Friday, 28 October 2011




Just by the bye, the blog had a considerable number of visitors this week. I hope they'll turn up again! Of course, the word ‘vampire’ appeared in the title. Oops…I’ve written it again. But let’s get on…

I suppose that most fiction writers are aware of the themes in their books. I thought that I was aware of the themes in 'And Such Great Names as These' but only this morning - yes, not two hours ago, and remember that this book was first in print four years ago – I realised that there was another theme, not exactly hidden, but it hadn’t previously occurred to me that four major characters in the story suffer serious exclusion, one of the cruellest ways of treating people.

There is a scene where Dolly tells Joshua what happened in the chapel years earlier, how the bigoted Mr Samways, the chapel elder, had treated her.

She drew a deep breath.  Then she took a kitchen chair and drew it up to the table.  She rested her worn hands on the oil cloth and as she spoke she drew little circles with her finger tips.
'Your mam was so kind to me,' she began.  'She was a stranger in this town and I was born here but I had more comfort from her than most.'
'I was havin' a baby, and unmarried, and the father off out of the district,' she said.  She looked first at Joshua and then at Rob.  Her words did not come out angrily or bitterly, just rather wryly.  'It's a sin, ye know.  Havin' a baby and not bein' wed.'
And Joshua knew it was, taking her words at face value.  Dolly had been a sinner.  He knew about sin.  The chapel had told him: his mother had told him.
'He stood up in that chapel on the Sunday morning.  That Samways.  And my mother was there.  And you, Rob, and Henry.'  She nodded at Henry's photograph as she mentioned his name.  'And Samways stood at the front there and he looked at me and all of us, all the family.  Looked at us and without flinchin' he told them, everybody there.  I can remember it as if it had happened this mornin'.'
She glanced down at her hands, stretched out along her thighs.  She drew a deep breath as though preparing herself to say something devastating.
'One among us has sinned!'
Dolly boomed the words out, stretching out from the edge of her chair towards Joshua.  Rob, sitting now by the table, stared out of the window.
'That's what he said.  "One among us has sinned."'

There was none of today’s more enlightened attitudes. Bastardy reflected on the mother and her child. Less was said about fathers.

Earlier in the story Mr Samways, for no sound reason, had barred Joshua’s mother, Alice, from going to the chapel. The sense of being an outcast, the devastation, led this frail-minded, devout woman, to her final breakdown.

And hadn’t Ernie Grayson, the useless soldier, complained of his treatment at the hands of his comrades, people from the same part of England, from the same town? He was fighting on the Western Front amid all of the obscenities of that war. What a time, what a place, to feel yourself all alone.

'And the lads.  They hate me,' Little Ernie had confided, ignoring Rob's admission.  'Ye know what they do?'
And he had told Rob every instance of minor cruelty to which he had been subjected, to which he was subjected every day.  If it wasn't the Germans, it was the Geordies, his own people.

And so he deserted with terrible consequences.

And Joshua himself faced exclusion from his classmates. Events from my own schooldays are still sharply etched in my mind.

And Such Great Names as These by Allen Makepeace
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This book is also available on Amazon Kindle
75% of the book’s profits go to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association

Saturday, 22 October 2011




I don’t know. There’s such a sudden upsurge. So many books about horror. So many about vampires. I thought Bram Stoker had written the definitive tale about vampires but apparently not. Everywhere I look on book sites there’s a plethora of vampire tales. That or zombies. Written so frequently by women though I add that simply as a matter of information. We cannot now get enough horror, so it seems.

But last night on the television I watched the ultimate horror movie. Men, their faces contorted with a mixture of rage and fear, were clubbing each other to death, raising above their heads whatever came to hand, mallets, hammers, metal stanchions, to crush skulls, using spades to punch out blood and brain. Or they stabbed each other, jabbing not once but twice, thrice, or more times, fierce thrusts into the guts, into the face, into whatever defenceless part of the body presented itself. It was a scene from Hell. Crude. Brutal. Remorseless. Desperate. Cruel. Inhuman.

