Gore Vidal – Homosexuality & Transexuality

During the late 1940’s and early 50’s Gore Vidal was producing challenging books. This included Myra Breckinridge (sunsequently made into a film) and The City And The Pillar with a hint of autobiographical politics and homosexuality.
Gore Vidal died on 1st August 2012 age 86 with 24 books and numerous screen plays to his name.

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The City And The Pillar
‘Jim Willard, former high-school athlete and clean-cut boy-next-door-, is haunted by the memory of a romanctic adolescent encounter with his friend Bob Ford. As Jim pursues his first love, in awe of the very same masculinity he possesses himself, his progress through the secret gay world of 1940’s America unveils surreptitious Hollywood affairs, the hidden life of the military in the Second World War and the underworld bar culture of New York City.’ Amazon says Gore Vidals book based on homosexuality ‘remains not only an authentic and profoundly important social document but also a serious exploration of the nature of idealistic love.’
The publication of The City and the Pillar in 1948 shocked the American public but did not damage his personal appeal as he remained a controversial but well connected figure in US political and social life.

Myra Breckinridge
Gore Vidal novel of the same name, in which a gay man, Myron Breckinridge undergoes a sex-change operation before setting of – as Myra Breckinridge – on a mission to Hollywood to “destroy the American male in all its particulars”. A successful book that was made into a film starring Raquel Welsh, Mae West and John Huston.

‘It is a risky (and risque) business becoming ‘Woman Triumphant’ – exercising total power over men like Rusty Godowski. Rusty just wants to be a Hollywood star like everyone else at Buck Loner’s academy, but now that Buck’s niece, Myra Breckinridge, has arrived, the curriculum is taking a wildly strange turn. Willing to risk all to be superb and unique, Myra means to prove to her old friend Dr Montag that it is possible to work out in life all one’s fantasies – and survive.
‘From Myra’s fist appearance on the page she was a megastar’, explains her creator, Gore Vidal. Myra caused a second furore when she returned in Myron to battle it out with her eponymous alter ego, a drab little man fallen into marriage and a job in Chinese catering. Theirs is a contest of hormonal roulette, with glorious Myra off on time-travelling missions of mercy back to 1948 to try to change cinema history and to introduce her own radical theories of popuation control. Meanwhile Myron tries desperately to stay in the present as inconspicuously as Mrya will allow.’

Gore Vidal Selected Quotes

There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts.
It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven’t seen them since.
Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60.
‘George W Bush was the stupidest man in the USA’ and Gore Vidal couldn’t be a conspiracy theorist as ‘the administration were not clever enough to pull it off.’

Nostalgia is Bigger Than It Used To Be

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Nostalgia is big business and isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. Alan Titchmarsh has latched on to the trend with his BBC book ‘When I was a Nipper’ available from amazon as paperback or hardback.

Why Nostalgia is Getting Bigger

  • The baby boomers are enjoying life and there are a lot of them around.
  • Old music acts from the 60’s and 70’s are touring and performing in ever growing numbers. I saw one of the Dubliners on a zimmer frame at St Georges Hall Bradford last year!
  • Discretionary spending on nostalgia increases year on year. Collecting memorabilia, old pottery, and modern antiques has been promoted by lifestyle programmes on TV.
  • Family tree compilation and ancestor research has joined the list of popular hobbies.
  • Themed holidays and a greater number of museums and local attractions based on nostalgia proliferate.
  • There is a demand for nostalgia because times were good. The supply of nostalgia based products, services and media is aimed at satisfying the demand.

Yorkshire Nostalgia

    • The Railway Children is running again in a live performance at Waterloo Station

  • Heartbeat of Aidensfield fame may have ceased production but it is still running on digital TV channels and dvds. How long before we are nostalgic for analogue TV?
  • Another show that runs and runs is the Last of the Summer Wine. I can even get nostalgic for the reruns!
  • If you want to keep up with nostalgia you can do a lot worse than read The Dalesman

Yorkshire’s Fictional Anthropologist

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I have just read ‘The Calling of the Grave’ by Yorkshire author Simon Beckett. It features Dr David Hunter a forensic expert to equal Kay Scarpetta or Kathy Reichs’ Tempe Brennan.
Not up to the standard of Pat Baker’s W.H.R. Rivers, a real anthropologist, as his fictionalized self in Regeneration. Rivers treats shell-shocked soldiers so that can be sent back to the front in the brutal First World War.
Karen Rose’s forensic pathologist Lucy Trask is bit off this track so give this Yorkshire lad’s hero a chance.

