Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Stir Of Echoes.

My grandfather owned a Gladstone bag - a robust, leather hand held case with stainless steel locks and rings for a shoulder strap. In the 21 years I knew him, this Gladstone bag was a recognizable fixture - a mark of the man if you will - which he took to work with him every night of his 40+ year career with the State Electricity Commission in Victoria, Australia. 

Whenever I went to visit Nana and Pa, this Gladstone bag would always be in the same place - by the fridge in the kitchen of their Langford Street home - ready and waiting. And on the nights he was on duty, it would be duly packed - a meal placed inside for him by my Nana along with his toiletries, tooth brush and paste, a stainless steel comb, his wallet and keys. Off he would go to work as a night watchman.

For years, I thought this Gladstone bag had been lost in the moves my grandparents made after Pa retired from the Commission in 1983. 

Their first move was from the Langford Street home to a newly built unit in Saxsons Drive in the mid 80's. As often happens, there is a tendency to down scale to save space or because things are no longer needed. 

My Nana further down scaled after my Pa died in  1993 as she sought to de-clutter. She did so again just a couple of years ago when Nana decided her health and well being would be best served by moving into a independent living unit. The Saxsons Drive unit was sold. 

It wasn't until my Nana asked me, very recently, if I would like to have it that I realized the Gladstone bag remained very much in her treasured possessions and, of course, I was honoured to accept her offer. 

For me, the Gladstone bag was such a tangible reminder of who my grandfather was and I reassured Nana that I would treasure it as much as she had for all those years after Pa died. 

Dad delivered to me during a visit home in October 2012 and, right away, I felt the impact of now being a custodian of Pa's Gladstone bag. It was then, and is now, a little worse for wear. The interior has a lining which has torn a little from the seams and the leather needs attention. But as is the case with all things that were made back in the day, it remains sturdy and functional. 

When I got it, inside I found an old stainless steel comb - the same one that Pa always took to work with him. It still has the faint whiff of bryll cream though I am sure that my mind is conjuring up much of that scent. There were some old keys that I assume fit locks in the old Langford Street home. There was an old school bottle opener which I have proudly attached to my keyring and now use proudly with my own beers and, perhaps most significantly, the last wallet Pa ever owned remained inside the bag.

The leather wallet is a veritable time capsule containing ephemera that corresponds with a period in the early 90's when Pa was told he had cancer. There's a card from the Latrobe Valley Hospital showing his blood type, dated 1991. This corresponds to the initial medical work up Pa went through in preparation for the rigorous treatment he would undergo later in an effort to stave off the cancer. There's a scrap of paper with the name and contact details of the Veteran Affairs Liaison at the Peter McCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne written in Pa's own hand writing. This piece in particular is significant as I hardly saw much of Pa's handwriting. 

Whenever Nana and Pa went away on their yearly grey ghost migration, the post cards I got from them were always written in Nana's handwriting. I think there is one post card (which I still have) that's written in Pa's handwriting. That is why things like this are so precious - both as a tangible sample of Pa's own hand but also his state of mind at the time this was written.  

And there's his Returned Servicemen's League Membership Card - which, ironically, was valid until the end of '93 - 10 months after he died. 

Curiously, there's also a receipt for accommodation for 2 adults at the Cardwell Marine Hotel, dated July 1973 - 2 months before I was born. How that survived in Pa's possession for so long is not surprising because Pa was always keeping receipts like that.

But among all these things that have survived the two decades since his passing, one piece of paper carries something more precious to me than any jewel. 

By the middle of 1992, the writing was on the wall for my Pa. The cancer - having metastasised into his right shoulder when it was first discovered - made the inexorable march through his body. We all knew how the situation was going to play itself out but I don't think I ever understood what was going on in Pa's mind. Deep inside a pocket of the wallet, separate from all the other bits and pieces, cards and reminders was this scrap of paper. 

Written in Pa's own handwriting, it is a passage which I can't determine is original or borrowed. Regardless, its impact is powerful. I can only guess that it was written some time in 1992, at what was undoubtedly a dark hour in the life of my Pa. Faced with the brutal reality of his own mortality, knowing that his remaining time on this earth was short, his focus remained on that which was most important to him. His wife of 48 years...