And other times great waves of men, onward rushing into what they must have known awaited them, were mown down as grass is mown. They were silently dead before they reached to the ground.

Now that was a horror film.  That was the kind of film that sears the mind, that scars the imagination. What sorts of beings were represented here? What beasts? What monsters were these that should so mercilessly and recklessly throw themselves on their foes in such a manner, to squander their own and others’ lives? Who had fashioned such horrifying beings?

Who in God’s name were these that the film-maker was representing?

Us. That’s the answer.

It was a film based on fact. It came originally from the pen of Erich Maria Remarque, a veteran of the Western Front, and was translated to film only a dozen years after the end of World War 1 when memories were still fresh. I first saw the film All Quiet on the Western Front in my student days, sixty years ago. I felt its power then and had it revived last night.

And the point is that those engaged in these monstrous daily massacres were not demons or devils. They were not twisted souls seeking revenge on others. These creatures, stinking of fear in the close confines of their embattled trenches, using bayonets, trenching tools, whatever murderous tool was available, had been and perhaps still were, in spite of all, the decent wide-eyed idealists they always had been but who had been transformed in the struggle to survive.

In the novel And Such Great Names as These there are some battle scenes and I have striven to portray desperate soldiers as ordinary, as decent, as helpless. That’s why the representation of battle scenes in the film presents us with a horror film. It’s because they are all helpless victims.

‘Outside, amid the crunch and crump of high explosive and the whizz and whirr of flying metal, farm lads and clerks lay together, silent, awaiting burial; riveters and barmen hung  like bird-scarers on the wire; lawyers and lawbreakers were lost forever, buried under fallen trenches, and a prospective Olympic swimmer drowned in a puddle in No Man’s Land.’

And elsewhere in the book:

‘Good old Guthrie. Reliable old Guthrie.  Tough as hell old Guthrie though no-one knew that in bed at night he still heard the dry crump and crunch of mortar fire; still felt the earth heave under him; still saw the oak tree, shriven of all its bark, shorn of every leaf, its colour bled away and way up in its highest remaining branches, the two bodies, neither with a shred of clothing so that there was no indication of whose sons might be suspended there, Tommy and Jack or Hans and Fritz.’

Fanciful? Not at all. Years ago, when I was doing some research into the war, the Imperial War Museum sent me a postcard which I never used.

It showed anoak tree, shriven of all its bark, shorn of every leaf, its colour bled away and way up in its highest remaining branches, the two bodies, neither with a shred of clothing…’

Are there really worse horrors than scenes like these?

Vampires are not needed in such places. They are not horrifying enough.

If this and my other blogs have interested you, do please let your friends know.

And Such Great Names as These by Allen Makepeace
Sample or purchase this e-book on
This book is also available on Amazon Kindle
75% of the book’s profits go to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association

Sunday, 16 October 2011




My first public appearance as a musical performer – wait, correction…that ought to read: My only public appearance as a musical performer…

Best to try to be accurate in these matters.

So, my first public appearance as a musical performer must have occurred in either 1933 or 1934. Whenever it was, I cannot ever forget the exhilaration of that day. May 24. Empire Day, the annual, round-the-world celebration of the British Empire, ‘the Empire on which the Sun never Sets’ as they described it at the time.

We must have been primed for days in our classrooms for that great upsurge of patriotic pride. I still have some vague memories of the preparations and though I cannot recall precisely what these were I guess the names of Alfred the Great and Clive of India, Wolfe, Francis Drake and other national heroes rang round every classroom in the land. But none of this side of things made much impact on me. My mother was later to tell me that I came home several days beforehand bursting with excitement. It seems that I thought it had something to do with the Empire Theatre in the town where she and my father had taken me six or so months earlier to see the pantomime, Cinderella. Perhaps I was expecting star-spangled chorus girls and Cinderella and her Wicked Stepmother and Prince Charming and the Ugly Sisters to turn up on the day.