Simon Beckett grew up and still lives in Sheffield. ‘I had a fairly ordinary working class background, at a time when the city was still dominated by the steel industry. I’ve lived in other places but always gravitated back here. It tends to get a lot of bad press, but it’s a good place to live, and a lot greener than most people give it credit for – I mean that in the sense of trees and countryside rather than the ecological sense. I don’t set my novels here, because I think it’s difficult to be objective about somewhere you know well. But other writers have no problem with that, so it’s just a case of different strokes, I suppose.’ www.simonbeckett.com

His other books: ‘Where there is smoke’ Written in Bone, Whispers of the Dead and The Chemistry Of Death are now on my list of books to read.

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Quick Guide to Slow North Yorkshire

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Slow North Yorkshire: Moors, Dales & Coast, including York – Local, characterful guides to Britain’s special places from Mike Bradshaw

According to the description of this book it ‘explores the nooks and crannies of this dramatic and diverse county and takes in all the well known sights as well as regional secrets, including fossil hunting, wild food foraging and the game of quoits.
Mike Bagshaw’s unique guide to the area brings to life the landscapes and wildlife of the region and indulges his interests in crafts, architecture, local history, folklore and pubs.’

I do not think Slow North Yorkshire refers to the speed of thought of any of the residents nor their measured speech and manners. It is more an invocation to take your time traveling through or just talking to the characters in the pubs and cafes.

It may try to cram in too much with chapters on Three Peaks area, Swaledale, Wensleydale, Craven & Wharfedale, Nidderdale & Harrogate, Clevedon & Hambledon, York, Eskdale & Cleveland to say nothing of Howardian Hills and Eastern Moors Forests and Beaches. On second thoughts it can’t do justice to all these places but just offers a smorgasbord of morsels or quick reminder of places and things to try.

You will want to stay several nights to cover even a small section of the area so the accommodation from Alastair Sawday ensures a comfortable stay, helping to get the most out of a ‘slow’ visit to one of Britain’s most beautiful areas.

The Cragg Vale Coiners – Phillis Bentley

Coiners historically were people who were makers of counterfeit coins or those who ‘coins money’ by clipping or filing off bits of valuable metal. They literally were ‘coining it in’.


A tour d’Yorkshire book from and about old ‘Cragg Vale’.

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There is nothing counterfeit about the currency of books by Phillis Bentley. Her book about the Cragg Vale Coiners ‘Gold Pieces Tales from the Tops’ is one of her 15 major novels that emphasised her knowledge and love of Yorkshire, the mill owners, the work force and the occasional coin operator from around Halifax. Gold Pieces is seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy,

Phillis was writing at a time when middle class girls were just emerging from the constraints of the Victorian era. J B Priestley wrote of her ‘The truth is, it is about five times harder for a woman to be a professional writer than it is for a man’.
After penning ‘Environment’ in 1922 she took to heart the problems of the slump in the West Riding and wrote her defining work ‘Inheritance’. This was based on the story of three generations of a family engaged in the textile trade. Like Gold Pieces it drew heavily on her knowledge of the Calder Valley and her home region.

Other books by Phyllis Bentley

Most of her books had a Yorkshire theme and she became well known as a regional novelist.
Sleep in Peace
The Adventures of Tom Leigh
The Rise of Henry Morcar
Freedom Farewell
Panorama: Tales of the West Riding
A Man of His Time
The Adventures of Tom Leigh
Ned Carver in Danger
Take Courage
The House of Moreys
A Man Of His Time

Phyllis Bentley’s non-fiction work included scholarly works on the Brontë Sisters, the English woollen industry, the Fall of Ancient Rome as well as works on the West Riding history and topography.
O Dreams O Destinations was the title of Phyllis Bentley’s autobiography.

Interesting Snippets about Phyllis Bentley

Phyllis was born in 1894 and looked after her mother until she died at age 90. Phyliss herself died in 1977
In 1967 Inheritance was filmed by Granada TV, with John Thaw and James Bolam.
Moving with the times many of her books are now available again on kindle
Phyllis became a professional lecturer and had a spell binding voice when talking about The Brontes.
At her funeral in Halifax she was described as ‘a one woman Yorkshire Institution’
For more on the real life Cragg Vale Coiners read Homeland

Black Diamonds Built Wentworth Castle

Wentworth Castle at Stainborough near Barnsley has fine gardens and parkland to walk around.
Now-a-days Wentworth Castle buildings are used as a college of further education known as The Northern College. Access into the house is therefore strictly by pre-booked tour only.

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Old History

‘In 1695, Thomas Wentworth expected to inherit the landed estate and vast wealth at Wentworth Woodhouse, some 7 miles to the south of Stainborough, when the 2nd Earl of Strafford died childless in 1695. Unexpectedly the estate was left to Thomas Wentworth’s cousin Thomas Watson.
Although Thomas Wentworth went on to command high positions as a soldier and diplomat in the service of King William III and Queen Anne, he remained determined to re-establish his claim to the title of Earl Strafford’.
In 1727, Thomas began to build a mock castle on the highest point of the estate. He called this Stainborough Castle, and on its completion in 1731 he renamed the house and estate Wentworth Castle.

