It’s 1967 and the start of the Summer of love. Life will never be the same again for the young as they celebrate liberation and nonconformity, but also protest against prejudice, repression and war. In Brighton, Stephen Dearsley is tempted and intimidated by the way his generation is casting off traditional ways of dress along with the old ways of thinking. His hippy housemate Dys provides an open door into his own possible summer of love, but will autumn still find him in tweeds, or will he be in colourful loons and tie-dye? His ambition to become a biographer is fulfilled when he’s commissioned to research the life story of Austin Randolph, and the revelations of hypocrisy, class prejudice and homophobia lead him to make his decision.
Summarize your story in one sentence:
Stephen Dearsley, in 1967, is the original young fogey who wants to be a biographer but the Summer Of Love puts some tempting obstacles in his path.
What are the main themes?
The book is about 1967, an extraordinary moment in cultural history but it is also about how we have to balance our knowledge of history with the necesssity to live in our own times. It is also about how, hopefully, a little person like Stephen can be more powerful than the charismatic super hero, his biographical subject, the dastardly Austin Randolph. Stephen Dearsley has to find himself and come to terms with his develooping sense of self while the world is changing around him. Oh yes, I suppose the book is also about love.
Who or what inspired your story?
I read that the brilliant biographer Michael Holroyd, a hero of mine, studied in a public library and not university. I thought this held interesting seeds for a book about the relationship between a would-be biographer and the man he would have to write about. Also, I was inspired by the wonderful use of bathos in the last paragraph in Graham Greene’s novel Our Man In Havana. My novel’s ending was always going to be a reflection on that – but enough said! I was also determined to draw on my obession for a certain song by The Rolling Stones which I’m not going to reveal for fear of doing a spoiler! Finally, yes music again, I guess the book wouldn’t have happened without The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper and All You Need Is Love.
What do you like best about your main characters?
I am very fond of poor Stephen – maybe I’m a softy for the underdog but I love Stephen’s earnest attempts to fit in and find himself and even to challenge the things that he’d always thought were important to him. Many of the other characters too, I think, are redeemed even if they are damaged by their search for love.
Emilia Jefferies and Philip Irving have a tremendous capacity for love and a hidden strength that impresses me even if it does llittle to make them happy.
Dys is a wonderful free-spirit – a light to lighten other people’s lives, perhaps, but also a genuine social radical.
How are they flawed?
Stephen Dearsley clings onto his love of the past, finding his version of historical facts comforting when he feels insecure. He is a young man hiding from himself and suffering from his social shyness.
Austin Randolph, a kind of 1930’s matinee idol, is charismatic, handsome and romantic but he is a victim of being loved too much and too uncritically. Love and sexual chemistry has distorted his sense of himself and sent him on a collision course; finding relief, tragically, in the political poison of the 1930s.
Emilia Jefferies and Philip Irving, Austin’s contemporaries, have hidden themselves away rather than confront the unhappiness of their situation. It has made them painfully dishonest.
Dys for all her adoption of the spirit of her age, is guilty of gross self-centredness and she too, maybe, like several of the other characters, is hiding her insecurity behind a gloss of conviction.
What’s the biggest obstacle they face?
For many of the characters, the world is, and never has been, quite as exciting or as romantic or even as comprehensible as they would like it to be. Their desire for meaning often creates obstacles that block their way through the confusion.
How do they grow and change?
The book considers two, or maybe three generations of young people who have to grow up in three difficult 20th Century eras. How they grow is one of the novel’s main themes and if they, or any of us, actually change. I hope the novel answers these questions.
What’s the principal message you want to send to your audience?
Maybe it’s: Is love all you need?
What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about your book?
“The form of the book is alternating chapters of time and characters, that gather together to create a whole picture of various times and lives. .. …Stephen’s summer of love in Brighton is well observed.’ Dr Michael Petry, Director of MOCA London
Where can we purchase it?
About Colin Bell
Colin Bell was born in a Franciscan convent in Surrey but grew up in Sussex – everything that he has done, he did for the first time in Brighton. After half a lifetime in Manchester working for Granada Television, he returned to Sussex and now lives in Lewes, the urban equivalent of BBC Radio Four.
At Granada, after working in every department from politics to light entertainment, he became a producer-director of arts documentaries and then Executive Producer , Music and Arts making arts series for ITV and Channel Four. His television credits include Celebration, God Bless America, My Generation, Menuhin’s Children and It Was Twenty Years Ago Today.
He has fond TV memories of writing scripts for Kenneth Williams, unwittingly asking Sir Lawrence Olivier to find him a transistor radio, being the regular voice of “sneering authority” on the investigative journalism series World In Action and setting the music questions for University Challenge. He is also proud of writing three children’s books (published by Novello’s) to accompany the Early Reading series, Story World and of working with most British rock bands from The Beatles to Oasis.
Following an urge that would never go away, he gave up television deciding that he had to try to become a full-time writer and thus fulfill his life’s ambition.
Whilst working on his novel and a number of short stories, he suffered a brain haemorrhage that was meant to kill him but failed. Described as the neurologist’s “miracle patient”, he made a full recovery whilst discovering the virtual world of Second Life and a previously unexpected ability to write poetry.
He adopted a wolf’s persona, when his cyber name, Wolfgang, was “affectionately” lengthened to wolfiewolfgang when he was arts editor of the online men’s fitness magazine Mansized, and he still answers to the name Wolfie in various writers’ communities in Second Life and on his website where he writes a daily blog.
His poetry has been published in the UK and the USA by The Blotter, Cinnamon Press, Soaring Penguin Press, The Fib Review, Shot Glass Journal, Every Day Poets, and Bittersweet. His short stories have been performed by the White Rabbit theatre company in London and published by Ether Books. He is a Writers’ Village Best Writers’ Award winner and has given poetry readings in the UK and the USA.
He is an enthusiastic but skillless martial artist (Kungfu and Taichi), roller-blader and musician who relaxes in his small town garden with a very sharp pair of secateurs and where he is not afraid of barefoot snail crushing.