medicine women and midwives. Rather than have them huddled round a fire, I shifted them into a bombed out armoured personnel carrier, and left it unclear whether they were attempting to save or simply finish off a wounded soldier. More radically, I decided to focus on the familiars two of them call upon, since these are the witches’ evil accomplices and most endowed with vile powers. I further made the bold decision to modernise and edit down Bill’s script in keeping with the 21st Century. (Mind, I wouldn’t want to read his whole play butchered like this!!)

The challenge for someone like me, more at ease with cartooning than dramatic illustration, was to warp my comfort zone and depict the scene as realistically as time, imagination and skills set allowed. Knowing the familiars would steal the show, it was also important I depict the Weird Sisters as rounded characters instantly recognizable as medics from different armies, possibly all working for the UN Peacekeeping Force.

To achieve the four A5s, eleven A4 pages of original art were scanned in. The piece was then essentially ‘built’ in the computer with some pages requiring over 20 layers (excluding text). As to the finished result (and as usual), I got close to what I had in mind but not quite the big cigar.

Interestingly enough, the project is co-ordinated by Yukari Yoshihara from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, an associate professor with a string of papers to her name exploring Graphic Shakespeares, particularly of the pop and tacky Manga variety. Though I admit to using a Manga font, hopefully I won’t be reading about my offering anytime soon!

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Dawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.

RELATED READING

I know what our writers did this summer

We’re currently working on a print version of the Dawn of the Unread serial and then I’ll be going into hibernation as I begin 6 months of research into a possible part II to our literary graphic novel. It’s tentatively titled Untold Stories and will give voice to those who dare not, or cannot, speak for fear of persecution. But more of this another time. For now, here’s a quick update on what some of our writers and artists have been up to. 

Kate Ashwin, the artist for our Byron Clough issue, achieved the first stretch goal of her kickstarter campaign in record time, waking the next morning to discover she’d reached her pledged goal of £4,000. At the time of writing she’s nearly doubled her original goal. The money will enable her to print the latest issue of her Victorian adventure romp Widdershins: The Green-Eyed Monster. She’s also dyed her hair blue.

niki

Nicola Monaghan (aka Valentine) explored the life of Alma Reville in issue 6. In addition to offering aspiring writers advice via trance tracks, she’s found a digital publisher in Blue Morpho Press. The Troll book 1 is out now and book 2 is due to follow any time soon. You can also read her first collection of short stories ‘The Night Lingers and other stories’ or sit back and enjoy her forthcoming film STARCROSS. Phew, that girl’s been busy.

nick wood three
Nick Wood

In Issue 8 Nick Wood gave us an insight into book adaptations. ‘First thing I do is skim read. Quick as I can. Finish. Close the book. Try and forget it. Let a week pass. Write down those things that come first to my mind. Somewhere, somehow, in that process I’ll start to get a feel for the book. What it’s about. And whether I want to adapt it.’

In the exclusive article, Nick expressed his desire to adapt Mick Jackson’s The Underground Man. It’s been a long time coming. It’s had to battle its way through round after round of arts cuts but thanks to persistence, cracking source material, and the support and determination of Nottingham Playhouse, Nick will be bringing this incredible story to the stage on 27 September 2016. It will be a co – production between Nottingham Playhouse and ajtc Theatre Company. After opening in Nottingham it will tour the region before spreading out nationally.

God Save The Teen A3
God Save the Teen flyer.

Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves was the commissioned writer for Issue 8. Here he explored the life of the eccentric, subterranean Duke of Portland. Since then he’s had his second collection of poetry published (Light at the End of the Tenner) and is now preparing for his Arts Council funded spoken word show God Save the Teen which will initially tour the East Midlands. In it he recounts his past life as a council youth worker, offering tales of drugs, relationships, and the various mistakes that invariably become wisdom in later age.  Your best bet for catching him locally is at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio on 25th September 7.30pm – £5.

As a freelance writer Adrian Reynolds, author of our Gotham Fool issue, has his fingers in many pies. He’s currently waiting to find out if he’s writing a low budget American feature film, which is contingent on fee and contract. Fingers crossed. In October his science fiction short White Lily will finally be viewable, initially by Kickstarter backers, and hopefully at Broadway Cinema’s Mayhem Festival. Elsewhere he’s got another sf short about to shoot in London once some minor script revisions have been approved and his online comic Dadtown now has a publisher, Canadian indie outfit Under Belly Comics. But best of all, as far we’re concerned, his Press When Illuminated talk will be featured at Nottingham Playhouse as part of their upcoming Conspiracy season.

