The Gulf – Greg Stokes
"The decision to bring Fatima to London had been taken a while ago. Still no sign of pregnancy, she would see a consultant gynaecologist in Harley Street in the morning." From Two Teenagers, a story from The Gulf. A collection of 29 short stories from the pen of Greg Stokes set in the oil rich Gulf state, the United Arab Emirates, and England’s Black Country when the coal has gone and industry is in decline. The is a stark gulf between the two locations and the two cultures. But the title story, The Gulf, shows their histories to be very similar with local lords fighting over land which held mineral wealth they weren’t aware of. The next four stories span both countries and move at turns from presidential palace in Abu Dhabi to council tenement in Smethwick, from expensive clinic to children’s home. The remaining 24 stories are in pairs, one set in Arabia and one in the Black Country, which look at common themes such as would be artists, local elections, royalty, and feuds. Like all Greg Stokes’ work, some are full length stories while others are snapshots of people, places, or events. Some look at the expat lifestyle, while others look at the local culture which westerners find difficult to fathom. At a time when there is fear of Islamic fundamentalism in the west, Stokes, who lost his father to such extremism in the Reagan/Thatcher war on terrorism, paints a picture of a religion with a huge welfare principle and a people who, while we might not fully understand them, are not to be feared at all. For full synopsis click here
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The Grant – Greg Stokes
Modern Art debunked mercilessly by four Black Country characters created by Greg Stokes. Recorded at Rocket Cottage Studio in West Bromwich, hear Black Country Theatre perform two of Greg Stokes' hilarious Les and Sheila stories on this CD. In 2003 the Baggies played Newcastle in the Carling Cup so Greg and family went up for the match, taking in the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in the morning.  Never a fan of modern art Greg penned The Grant the following month.  In this story the lead character decides to build a garden shed and stick it in an art gallery.  The announcement of the 2005 Turner Prize short list saw a garden shed in with a shout.  To show that we in the Black Country thought of it first, the Kates Hill Press decided to bring out a CD recording of the story. The big difference between us and the Turner Prize people is of course that we know that we are taking the piss! The CD also includes The Grant Part 2 in which Des and Steph apply for an Arts Council grant. They are joined by a Belgian woman who also applies in order to build a bird's nest on the side of the Rotunda in Birmingham. This really did happen! The Big Apple which was on an earlier version of this CD will be released soon on another recording.  
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Second City Stories – Greg Stokes
'In the lifetime of one government, decades of relative prosperity dissolved as even the mighty west midlands went down the tubes.' From Popper States in Second City Stories A collection of 29 short stories from Greg Stokes all set in England's second city, Birmingham. Greg writes; "I was born and bred in the Black Country, the old, and some would argue the first, industrial region in the English west midlands. There are as many definitions of what exactly constitutes the Black Country as there are people in it. There is one commonality however, it ay bloody Birmingham. Birmingham is our next door neighbour whom we are first to deride, and first to protect if the insult comes from further afield. As with all neighours, we know each other well. I have worked there, courted there, and married into a Brummie family. There is far more that binds us together than the banter would suggest drives us apart. There are differences however. Birmingham is a huge city of a million souls and at one time a thousand trades. It is truly the regional capital, and the second city of England, with all the facilities that go with that. It has evolved into a vibrant international city of the twenty first century. The politics of the late twentieth century however, the politics of Thatcher, put Brum and the Brummies under the cosh. The process of social engineering has been continued under Blair’s New Labour. Sometime in the mid nineties I decided that I’d put together a collection of stories all set in Birmingham. While the stories range from the Victorian period to the present, there is a theme through to book that highlights the nastiness of Thatcherism as it affected the city, and the society that Blair, son of Thatcher, is perpetuating. Some of these stories were written back in the 1980s." For full synopsis click here.
