Deborah Tyler-Bennett read from Brand New Beat, a collection of short stories. The characters she created in Turned Out Nice Again and Mice That Roared are followed into the 1960s with Brand New Beat but the book can be read as a stand-alone collection.
Within a few lines of ‘Mr Stringer’s Favourite Dance’, we are whisked back to the sixties with a description of the characters dancing to ‘Hoots Mon’. Tyler-Bennett’s extensive research is evident in the details of the setting: a formica table, a sunburst mirror and a Murano glass fish on the sideboard.
The social issues of the 1960s form the backdrop of the stories. Beryl must deal with the stigma of being an unmarried mother and the loss of her career. Double act Cooper and Bean face a crisis with the closure of music halls and rise of new entertainers.
The changes in fashions create clashes between the young women wearing mini-skirts and the older women who continue to dress as they had done during the 1940s. The white patent shoes and matching handbag belonging to one of the characters reinforce the spirit of the decade, as do the turban and rollers of the grandmother in ‘Dominoes’.
There is a lot of humour in the dialogue which makes use of the dialect of the time and place – 1960s Mansfield. We know exactly where we are with phrases such as ‘of a Saturday night’ and ‘the babby’. The line that stands out in ‘Mr Illuminator’ is ‘You could’ve heard a Spangle being sucked!’ - a wonderful reference to a sadly-missed brand of sweets.
The reading was clearly enjoyed by everyone in the audience, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to leave the event humming the tune to ‘Hoots Mon’!
About the reviewer
Karen Powell is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Her poetry has been published in various anthologies and magazines including Welcome to Leicester: poems about the city, The Interpreter’s House and Silver Birch Press.