Liverpool Life 9:8 December 2 2020

Page 21


‘Exciting’ nomination for a love story to Liverpool BETH HARWOOD speaks to Jeff Young about his memoir ‘Ghost Town’, which has made the Costa Book Awards shortlist


ou may love Liverpool, but do you know it? Over the years the city has been greeted by many different faces and with a forever changing landscape, it’s sometimes difficult to determine whether things you remember really happened. In his new book, shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, Jeff Young walks through the streets and tries to recall the city that once was. The idea for Ghost Town began with a series of talks Jeff did with BBC Radio Three. Talking about how Little Toller, the books publisher, approached him with the idea, Jeff, who is also a lecturer in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “They heard the radio essays and said they thought there was a book in it, and would I be interested in writing a book? So, I casually fell into turning it into a book. “There wasn’t enough material in the Radio Three pieces, so I went back to the publishers with 15 more things I’d like to write about. And then we ended up with 18 chapters

really and the chapters became a memoir of childhood and teenage years. Basically, it’s a love story to Liverpool and to my family.” The book is not written in chronological order, and so does not necessarily conform to the norms of a biography. Some reviews go as far as to say it’s written more like science fiction. Jeff laughed: “That’s not that far away from how my mind works. It’s closer to montage or collage and it’s very image based. You can’t really trust your memory. You can get as close as you possibly can to getting it right, but we have false memories. “And sometimes memory is more like a dream or a nightmare. I don’t think it goes as far as fantasy, but science fiction is kind of a good description, because it’s the strangeness of science fiction.” Jeff said there are parts of the book that have made him think it can’t really have happened. “There’s a very vivid memory about seeing a police horse dying in the street when I was a kid, on the day of a football match at Goodison Park. I can still see it now. I can see

the horse falling and the policeman going down with it and the horse haemorrhaging blood, so vivid and so clear. “I found out years later that it didn’t happen to me, it happened to my mum when she was a little girl. She must have told me the story and it became my memory.” When trying to gather memories, Jeff said he often took walks around the city. The theatre and radio writer joked: “My favourite place in Liverpool was just demolished a couple of years ago and it was the Futurist Cinema on Lime Street. And I go into that quite a bit in the book, what I see as an absolute insult to the people of the city to demolish a beautiful cinema.” Jeff described the Costa award nomination as a “real surprise, exciting and a bit scary”. “Being nominated for the Costa, it’s one of the biggest book prizes in the country. When you look at the other books that are on the shortlist you think ‘Oh my God’. I would like to win, but I think one of the others will win it, but it can’t do any harm to be on that list.”


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