Aly Stoneman is the lady in green, to the right of the picture.
Aly Stoneman is the lady in green, to the right of the picture.

Alyson Stoneman wrote our Ms Hood story for issue 10 and recently won the Buxton Poetry Prize on 7 July. The theme was ‘time’ and the prize was judged by Helen Mort. Aly’s poem ‘Windfalls’ laments the death of her father, a man of his time, through the changing landscape of an apple orchard.

Windfalls

Father, you pelted our legs with tiny windfall apples
when we looked for you at dusk. You would not recognize
the orchard now; a storm felled the old Bramley and Pippin,
we lost Browns and Discovery to voles, root-nibblers,
that long cold year the Crimson King rotted, crashed down.

Hard green apples bounced like raindrops, raised
bruises as we chased and hollered. You knew where
the robin nested, prime locations of knots and hollows,
you lifted me up to see, it was you made me flinch.
You watched Exeter burn when you were five.

Father, you came from a time hard as windfalls,
territorial as birdsong. When we buried you,
Spring sunshine fell through bare branches,
sheep bleating in orchards beyond the churchyard walls.
If you walked in now, you wouldn’t know us.

rob burrows
Photos provided by Wayne Burrows.

Wayne Burrows was our primary researcher and my first point of contact for odd and intriguing facts. I dubbed him Nottingham’s Stephen Fry for the arts years ago having worked with him on other projects. Wayne also helped write the biogs for our literary figures.

He’s just seen Black Glass go to press, which is effectively his greatest hits, poetry wise. The experimental collection Exotica Suite was launched at the New Art Exchange in July. The book is accompanied by a CD of the texts set to music by Paul Isherwood (The Soundcarriers). The launch events also included screenings. Crossing and merging art forms was a characteristic of Wayne’s editorial of Staple magazine. You can find plenty of copies of Staple at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, but be warned; they’re ever so difficult to put down.

But where’s Robert Holcombe these days…

belbin books

David Belbin, the author of our Stanley Middleton story in Issue 14, can finally put his feet up and concentrate on writing after successfully chairing Nottingham’s bid to be recognised as a UNESCO City of Literature. I’ve sat on those board meetings and there’s been some sweat. We find out the result on 11 December.

The Great Deception, the latest installment of his Bone and Cane serial,  comes out later this year.  In David’s words; ‘Sarah Bone is the Labour MP for the fictional, marginal constituency of Nottingham West. Nick Cane was her university boyfriend. He spent five years in prison for running a cannabis factory in a cave below his flat in The Park, but is now trying to shake off his criminal past. Through these two, I tell the story of Nottingham in the New Labour years. They’re mysteries with a serious undertow. The Great Deception features characters from the first two books but is also, in a way, the sequence’s origin story. It has three timelines – the sixties, the eighties and the nineties. There’s Sarah’s grandfather, who was a cabinet minister in Wilson’s governments, and her dad, who died of AIDS. There’s espionage and prostitution. Three prime ministers appear in the novel, along with one famous spy.  The overall story’s about how lies can resonate through generations and the past is never really past.’

And yes, I know I’ve missed loads of other stuff out but a blog has to end at some point and there’s those Untold Stories that need a voice…

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Dawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.

RELATED READING

Sixteen Issues Later…

Sixteen months and sixteen issues later and it’s all over. I don’t know whether to cry or scream for joy. Some sleep might be a good idea. Ironically it has taken us till this point to figure out the identity of our front covers which is why only the last two are identical in format. We may dip back into the technological void and remedy this at some point but for now, here’s all of the covers with a bit of blurb explaining the process.

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Issue 16 Paul picked up from the previous cover and branded this the same. This time he lobbed in our Guardian award, too, which we would make more noise about if we had the time. I love the way the title is given a kind of superhero status and the colours look glorious on an iPad. There is no living image of George Africanus and so I had to give artist Conor Boyle a general guide as to what would work. My only concern is Africanus’s eyes should be brown and I don’t want to be accused of distorting his roots by making them green. But for now they stay.

15-01

Issue 15 When Gary Erskine sent through his roughs for this comic he’d used a backdrop of a bridge from Newcastle to reference one of the titles held by Margaret Cavendish’s husband William. But this may have confused readers picking up a literary comic based around Nottingham and so I sent through various images of local locations with my preference being the Writers’ Studio (I was the Chair for three years). Therefore this had to be the cover. But this was a difficult decision given the comic is centred around a ROLLER GRRRL mirroring Margaret Cavendish’s life. Again, Paul added some colour but in constant consultation with Gary who used minimal spot colours in the comic. This was also the issue where Paul found the identity for our comics and at some point will go back and change them all so that they follow this format (Dawn of the Unread logo, credits)

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Issue 14 Considering this is teenager Ella Joyce’s first commission I was blown away when this artwork came in. Like Corrina Rothwell she has an exceptional eye for colour. Stanley Middleton wrote 44 books, roughly one a year, and this is represented by the years flowing above his head.

