Cradle of Rock/Ticket
By Bill Harry
Neil Foster has penned a novel set in Liverpool in the days of the Mersey Sound which was published in 2005 by Top F Books.
He tells me: “I started to write the novel in 1964 after seeing the film ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ It struck me that no one had every written a novel telling the truth about a rock ‘n’ roll/beat group, i.e. their hopes, dreams, disappointments, problems etc, so I started to write one. As you probably know, I was tenor sax player in the Delacardoes, one of the very few Liverpool groups that featured a sax. O.K., I wasn’t brilliant, but the sax gave us a different sound.
I only completed about 12,000 words before I got writer’s block and couldn’t write any more. I put the manuscript aside for 20 years and after returning to Liverpool from London in 1984 and experiencing a long period of unemployment, I
realized that if I didn’t finish it then I never would, so I set to work and completed it in six months.
I sent it to just about every publisher, but no one was interested, not even Spencer Leigh’s agent, who told me it would never sell as nothing much happened in it.
I didn’t want to write the Beatles story all over again but the story of just one of hundreds of also-rans who didn’t make it. I also wanted to describe the Liverpool of 1961, just as it was. As you know, it’s all history now.
I tried for 20 years to publish it myself but couldn’t raise enough money. Then a friend, George White, who runs his own publishing company called Music Mentor Books, sent me one of his publications in December 2004 and to my amazement he told me it cost just £300 initially to set up and have some copies printed (using Print On Demand, which I didn’t know much about them).
That was it. I had some money (£2,000) put aside for the book, so I set up my own publishing company: Top F Books ? the allusion is to the top note off the tenor sax, also my name is Foster so ‘Top F’, get it?
I ordered an initial supply of just 200 copies for promotion etc (cost price was £4 per book) but the response locally has been very disappointing – no interest from the local Merseyside papers, no interest from Prescot Library (I was born in Prescot), no interest or reply from any of the big bookshops I contacted and no interest from most book shops in Liverpool.
One book shop told me: “Music books don’t sell, not even those about the Beatles.” However, he took a couple of copies and the next time I saw them the price on the cover was £12.99, almost double my cover price! Work that out.
Still, none of that matters. The point is it has taken me 40 years of effort to bring the book out and I have done it. As far as I know (correct me if I am wrong) still, no other novel about the Mersey Sound has ever appeared and I have tried to make mine as authentic as possible ? I describe real incidents, real people, real clubs etc, plus the streets and scenes of the sixties as they really were, before they ruined it all!
When you read the book you’ll find Mersey Beat, the newspaper, quoted a lot. I have the group move to London in 1962 (which we did), not Hamburg, as we never went there, so I couldn’t describe the German scene accurately. I had to think of a plot device which would mean that although the group (the Jaguars) were in London, they could still follow what was happening back in Liverpool, to which they eventually return. How could I do that? Simple! One of the group members has a girl friend back in the Pool who posts him copies of Mersey Beat every two weeks, so he knows everything that goes on.”