...and possibly the Butcher.

Having met during the worst days of WW2, George and Dorothy Mayes experienced the full spectrum of the human experience. They raised three good children of whom they lost one far too early. They built a home and a life in a proud working class town and revelled in the lives of their children's children. They travelled together, looked after each other, laughed, cried and and encouraged each other. And in the end, there was this...a small devotional script, a message of feeling from the inner most thoughts of my grandfather's mind. 

These are the stir of echoes that continue in me...


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Dead Man Will Rise - A Look At Dead Man Rising by Jack Hayes.

I grew up on a steady diet of genre thriller novels from the likes of Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and John le CarrĂ©. I revelled their portrayal of conflicted operatives as they negotiated their way through international intrigue, political machinations and balls out action. It's a genre I, myself have attempted to write in but haven't quite pulled off. 

In the post 9/11 world, I gravitated towards the explosion of non fiction titles examining the real world war on terror. For me, the truth was just as entertaining as the fiction I'd read growing up. That's not to say that I hadn't lost my appetite for the genre at all but, I'll admit, my attention had been diverted for many years. 

Recently, I re-discovered my love for the genre with a smart and sophisticated entry from U.K. based Jack Hayes whose Dead Man Rising sucked me in, held onto me and didn't let go until the end. 

The guff on the book is thus;

Meet Rook.

A former spy turned reporter, his life is planned like a game of chess. Every move has an objective - and is played strategically, and with total focus. 

But in the tranquil paradise of Hawaii, amid the palm trees and sunshine, he is about to play out the greatest game of his life. And the deadliest. A fellow journalist - running the paper's Hawaii bureau - has disappeared. No one knows why, or where? Rook is determined to find out.

He was on the trail of one of the greatest scoops of all time - a story that brings together all the powers competing for control of the Pacific. As he starts to dig, Rook soon finds he is on the run - from intelligence agencies, governments, police forces and from his own past. 

He will need all his survival skills to outwit them. Because a dead man can rise once. But not twice.

I came to Jack Hayes' Dead Man Rising at a fortuitous time when my consciousness has been attuned to names like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Michael Hastings and their endeavours to shine a light into the darkest corners of the US Government's surveillance apparatus. So, I was ripe for a journey through a kind of paranoid fantasy like Dead Man Rising. 

And in the tradition of those classic political thrillers I mentioned earlier, author Jack Hayes brings his own signature to the genre with Dead Man Rising. It is a delicious thriller that crackles with intensity from the opening pages, juxtaposing action, conspiracy and paranoia in a perfect balancing act that keeps you invested.

The first person perspective employed by Hayes in his portrayal of his protagonist, the Rook, brings a tactile edge to the narrative. We are drawn into the Rooks experience seeing and feeling what he feels and reacting accordingly. It is visceral and by extension highly enjoyable.

At times, Hayes' story telling reads almost like a how to guide for aspiring spies. Clearly, he has invested considerable effort in researching procedure and methods employed in the spy game. As is essential for a genre thriller like this, it never labours or bogs the story down. Rather; Hayes packages it neatly into the narrative and it serves the action narrative well.

Dead Man Rising is a visual and tense thrill ride - worthy of cinematic adaptation - but, more importantly, worthy of recognition alongside the likes of the Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan series. This is how sharp, intelligent action packed thrillers should be written.

For Jack Hayes, Dead Man Rising is a significant achievement.

Jack Hayes is a journalist for one of the world's largest news companies. Having reported widely from Ethiopia, Mozambique, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and many others, he has the pedigree and a unique perspective that gives him the edge when it comes to crafting intelligently plotted thrillers.

When he's not reporting or writing novels, he enjoys music, reading, Italian cuisine and spending time with his wife.

Purchase Dead Man Rising here.

Purchase Blood Red Sea here

Connect with Jack Hayes here.

Tweet with Jack Hayes here.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Them Vibes - There Need Be No Other Title.

I first encountered the recording artist Brother Love through the New York internet radio show Keith and the Girl back in 2006. A 1000 watt personality with a killer vocal range as a singer as well as mega chops on the drums, Brother Love's multi-layered music quickly rose to the top of my playlist via his solo albums "Album of the Year" and "Turn It Up". Both albums show case Brother Love's ability to cross pollinate musical genres from rock, to funk to radio friendly urban beats, while anchoring them together with his considerable vocal presence. The result is an attractive package that still stands as one of my favorites.