20th Century History

For a full account of the fall of the dynasty from 1902 you could do worse than read ‘Black Diamonds’ by Catherine Bailey.
At that time Wentworth was surrounded by 70 collieries employing tens of thousands of men. The battle between the varying attitudes of mine owners and miners during the first half of the twentieth century is coupled with detail of the lives of the miners & their families.
Black Diamonds tells the story of Wentworth’s demise where family feuds, forbidden love, class war, madness and a tragic and violent death played their part. Coal is one of the most emotive issues in twentieth century British politics and this well written book sheds more than a miners lamp on the issues and social activity from two distinct points of view.

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Wentworth Castle 122 Continue reading Black Diamonds Built Wentworth Castle

Whitby – Home For Vampires That Fear The Light?

Since Bram Stoker lit his first candle to see the ink drying on his story of Dracula the local vampires have preferred the night and twilight. So might you if you see the light like this around St Mary’s and the Abbey. Gouls, Goths and Vampires are generally portrayed in black but when shown in their true colours it can be quite illuminating.

Can you see the vampires heading down the steps to the sea front? Mind how you go or we may never see you again.
Take your own Vampire potions and protection with you if you venture out as the lights begin to twinkle, dim and then disappear as night sets in and Vampires start to roam.
Avoid getting spooked, meeting a zombie or getting kissed on the neck in Whitby. On a positive note dawn has always returned, so far!

Illuminating Images

This page has been designed in part to promote a series of Whitby photographs which use light in a variety of ways to emphasise the nature of our favourite Yorkshire seaside town. The real images are bigger better and dare I say it ‘more spooky’ but follow a successful, tried and tested theme.
Similar works based on clever lighting of Ilkley Moor are available from retailers in Ilkley and a deal could be done for a Whitby organisation that sees the light. Contact Chris North Photography.

Whitby Home For Vampires

Not Goulish enough for you? Try reading ‘Whitby Vampyrrhic’ by Simon Clark

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JOHUTCH says ‘This book is probably one of my all time favourites and I have read a lot of horror books. Mr Clark draws you in to the characters straight away and the storyline is transfixing…. Give him a go, in my opinion he is better than King.’

Other novels by Simon Clark in order of publication over the last 17 years
Nailed by the Heart
Blood Crazy
King Blood
The Fall
Judas Tree
Darkness Demands
The Night of the Triffids
In This Skin
The Tower
Death’s Dominion
London Under Midnight
Lucifer’s Ark
This Rage of Echoes
The Midnight Man
Stone Cold Calling
Vengeance Child
This Ghosting Tide
Ghost Monster
Whitby Vampyrrhic
The Gravedigger’s Tale
His Vampyrrhic Bride

Simon Clark is from Doncaster and is best known for his ‘The Night of the Triffids’ a sequel to Wyndham Lewis’s ‘The Day of The Triffids’. The sequel takes up the story twenty-five years later when the now grown-up son of Bill Masen is still searching for a method of destroying the implacable triffid plant as it continues its worldwide march.
Simon also wrote many short stories and ‘Doctor Who Dalek Factor’.

WGW is the Whitby Goth Weekend which runs from Halloween to Bonfire night. The big event 4th-6th November 2016 is sold out. This gathering of Steampunks, emos, goths, metallers, and other musical genres makes for a very suitable Whitby weekend home for ‘Vampires Who Fear The Light’.
Let the light shine but not too brightly!

Haworth no Bronte Publicity II PY

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When a Haworth based family buy a beautiful vintage Rolls-Royce, little do they know they would get more than they bargained for. Named after the car’s registration II PY this book by a local author is ‘Fast-paced and action-packed, II PY takes us on a rollercoaster ride through the landscapes of Britain and France, where the old world charm of nostalgic rallies and vintage shows collides with a ruthless, audacious underworld of gangland bosses. Part taut thriller, part homage to one of automobile history’s greatest cars, II PY will have you on the edge of your ivory leather seats!’

Defeating the ‘Crims’ time after time the plot is starting to wear thin as it takes the police such a long time to catch on. For a fast read and ‘the thrill of the chase’ this is an enjoyable read and cheap to borrow from the library.

Look out for this registration plate on a car near Haworth. That is where the author and his own car live and until this book is made into a film I guess they won’t be moving to Monte Carlo.

II PY by Edward Evans

These lesser known Haworth authors have had large parts of the county named after them and on that basis need no publicity from this web site.