What I really do remember are the flags we made with paper and wax crayons and scissors and glue though if we, as infants, were let near the scissors and glue I am unsure. On the day …and let me alter that to ‘The Day’ for it was of signal importance in all our lives at that time ... we carried our flags outside and our teachers busied themselves getting us into orderly lines, ready for the prayers, and then the march around ‘the yard’ which is what we called our playground. At this point some of us were given our instruments for what parade acknowledging  Britain’s might could ever proceed without the accompaniment of the stirring music of a brass band?

Not that we had a brass band in our school though one year I am pretty certain that the Boys’ Brigade turned up with their bugles and kettle drums to make things go with a swing. But the year I have in mind I was presented with a triangle. It seemed such a poor little piece of metal compared to the drum that some others were given. Some children were given a kazoo which they blew into and emitted a kind of monotone farting sound. I should have liked that because my triangle – made of the cheapest metal I have no doubt – could not compete with drums and kazoos.

Our teachers then led us off on our march which entailed our following the boys and girls in front and raising our knees as high as possible and then stamping our feet on the ground as hard as we were able . It was so thrilling, so military. I would have said so British but at that time I was unfamiliar with such concepts. All I know is that somehow I was part of something superior and mighty.

In the book, And Such Great names as These, 10 year-old Joshua and his classmates have to prepare for a parade in the town, a parade of soldiers marching off to the Front. The children have to make paper flags and I had my own experience in mind when I wrote that part of the story.

It was to be a grand parade, Mr Pybus had told them.  There would be bands and columns of old soldiers from the Boer War; the scouts and guides would be there and the Boys Brigade; there was going to be a large contingent of soldiers from the barracks, but best of all, it was to be 'B' Battalion on their last outing before being shipped off to France.

‘Next month this time, these lads'll be in the thick of the fighting,' Mr Pybus had said.  'For us.  For us and our families.'

They had spent the Friday afternoon cutting out squares of paper and colouring them red, white and blue.  Once Mr Pybus was satisfied that the lines were straight and the colouring even, he handed them eighteen‑inch sticks.  And glue.

'Let them dry nice,' he warned them once the flags were glued.  They were placed on the window ledge until the end of the afternoon and then, after the prayer, Mr Pybus allowed them to take them home.  'Give them a good send‑off tomorrow.  Wave your flags and give them a cheer.  They're fighting for us, for the right.  They're brave lads, all of them, so give them some encouragement.'

'It's for tomorrow,' Joshua told Rob when he got home.

He was proud of the flag not just because it was as Mr Pybus had said, a symbol of truth, honour and justice, but because he had made it; the glue was even and had not squeezed out onto the colour as it had with some of the other pupils' efforts.  Alfie Mason's flag had come apart as soon as he got into the street outside the school building and others did not look as if they would stand up to any vigorous waving the next day.  But Joshua was sure that his would.

It was a time when the people of these islands had no doubt of their sacred mission to bring enlightenment and justice to those benighted areas of the world which had not yet experienced such benefits. What confidence people had in King and Country: what belief in our rightness and superiority. And this at a time when we were in the middle of a most terrible economic depression.

Only a few years later, in 1940, when I was about 12, we British found ourselves alone in the struggle against Nazi Germany. The French had capitulated and Hitler’s soldiers were strutting through Paris and through several other European capitals. The British army had narrowly escaped from the beaches of Dunkirk though at the time the nation was persuaded to believe their overall defeat as a victory. These were dangerous times.

‘D’you think we’ll win?’ I asked my parents.

‘Oh yes,’ my father said. ‘In the end.’

And my mother explained, ‘We always start off badly but we always win eventually.’ As if history had a recognisable pattern, one already decided.

But only the blindest belief in their nation could have made them think such thoughts.

