GUY FAWKES – a beginner’s guide

I know that the whole history of, and reasons for, the UK’s ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ a.k.a. ‘Bonfire Night’ is something of a mystery to most of you guys in America. This is despite it having taken place in 1606 and hence it being part of a lot ‘your’ history too! Please excuse such a generalisation, but without it you guys wouldn’t even be guys at all!

The bare bones are that November 5th is commemorated here as the night when Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators were thwarted in their attempt to blow up the English parliament – with gunpowder!

Their reason?

They wanted to kill the Protestant King James and his cronies and replace him with the Princess Elizabeth – as a Catholic queen.

Every year, certainly when I grew up, Fawkes’s capture was celebrated by a big bonfire built by the children of your street (could start that in summer!), loads of fireworks, food provided by families and of course, the burning of the guy! Other people might celebrate with the family in their own back gardens.

The guy was an effigy of the Mr Fawkes made from tatty old clothes stuffed with newspaper and conkers (they go bang); plus a bought cardboard mask supposedly in the style of Mr Fawkes. Each year one would (if allowed) push, carry or ‘guy’ the effigy around asking for a ‘Penny for the Guy!’ The money to then be spent on fireworks and/or sweets (NOTE – not candy!).

This ‘Guy’ entered into literature in books such as Tom Brown at Oxford, which described someone as ‘such an old guy in his dress’. While in 1893 in ‘The Swell’s Night Guide’ they excused themselves by saying: ‘I can’t tonight, for I am going to be seduced by a rich old Guy’. This became incorporated into US English as ‘Wise Guys’ and ‘Fall Guys’, until it was just ‘you guys!’

The importance of this very social (and potentially dangerous) family event has rather diminished in recent years in favour of public displays, but this depends on your location. Where I live in the south of England there is a proud tradition of Bonfire Boys (and Girls). Many villages hold a torch-lit procession through their streets with marching and drumming bonfire boys (and girls) from different villages in different fancy dress outfits. This is spread out over most of November! Each night culminated in Bonfires and fireworks and rather a lot of drinking (sadly not this year). It’s a truly splendid sight and sound: loads of drums! It’s slightly mad and it’s not state controlled!

Photo courtesy of Adrian Spinks photography

Why is this still going on?

Well, perhaps strangely, the terrorist Guy Fawkes has become something of an anarchist hero. The fact that he wanted to blow up one government to replace it by another has largely been forgotten. Every generation sees Guy Fawkes slightly differently you see. Each year we burn a different politician on our bonfire – plenty to chose from.

I have recently written the ‘book’ and some of the lyrics for a new musical about Guy Fawkes, with music by the far too talented Ben Durkin. It is actually based on a Victorian novel about the man by William Ainsworth – a Bestseller at the time! To the Victorians, Fawkes was something of a romantic figure and the novel (and the theatre show hopefully) has many gothic elements beloved by audiences of that time – spirits, alchemy and magic, and explosions of course!

And so Fawkes continues still. Those anarchist masks you see at demos, they are Guy Fawkes masks adapted from the wonderful ‘V for Vendetta’ graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, which imagined a new ‘Guy Fawkes’ figure and a different totalitarian state. Guy Fawkes just won’t lie down!

So, you ‘guys’ over there in the USA – and everywhere else – ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.’

Penny for the guy, mister?

Check out the amazon Susie Dent’s book ‘Word Perfect’ for more about ‘guys’ and all sorts of other fascinating words. You can read more about the exciting new musical and hear song samples at our website.

What’s in a name?

Why ‘Nicely Strongoak’? What’s that name all about? I get asked this a lot. I thought I had better sit down and explain it properly.

You have a funny relationship with your name don’t you? Well, I do anyway.

Nicely Strongoak and the young Terry

Love it or loathe it, you’re stuck with your name. Unless you do what a few people I’ve known have done and actually change it. (Hi Paige!) But frankly, I find that a bit weird. (Sorry Paige). I’m talking about first names of course, I mean doesn’t everybody change their surname at some point? (I’ve had three).

Your first name, the label that you grew up with. The name with which you were praised or admonished and which, hopefully, one day was whispered lovingly into your ear. The name that was shouted across parks at sunset to bring you home – or is that the dog?

The name that helps define you, whether you love it or loathe.

I hate my name. Terry that is. I know it’s Terence on the birth certificate but nobody ever called me that. It was always Terry.

Terry is the name of somebody who works on a fruit and veg stall at the local market. Terrys got to play second division football but rarely made it to the top of their profession. Terrys were your mates that played darts down the Red Lion on a Wednesday evening. Terrys were the bodyguards but never the one being guarded.