I was hopeful that Brother Love would continue with his solo work because I always felt he had much more to give. However, an opportunity presented for him to further his career behind the drums and he made the move to Nashville to take up residence in the country rock fusion outfit "Her and Kings County". What started out as a hugely promising career with a band who had major label backing turned out not to be and at the middle point of 2012, it seemed - from the outside looking in - Brother Love as a recording artist, might have run his race. Little did I know, this couldn't be further from the truth.

With another former HKC alum Alex Haddad, Brother Love set about reinventing himself via a new musical project, the boughs of which, are now bearing fruit.

Them Vibes represents a continuation of Brother Love's and Alex Haddad's exploration of a Nashville inspired country rock fusion but as Brother Love himself told me recently, it is a much more personal sound, free from the constraints of the over produced, over packaged fare that so often finds it's way onto music store shelves.

In January 2013, the band began recording their debut record, Shine On, in their backyard of Nashville, TN. They sought out to make an album that was unchained from the grid-perfect, quick fix plug-in standards of today’s recording. Demanding vintage tones, feel, and performance, Them Vibes went to work creating a record that felt both new and familiar. Six months later, they left with an eleven song LP that achieved just that.

Them Vibes’ roots run deep through the veritable ground of music; influences ranging from the gritty rock of The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, the rhythmic sway of The Black Crowes and Tom Petty, and the intimate harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel and The Band. The songs themselves vary from the ballistic to the intimate, but throughout, runs a through-line of raw, unapologetic honesty.

From the cut-throat, adrenalin shot, single, Cryin Shame, to the down-home, back porch sound of Lorelei, the band takes you on a journey in sound, and feel, but through it all, the genuine grit and heart of Them Vibes rings on through to the last note. It vibes. It feels. It gets under your skin and makes you feel good. Lorelei alone had me pulling out my Nana's ancient piano accordion and had me jamming along with it.

Currently residing in East Nashville, Them Vibes are doing what they love most; playing live and letting the music do the talking. You can probably find the songwriters, Alex Haddad and Larry Florman (Brother Love) by the bar somewhere. Have a drink with them, ease back, let yourself go, and take a ride with Them Vibes.

As the duo work towards a release of the LP later this year, they are currently promoting their music via their Bandcamp portal. Cryin' Shame and Lorelei (which are available for purchase now) will soon be joined by additional tracks from the Shine On album. Through this effort as well as a possible crowd funding push, Them Vibes will be in a position to raise their profile into the stratosphere. 

Purchase Them Vibes music here.

Follow Them Vibes here.

Tweet Them Vibes here

Rock and roll isn't supposed to be pretty. It sure a s hell isn't perfect. It’s just as crooked as the rest of us, and that’s the way it should be.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Dean Mayes to feature at The Write Week - Clare Valley Writer's Festival.

I'm pleased to be able to announce here that I will be a part of the Indie Author Showcase at this years Clare Writers' Festival - The Write Week! in the beautiful Clare Valley, South Australia. The Festival runs from the 25th November to the 1st of December and will feature an amazing line-up of authors and writers including internationally recognized Sean Williams, P.D. Martin and Fiona McIntosh. The week long festival will also include a packed program workshops, author talks and launches.

I'll be there on the afternoon and evening of the 30th November (a Saturday) talking about my novels "Gifts of the Peramangk" and "The Hambledown Dream" and signing copies for readers. There will be a gourmet barbecue on offer as well as the best of the Clare Valley's wines to sip. 

Situated a little over a 90 minute drive north of Adelaide, the Clare Valley has established itself as one of the premier wine growing regions in Australia as well as nurturing a vibrant arts and food culture, becoming a mecca for all things both artistic, literary and culinary. The Clare Writers' Festival - The Write Week!, which kicks off just in time for a gorgeous Australian summer will showcase all that is great and good about the region and the week long festivities promises to be a fantastic event on the calendar.

I hope you can spread the word and perhaps make a day of it to come up and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the Clare Writer's Festival.