We did win.

In the end.


And Such Great Names as These by Allen Makepeace
Sample or purchase this e-book on
This book is also available on Amazon Kindle
75% of the book’s profits go to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association

Thursday, 13 October 2011


From now until 24 October I shall be giving out free copies of both AND SUCH GREAT NAMES AS THESE and WINTER HUNT.

Just apply to me on and I shall let you have a coupon code so that you can download from Smashwords to whatever ereader you have. For those of you who have no ereader, I can send a copy direct to your computer screen.

Have a look at my blogs on this site and also my website ( to learn more about these books.
I do hope that you will find the books interesting and that in that circumstance you'll tell your friends. If they do not appeal to you I shall appreciate your dignified silence!

Happy resading!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


I'm hoping to enlist some more followers to my blog - and here is the missing link.


When I complete this particular series from next month I may write about my sortie to the Philippines where I shall be spending the winter with my Filipino friends and relatives. It's a fascinating country and I'd like to share my experiences with you.

Monday, 10 October 2011




My Auntie Elsie Fisher was never really my auntie. She’d been invested with the honour of aunt-dom because she was my mother’s oldest friend. She wasn’t even called Fisher when I came into the world because she’d married by then. Even so, my mother continued to refer to her as ‘your Auntie Elsie Fisher’ throughout both of their long lives, which had begun way back even before their infant school days.

Auntie Elsie’s parents had come from Germany sometime in the late nineteenth century and had settled in South Shields on the north-east coast of England. They opened up in business as pork butchers. They weren’t alone in that trade: there were many German pork butchers in England at that time. It was as though they had a special capacity for that arm of butchery.

I can remember going into the shop quite often with my mother in the 1930s. What a wonderful place it was, the rich cooking smell of it enfolding you, a place where they sold red-skinned saveloys and poloneys and pies and sausages and cold cuts and ham and pease pudding and black puddings. All marvellous. But we went in there principally for pork sandwiches. You could get a penny dip – a bun dipped in the hot fat of a roast pork joint – but best of all there were pork sandwiches. Pork sandwiches, the very thought makes me drool. The bun was dipped in fat and then there’d be a fine slice of pork topped with sage and onion stuffing. And I still clearly remember the lady behind the counter always used to ask me: ‘D’you want some scranchum, pet?’ (Everybody’s ‘pet’ up there in the north-east and ‘scranchum’ was what we called pork skin, so crunchy and juicy and tasty.) Ah, Fisher’s Pork Butcher’s Shop. It was so popular and so were the Fishers because they were a genuinely decent family.

But one day, in 1914, when they were about eleven years old, Auntie Elsie came to my mother in tears.

‘They smashed the shop windows last night,’ she sobbed.

My mother tried to console her. It was a lively town, a tough town, at times a rough town, but people didn’t go round doing that sort of thing.  Not normally.

‘They were shouting,’ Auntie Elsie said, ‘a great crowd of them. Calling us all sorts of names. Saying we were Germans, that we were the enemy, saying we’d better look out.’

My mother told me about this many years ago and it stuck in my mind and I used it – or a related version - in ‘And Such Great Names as These.’ Briefly, Rob has taken two young boys, Joshua and Billy, into the Augusta Tea Rooms which is run by an old German couple. He is a decorated soldier wearing civilian clothes and his aim is to show the boys that though we are at war with Germany we have to be tolerant about individual Germans, especially those living in this country. And the boys do learn the lesson in an unexpected manner.