Terry was shorthand for a cockney likely lad. Terry was a name picked by lazy scriptwriters when they when didn’t want to develop a character.

OK – I did work on a fruit and veg stall and I did play darts down the Red Lion – but I couldn’t guard a kindergarten. I wasn’t that sort of Terry. I was surely a Karl, a Maxwell or maybe even a Sebastian!

I wore silver Lurex lady’s evening gloves, silk bomber jackets and over-the knee black suede platform stiletto boots for heaven’s sake! (It was that time).

Terrys didn’t do any of that! But of course they did. It wasn’t all about Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Enos – it was mostly Terrys doing the lurex glove wearing.

I was interesting! Terrys weren’t interesting!

So, eventually, I became Dr Tel. Well, Tel is an acceptable contraction of Terence and I was called Tel a lot as a child. I was even called Telstar for a while – how I wish that had stuck!

And, by now, I was a doctor and so Dr Tel seemed acceptable and anyway my best mate used it first. So that counts, as far as nickname creation goes.

And Dr Tel I did become and thus was I called, by students and comedy chums too. Dr Tel was interesting and he was fun, and even occasionally a little dark. He didn’t wear Lurex gloves anymore but there were a lot of dark suits and very narrow ties. Yes, Dr Tel was everything I had always aspired to be. Dr Tel was, indeed, the real me. But, you know what? Terry still hung around.

Terry who played darts and once worked on a fruit and veg stall, bless his cheery heart, was still there in the background ready to put on his slippers of an evening and talk bollocks down the local later.

And, guess what happened? I was suddenly rather glad to see him. He wasn’t too bad a bloke. After all, if as Gary Oldman said about his mate Bowie: ‘He’s Dave from Brixton and I’m Gary from New Cross’, why couldn’t I be Terry from Stevenage?

After all, if it hadn’t of been for Terry we wouldn’t have had these three marvellous songs:

The original ‘Terry’, from Twinkle
An American Terry, from the Boss
Fave ‘Terry’, from the much-missed Kirsty

Continue reading What’s in a name?

‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’ – cover reveal.

Absolutely delighted to reveal the cover for the latest adventure of Master Detective Nicely Strongoak: ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’.

KELS ebook COVER

We hope you like it as much as we do and please do come back soon for further details about publication in November by the Monkey Business imprint of ‘Grey House in the Woods’.

Continue reading ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’ – cover reveal.

Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf by Terry Newman

Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf by Terry Newman

The world turns and changes, as it has an annoying habit of doing, and Widergard changes with it. History becomes tradition, becomes fable and is reborn as the main feature at your local Seeing Stone Picture House. This is the shiny, bright New Age, you see. In modern Widergard they’ve got steam wagons, speech horns and performance art. And in Widergard the various peoples, men, goblins, elves, gnomes and the pix, have to get by as best they can – especially in the seething metropolis that is The Citadel.

Crime is still with us too, but now that goblins carry shooters, down those mean cobbled streets a dwarf must walk tall. Yes, dwarves are still around as well; dwarves like Nicely Strongoak, Master Detective and Shield for Hire, and this is his toughest case.

The ORIGINAL elf, orc, dwarf, detective modern mash-up and a #1 Kindle Bestseller Published by Harper Voyager on sale now: USA http://goo.gl/7I3sOo UK http://goo.gl/r3NJ8K.

Have fun this Xmas!

‘Time’

Hey!

I am dead chuffed that a short story of mine ‘Time’ is a runner-up in ‘The Cornish Writing Challenge’. This is the first ‘non-genre’ short story I have written for err … ages. Strangely it seems that my writing has ended up rather compartmentalised. The serious stuff (even with humour) becomes plays, while film script writing takes up a lot of my plot-heavy, action story ideas and fantasy and science fiction is dominating the book writing.

‘Time’ has no elves, dwarfs, detectives or spaceships – not so much as a single alien. I was doubly pleased then that the story found favour with the judges and I might even try my hand at more mainstream writing again! After the next 2 Nicely books get published of course.

cornwall photo

Cornwall has always been rather a special place for me, thanks to some wonderful childhood holidays and some memorable teenage ones too. It’s the latter that provide the inspiration for the short story. Not very much to say about the childhood holidays, although Camomile lotion featured a lot! They were always magic though, so perhaps it’s not much of a stretch to be writing about magic now. Continue reading ‘Time’

The Oldest Mistake in the Book!

It’s my “Great Escape” moment – you know, when Gordon Jackson makes “the oldest mistake in the book” and replies in English to a German officer who wishes him: ‘Good Luck’.

How could he? The fool! After all he had been told?

good luck

Argh!

I have just sent off an important document where I’ve written, “you’re” instead of “your”.

Continue reading The Oldest Mistake in the Book!