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The Book Cellar – Barry Morris
The first in a collection of sublime, outlandish and supernatural tales. Barry Morris uses his unique style, taking the reader on frenzied voyages to far-off lands and fractured time anomalies, and leisurely walks through the everyday happenings of ordinary people. The anthology contains a wide variation of stories including: The Book Cellar, a seemingly condemned bookshop receives a visit from a mysterious stranger; No Extra Time, a reluctant Football Association referee is transported back to the killing grounds of the western front to resolve a long running dispute, and The Importance Of Being Ernie, a high functioning premium bonds computer acquires sentience after forming a relationship with a disabled woman. Plus: The Talisman, will an apparently bogus amulet finally yield good fortune? Gate 17, an enigmatic messenger takes a disenchanted England football supporter on a nightmare excursion; Suicide Ride, a shell shocked war veteran replays his final moments as he heads for an underground station; Stolen Childhood, an entrepreneur’s identity is threatened after a burglary, and Swansongs, two lateral stories detailing the history of a 1950’s Buick Sedan and the life of a Bewick’s Swan as they undertake their final journeys. The anthology also includes a collage of chronicles from the author’s life.
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Doctor – Greg Stokes
Two hilarious tracks from the Black Country comedy writer performed by black Country Theatre, and recorded at Rocket Cottage Studio in West Bromwich. 1) Doctor - Black Country Theatre perform this favourite from the Lamp Tavern shows. It starts with Bert and Edna bemoaning the fact that Dudley Council have started putting sculptures on the car parks now, but soon, a visitor from th’off needs to see the Doctor... (First performed at the Lamp Tavern, Dudley, 23/12/05) 2) The Reduced War Of The Worlds - Barry Harper narrates an alternative War of the Worlds in which the Martians land on Kates Hill. With Joanne Webster as Julie, and the many voices of Greg Stokes as Oggler,  the gunner, the Martians, the Vicar, and many others. (First performed at the Lamp Tavern, Dudley, 28/04/06) 3) Doctor - Greg is joined by Louise and Brendan for an alternative version of Doctor.
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Tried By Prejudice – Greg Stokes
"He just lay there motionless, blood oozing from his head. I thought he was dead." Ken Simmons in Tried by Prejudice A Midlands community watch in horror as children are picked off one by one by an unknown killer while in a Gulf state the ex-pat community look on approvingly as the locals administer justice..... then rough justice strikes someone they know while at home the people have their culprit..... Or do they? Tried By Prejudice is a powerful drama set in the Arabian Gulf and English west midlands. It is a tale of murder, revenge, justice, and a torrid love affair between people who just won't go with the flow, people who won't look on while others are Tried By Prejudice. For full synopsis click here
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The Sportsman – Clarice Hackett
"Well if you want my opinion George you could have done a lot worse than Rose." Ma Harris in The Sportsman Based on the life of George Harris who became a local sports legend. Through playing for Villa, Albion and Coventry he achieved the working man's dream of owning his own pub which he renamed THE SPORTSMAN. The novel tells the tale behind the headlines. Clarice Hackett's writing brings to life the early years of the 20th century; the coal and steel; the heat and the noise; the poverty and deprivation… and above all the passion for sport which drove men like George Harris. But George was driven by other passions too. The prospect of a marriage into respectability paves the way for a secure future…. Will things go George's way, or will they go the way of Rosannah, barmaid at George's local. The Sportsman is a story of love unrequited which displays a passion for life set against the grim backcloth of the Black Country at the turn of the last century. "I'm regularly asked to recommend reading which would give a quick dose of life as it was… This novel fills that request better than anything else that comes to mind." Stan Hill, The Blackcountryman "This story has everything, it should be made into a film or TV programme…" WABC Radio
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The Hairy Mouse – Clarice Hackett
"Are you longing for your roots Doris?" Harriet asked. "I'm not surprised, the Black Country isn't a very  pleasant place to live in." "'Etty', it said urgently. 'Etty it's me, Emily, your mother. Speak to me Etty or the contact will be lost.'" From The Hairy Mouse A second novel from Clarice Hackett set at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries telling of two entrepreneurs who join forces to open a new coal mine. They want to keep it in the family so a marriage is planned between their offspring. But a complex web of deceit emerges involving questions of spiritualism, inheritance and love. In short another brilliant piece of writing from Clarice Hackett describing in vivid fashion a bye gone Black Country. For full synopsis click here
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