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Issue 13 has the distinctive colour palette and fun drawings you expect from Corrina Rothwell. My only input here was it had to have a spider’s web somewhere to refer to the title – which was decided a few hours before publication. I love the textures Corrina uses for Mary Howitt’s face, and the greyness works well too.

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Issue 12 Carol Swain sent through her artwork in the post on A5 paper which left me petrified in case it got damaged. Paul quickly scanned it in and then took elements out to create his own front cover. The title refers to a famous quote which appears on the opening page of Sillitoe’s debut novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Carol was commissioned because her rough crayoning style captures the gritty realism of Sillitoe’s work and so Paul made this more prominent in the background. My only input was insisting Ray Gosling, Blakey and the Brains man appeared somewhere as I knew locals would enjoy these references.

11-01

Issue 11 Steve Larder went for a simple cover. The communist icon refers to Geoffrey Trease’s Bows Against the Barons, which was a kind of Marxist interpretation of the Hood legend. There’s just enough information to make you wonder what’s inside the book although I think I would have preferred Steve’s drawing of Geoffrey Trease pulling back a bow as the cover, mainly because I love the way he draws faces with their pointy noses.

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Issue 10 Aly and Amanda Tribble probably had the most dialogue when working together and discussed every detail, stage and process of the comic. I love the silhouette bringing Nottingham’s most famous couple together in one image. I was also delighted that Amanda drew a more masculine looking Ms Hood rather than some big breasted stick insect in pink tights.

09-01

Issue 9 We had lots of discussions about what Bendigo should be smashing for this cover but the iconic lions in front of the Council House did the trick. It may also be read as a nod to Al Needham’s former role as editor of LeftLion magazine. My favourite bit is the stag in boxing gloves at the bottom of the page, mocking Nottingham’s crest. This was our second issue to come with an age warning due to swearing and fighting.

08-01

Issue 8 Although this cover was drawn by Toni (or Tony) Radev, Paul decided to add a bit of colour as he felt this would work better on mobile devices. I personally would have liked this cover to have featured numerous tunnels coming in and out of the page to get across the Duke of Portland’s subterranean obsession. But it does feature the main characters of the story which is the purpose of a cover.

07-01

Issue 7 Hunt Emerson totally changed our perceptions of how much text you can fit on a page with easily the most comprehensive literary analysis in our series. DH Lawrence constantly raged against the world and this is captured in glorious colour here. Even the black border to the credits has sharp edges to get across his prickly character. This is easily our most popular cover.

06-01

Issue 6 This cover beautifully captures the delicacy and simplicity of Judit Ferenz’s style. It was the first issue we had to add a 13+ warning to due to the drug references inside. Hence the rave dummy…

05-01

Issue 5 Kate Ashwin didn’t do a front cover and so this was down to Paul and I. The most important thing was the title stood out as Byron Clough is such a wonderful pun we knew this would create intrigue. I love the font that Paul chose for this, it really captures the playfulness of our literary hybrid.

04-01

Issue 4 Our Gotham Fool issue explored the porous boundaries between what is real and what is fiction and the problems with labelling behaviour. To symbolise this Francis Lowe boxed in the cover credits. As for the green frog… What green frog?

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Issue 3 Originally we wanted every issue to be in colour but when Eddie Campbell insisted his must remain in black and white we weren’t really going to argue. This cover is a mock up of an iconic front cover of the Police Illustrated News that ran with the headline: ‘Phrenological Head of Charles Peace, The Burgler’

02-00

Issue 2 John ‘Brick’ Clark was so inspired by Slavomir Rawicz’s life that he became a keen traveller and hiker and so put himself on the front cover. It was coloured by Confetti student Jessica Parry.

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Issue 1  This artwork was created by Mike White and uses samples from real 1950s comics. It doesn’t include the name of the writer (me) or the artist. This was largely due to it being our first cover and therefore not being entirely sure what information should be on there. It is most likely that this cover will be replaced with a mock up of a Salvation Army poster as we are currently working on this for another project and it may simply be too good to waste.

DOTU Round logo

Dawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.

RELATED READING