AS STROUD celebrates the centenary of writer and poet Laurie Lee, a thoughtful book by another Slad poet forms a worthy tribute.
In his new book, A Thousand Laurie Lees, Adam Horovitz, explores not only how the Slad Valley informed the man and his writing but also how the valley itself was affected by its association with such an international figure; and how it has retained its particular identity since its description in Cider with Rosie.
“This summer would have seen Laurie Lee’s 100th birthday,” said Adam, a former freelance arts editor at the SNJ.
“Having grown up in the same valley, buried in the exquisite landscape of Slad and in the imagined and intensely remembered landscapes of his poetry and prose, I was eager to help celebrate; so I came up with a pitch for a book.
“I had known Laurie a little as a child and young adult - he died when I was 26 - but I didn’t want to write a biography - that’s been done before. What I wanted to write was the continuing story of the valley, acknowledging Laurie’s presence in it, which hasn’t faded with time and absence.
“I then sent the pitch to various publishers and agents – and heard nothing.
“After nine months, I found my way to 23, a bar in Stroud, and cornered a friend over a bottle of wine, grumbling that I had heard nothing back and would have to give up the idea of the book. From the other end of the bar, I heard a snort and then a dark haired, bespectacled man leaned around my friend and stared at me over the Times crossword. After a moment, he said: “And why haven’t you sent it to us?”
“He turned out to be an editor from the History Press, who have since published the book.”
A Thousand Laurie Lees went on sale last month, and was officially launched at the Museum in the Park last week.
Having found a publisher, Adam thought his troubles were over. But shortly after signing a contract with the History Press he was unlucky enough to break both of his arms. The ensuing lack of mobility had a major impact on the book.
“The original idea was to write a much more journalistic book, threaded through with memoir. It is now, essentially, my version of Cider with Rosie. I spent three months replanning it in my head, one arm in plaster, the other in a sling and was left no time to conduct interviews or walk the landscape as I had planned. So, like Laurie writing his memoirs at a far remove, I had to remember and recreate.”
Adam’s book is available to buy from Stroud Bookshop and via thehistorypress.co.uk Watch this space for Jay Ramsay’s review of A Thousand Laurie Lees.