Premillennial Tension: revisiting Birmingham in 1999

It’s 1999, Birmingham, the end of the millennium and Jim Vale, aka Jimmy Tyrant, singer of one hit wonders The Tyrants, has lost everything he once loved. Like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and many rockers before him, Jim tries to end it all by committing suicide at the age of twenty seven. Trouble is… he survives.  To clear his debts the band’s manager suggests Jim fake his own death – just for a while – so they can raise The Tyrants’ profile and sell some records.

But as the press and the fans wonder more and more about the disappearance of the mysterious  Jimmy Tyrant, Jim gets drawn deeper into Birmingham’s gangland and  further  away from his ex-girlfriend, his troubled family and music.

Karaoke-singing gangsters, reclusive teenage internet millionaires, sex, drugs and rock and roll all collide as Jim tries to understand the person he has become, to come to terms with his tumultuous past and somehow make it beyond the age of twenty seven.

27” is a book about one man’s search for love, music and his true self.

In this extract Jim has come back to a city in flux. Birmingham is leaving its industrial past to flat line. It is a city that’s centre has been ripped open and torn apart for the rebuilding of the Bull Ring Shopping Centre. Fin de siècle Birmingham was the ideal setting for a story of upheaval, confusion, fear and change.

Oh, and according to Nostradamus, it will soon to be the end of the world. And the millennium bug is going to help it along. Remember the millennium bug? The music industry was also mutating; the first Pop Idol TV show has been aired in New Zealand and is winging its way like a hungry Pterodactyl to our shores.

We join Jim after he has secured a bolthole in the city centre to hide from the not so bothered press. Now he needs to secure his future with a solo album and find the girl he left behind for a life on the road…
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Silhouette

In this new story by Alex Wyatt, a man and woman get more than they bargained for on a night out in the second city.

Victoria Square at Night

Dark.

 

Darkshining outside and everywhere.

 

Dark through windows, alleyways and doors. Arm-in-arm, couples stroll steambreathed down Bennett’s Hill’s rainsmoothed cobbles. On Saturday, the day when the word is given. Some head home into light, into electric arms. Away from the grip of the dark.

 

Some.

 

Some hold firm in the clench.

 

The Lost and Found.

 

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An Urban Fairytale

The locations and dwarf holes mentioned in this tale are based on fact. The people and all the rest are not.

I walk along the canal and look above wondering how much concrete is necessary to prevent the entire elaborate junction from collapsing. The pillars holding up metal and flesh appear to be the legs of giants while the traffic travels along their spines. The graffiti at the bottom gives it the look of elaborately painted nails. Or like a tattoo that marks the owner’s individuality.

I look at my right hand and frown at what I’m holding. Have I been drinking? Focusing on the bottle of vodka it suddenly occurs to me that my mind is in the process of being drowned by a tsunami of ethanol. I look at the water rippling on the breeze. My attention is drawn to the sound of a bell from a cyclist. I move out of the way. The cyclist nods at me. The universal body language of greetings, acknowledgement and thanks. A small attempt to make a connection with a human being that you would in all probability never see again. I walk towards the darkness created by the cavernous arch of a large bridge.

It had always felt like huge cave when we used to play as kids. Billy used to call it the Bat Cave. He was Robin to my Batman and the adventure was always the trek to get here. Granny’s house was on the corner of Wheelwright Road and Gravelly Hill so it wasn’t far. Our parents didn’t mind as when I reached thirteen, I was considered capable and mature enough to look after myself and a ten year old. A different time that seems an aeon away. I smash the bottle against the wall of the bridge. I’m in the dark. I have been for days.

I think about granny and her stories about the building of Spaghetti Junction. Me and Billy always thought the Giant’s Junction was a better name as we never liked spaghetti. Unless it was in tomato sauce that we both did like and that granny always had tins of when we visited. It was during such a meal that we both heard about the dwarf holes. We splashed sauce while eating as we were told about where Copeley Hill is now, there were caves dotted around the landscape. People used to live in them and the caves were there for centuries. Then they built the motorway and were not seen again. Granny kept saying that they were now gone forever but children always have the impression that adults say such things to stop them from exploring. We had already made up our minds that we were going to find them.

Picture of Flyovers above Salford Circus
Spaghetti Junction 1/08 by Ted and Jen

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