Partner-ignoringly Compulsive – Jojo Moyes Novel

Now the Euro  football is decided and the Olympics put to rest it may be your turn to be ‘Partner-ignoringly Compulsive’ by reading one of Jojo Moyes  fiction books.
Opening ceremony of Euro 2012

Preface to Yorkshire Book Club (A3)

Jojo Moyes has been a fulltime novelist for over 10 years and prior to that was a journalist at the Independent. As the ‘Arts and Media Correspondent’ for the Indy she covered an eclectic range of subjects that inform and reflect on her subsequent work.

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Me Before You is Jojo’s latest romantic novel with a cast of characters who are charismatic, credible and utterly compelling.
Jojo is one of only a few authors to have won the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award twice. This was for Foreign Fruit and “The Last Letter From Your Lover” but you may also like to read The Ship of Brides, Silver Bay, Night Music and The Horse Dancer.
The Sunday Express report that in Me Before You is ‘a profound, fundamental, thought-provoking conundrum (which) lies at the heart of the story, a huge moral dilemma, explored with great fictional finesse.’

Yorkshire God’s Own County Book Club Opinion

With over 500 pages this book has enough content to keep you in a state capable of ignoring your partner for the pleasure of your own reading.
Engrossing rather than literary Me Before You would make a good holiday read. Reviewers fight shy of finishing the book on a journey in case the emotions seep out through the tear ducts.
The Euro 2012 is over for ever but there is the World Cup in two years and a new Euro thereafter. That leaves plenty of time for some compulsive reading!

Book Club Type Questions for Consideration

How well does Jojo deal with the rights of disabled people.
Do you feel empathy with all the main characters?
Would you rather have been watching the Euro 2012 football?
Can the humour overcome the emotion in the last 10% of the book?


Strangely the Kindle version is more expensive than the paperback at £3.99. Have you noticed how Amazon now assume it is the kindle version you wish to buy and offer hardback and paperback as alternatives on a new click.
Sorry I found no direct link to Yorkshire. Jojo studied at City University in London.
Photo credit Opening ceremony of Euro 2012 by cattias.photos under creative commons BY-NC-ND 2.0

Clever Little Tit or Bird Brain

I had fallen into the trap of calling various birds ‘Tits’ but I now remember they were really Titmice or a titmouse

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The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology

Tim R. Birkhead is professor of behavioural ecology at Sheffield University.
He has three main research areas:

1. Post-copulatory sexual selection, mainly in birds.
2. Population biology of birds.
3. The history of science, and of reproduction and ornithology in particular.

With this book he has produced a complete history of ornithology. The illustrations, prints and pictures are illuminating and there seems to be a reference to every bird you could imagine. Good value for money in terms of size, scope and content.

Reviews of The Wisdom of Birds

‘I speculated as to the origins of another science, ornithology, hazarding that it similarly was based upon a wealth of local knowledge brought together and systemised by the protoscientists of the day, or savants, as Rudwick calls them. Tim Birkhead, in The Wisdom Of Birds, appears to confirm this premise.
Using as his starting point the 16th Century ornithologist John Ray, Birkhead describes how ornithology developed from folklore and superstition into a coherent science. Ray’s own book, The Wisdom Of God, provides Birkhead’s title, although it is knowledge rather than wisdom which is shown accumulating. As with the sciences dealt with by Rudwick, some knowledge originates from the museum, some from commerce (poultry farmers and hunters), some from what we may call hobbyists (bird keepers) and, eventually, from savants in the field, and like the early geologists, such ornithologists were considered strange birds indeed at first. …….

Throughout the work Birkhead has found some beautiful pictures to illustrate his point, although this is also one of a number of sources of frustration, as often there is very little advantage taken of them, or explanatory comment, as for example where a picture appears of a bird looking remarkably like a Northern Cardinal but labelled in its 17th Century setting as a Virginian Nightingale, with no covering narrative, including why this North American bird should appear on a page accompanied by five European birds (four finches and a sparrow)……. the result is still an excellent book.’
Steven Keen Review

‘….Tim Birkhead is an academic who can communicate brilliantly with the ordinary reader. From bird intelligence, migration, physiology to reproduction, the author covers a wide range of material……
Ashton 455

‘….The range of issues covers subjects such as egg development, instinct and intelligence, migration, the influence of daylight on the breeding cycle, territoriality, vocalisations, sexual differentiation, infidelity, reproduction and longevity…focused on the individuals behind the development of ornithology while Tim Birkhead is more interested in what they discovered. ‘
K F Betton

A Fellow of the Royal Society and Professor at Department of Animal and Plant Sciences Sheffield University Tim Birkhead has produced a brainy book on birds and those who have studied them as you would expect from an academic. However he has also been very clever in making it accessible to all ornithologists. (ed.)

Sheffield University Department of Animal and Plant Sciences
Review by Steven Keen
K F Betton and Ashton 455 on amazon
Daily Telegraph Book Review

Yorkshires top Twelve Birdwatching Sites
Midhope Moor and Langsett reservoir