To Cardiff

I found this old press clipping recently, and it’s taken me on a journey to Cardiff. Come along with me.

The clipping’s from the days when Time Out still had destination books pages, and an actual Books Editor in post! It’s a review by author John Williams. It was an important magazine at the time, with huge circulation. Everyone used to read it. So it was a thrill to get a brief positive review in John’s then regular/occasional crime fiction round-up. Especially for a confrontational avant garde novel like Charlieunclenorfolktango!

It was critics in the country’s various listings magazines – The List, The Source, etc. some of you may remember, some may still be going – that responded most positively to the novel in general, IIRC. And BTW some of those reviews are collected on the ‘Selected Press’ page on this site.

I have since got to know John Williams a bit. Among other things because a beautiful, short, off-the-cuff poem about Cardiff by him (set in Chapter Arts Centre) is collected in Borivoj Radakovic’s 2002 book for Piece of Paper Press, ‘Posjetiteljeva Knjiga’ (or ‘Visitors’ Book’).

Radakovic’s book is a compilation of scans from his notebook, comprising dedications and short texts by writers Boro spent time with on a trip to the uk in early 2002. Radakovic is an important translator of English language literature into Croatian.

It’s a really wonderful poem in fact. If you can’t read John’s writing I’ll put the text in below. 

Here’s how John Williams’s poem looks in Borivoj Radakovic’s book.

If John’s name rings a bell, it may be because he’s written many great books, not all of them Cardiff-related, although some are, including Bloody Valentine, about the murder of Lynnette White and the wrongful convictions of the so called ‘Cardiff 3’. Right now, out this week in fact, his new biography of CLR James — CLR James: A Life Beyond Boundaries — is getting universally brilliant reviews across the broadsheets, and sounds really excellent. 

Here is John’s poem in type:


We are in Chapter Arts Centre – there are a lot of writers here. There is Niall Griffiths, Lloyd Robson, Sean Burke. There are writers here, this is Cardiff.

This is Cardiff: Clark’s Pies & Brains Beer, steel & wool, docks & ships. This is Cardiff: it used to be a fighter’s town & now it’s a writer’s town.

Cardiff – it died & now it has been reborn.

John Williams


Buy The Fountain in the Forest via publisher Faber and Faber

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