The door to the street opened.
The bell rang shrilly.
They all looked up.
Three soldiers.  Not drunk.  But not sober.  They seemed to fill the remaining space, to darken it with their presence.
'Out. You.'
The tallest of them scowled at Rob.
'Out. You.'  he repeated more loudly, emphasising each word, jerking his thumb in the direction of the street behind him.
His two companions stood behind him, perhaps a little less sure of themselves.
'What's this?' Rob asked, not moving.
'This,' the tall soldier, now bunching his fist and waving it in front of Rob's face, 'this is goin' to bloody knock you off that chair if ye don't get out of here.  That's what this is.'
Rob put up a hand, placatory.
'All right,' he said.  'No need to get rough.  Let's take it quietly.'
As he spoke, one of the other soldiers, short, bow‑legged, sporting the beginnings of a moustache, threw down a cup from one of the other tables.  The third soldier, an older man, maybe thirty years of age, giggled and copied his mate and another cup was shattered.
'Out!Out!' the tall soldier shouted, pushing his coarse young face closer to Rob's.  'D'ye not understand?' he asked, his voice now taking on a plaintive tone.  'These is bloody Jerries in here.  Fuckin’ Boches.'  He gestured over to where old Mr Forster stood silent. 
Behind him, Hannah, his wife, short and stout, came through the curtains.  She stopped, her mouth opening and shutting with no sound issuing forth.
'These is Jerries,' the tall soldier repeated slowly as if for the benefit of the two boys.  'They're our enemies.'  He turned his head to stare angrily at the old man and then shifted his gaze to his wife.
Another cup and saucer were smashed.  The old man still said nothing, simply stood unmoving.  From Hannah, there came a whimper as she put her hand to her anguished mouth.  Then, as though making an enormous effort to speak, she whispered, 'Not again.  Please not again.'
'Have ye been here before?' Rob asked, standing up slowly from the table.  Joshua thought how tall and strong he looked.
'No, we haven't,' the bow‑legged soldier told him.  'But ye'd better scram out of here and fast.'
'Other people.  Three times now.'  The old woman was barely audible.  'We've been smashed up three times.  But other people.'
Her accent was still strong whereas that of her husband had taken on the local tinge.  He could scarcely be recognised as foreign born.
'Please go,' Mr Forster said, finding his voice at last.  'We don't deserve this.  We have a son in the army.'
The oldest of the intruders moved across to the old man, grabbing him by the jacket.
'You bloody shut up, Jerry.'
The soldier's face was twisted with hatred.

But we always think that we are on the side of liberty and justice. Not in those words perhaps, but we believe that we have a general sense of the fairness and kindness which underlie those two great aims. We would say that fairness and kindness are in our make-up, that we hold such sentiments in abundance. They are natural to us. That’s what we think about ourselves.

But our noble aspirations are sometimes betrayed. In World War One it was the Germans who were said to ravage nuns and slaughter babies. Not us. We didn’t treat people in such an abominable manner. So we told ourselves.

The scene above is not the same as what happened in Fisher’s pork butcher’s shop. But the germ was there for this episode in the book. That’s where many stories so often come from, from the real past.

Hope you found this interesting. Back next week.

And Such Great Names as These by Allen Makepeace
Sample or purchase this e-book on
This book is also available on Amazon Kindle
75% of the book’s profits go to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association

Monday, 3 October 2011




So how was it that I came to write a war story? Well, the First World War, the Great War as we called it, made an impact on my boyhood. It had been over for ten years before I arrived on the scene but men who had fought were often only thirty years older than me. Later I worked with some of them. I was friendly with their sons and daughters. They lived in our street, these men. And I heard occasional things. Not much. It wasn’t a generation to talk about such matters. My father and three of his brothers went to that war and all came home unscathed and never said much about it.

But we know more of it now. It’s recorded on grainy film. You see the soldiers in the trenches or crossing No-man’s Land. Sometimes they fall and lie for ever on the celluloid battlefield. And sometimes during a lull or a period behind the front line you see them sitting around chatting and smoking, laughing and playing football, engaging in horse-play and practical jokes. How could they be so calm? Were they all heroes?

In the book, Dexter is a hero. He has been decorated for bravery. But he deserts. Is he now a coward? Is he brave some days and not others? I wonder often about the nature of courage. Wonder how I might have fared in the Western Front slaughterhouse. Or in the brown dust of Afghanistan.

I’ve been lucky in my time. I’ve never faced danger. I’ve never had anyone firing a gun at me. I experienced a few air raids during the war but even they seem to have been ‘off-nights’ for enemy pilots. I only recall one significant raid and going the next morning to see the damage done to my school. But when I went into the services in 1946 the war had been over for a year. Some men of my age found themselves in Malaya fighting guerrillas and perhaps had I been a year or two younger I might have been in Korea. Lucky me.

But what about Little Ernie, a victim in my story, a timid, frightened little lad? Had we any right to expect more of him, given his nature? His character is based on people I later met during my days in the services. There were two in particular, both born to be victims, one a young man about my age, the other a regular serviceman in his forties, but a victim nevertheless, another outsider. 

I remember this older man – Rankin was his name - who was either ignored or who was the victim of our sly jokes. Here was I, just out of school, drinking my first beers, and leaning back and sneering at him, a man old enough to be my father. When we could distract him on the occasions he joined us in the bar – never by invitation, by the way - we used to flick our cigarette ash in his glass. He never seemed to notice. We waited for him to pass out because we had heard that that was the effect of ash in beer. Well, he never did pass out. But even so we laughed about our small cruelties.

The other one was a boy my age. He was in the same intake as me when we joined up. Steven Hope, as I call him here, was a slow, shuffling, little chap, not very bright, not over clean, nobody’s friend. Everybody laughed at him when they deigned to notice him. Nobody ever laughed with him. Couldn’t be bothered with him. But when one of the boys in my hut lost his gas cape – a punishable offence – without hesitation, he went to the neighbouring hut and took Steven Hope’s. Yet no-one ever thought of that as a cruel act or a theft. Nobody ever doubted that we were all bound by some indissoluble noble, comradely code.

I remember the day when, for reasons best known to the military mind, we were ordered to assemble in alphabetical order. A hundred of us, we had to sort ourselves out fairly briskly.

We organised ourselves in double-quick time and then the sergeant looked us over and his eye lit on Steven Hope.

‘You, lad, you in the right group?’

Steven looked bewildered and I don’t believe he made any answer.

The sergeant twitched his nostrils and flexed his shoulders..

‘What group is this?’ the sergeant asked another of us.

‘S, sergeant,’ was the reply.

‘S,’ the sergeant let the sound of that single letter sizzle like a boiling kettle. And he repeated the sound, now investing it with an interrogative element. ‘S.s.s.s.s?’

We all waited.

‘And you, lad,’ the sergeant turned his attention fully on Steven. ‘Still sure you’re in the right group, eh?’

Again Steven gave some kind of answer but what it was could not be heard..

The sergeant stretched himself up to his full height.

‘This group is the S group,’ he barked at Steven. ‘And your name, lad…your name is…?’

Some of us started to snigger but the sergeant silenced us with a look. But Steven suddenly looked more confident, taller, straighter. It was as though some magical transformation had overcome him. And many of us, as we later agreed, saw a daft boy grow into a man. He was sure of himself.

For the first time we heard him speak with any confidence.

‘Steven, sergeant,’ he answered.

At for that brief moment I felt sorry for him.

‘F…..g Steven,’ the sergeant bawled. ‘F….g Steven?’ He stopped as if unsure what to say next. ‘Then f…. off,’ he resumed, ‘and join the f….g H group.’

And now realising his error and even before joining the H group, Steven had returned to his normal unloved self and ever after he was the unit joke, the unit victim, the sacrificial lamb that all groups seem to need.

Unlike Ernie Grayson, Steven Hope was not shot for desertion. But all these years later, part of him and the older Rankin are to be found in the pages of a book.

And Such Great Names as These by Allen Makepeace
Sample or purchase this e-book on
This book is also available on Amazon Kindle
75% of the book’s profits go to the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association