The name of the little known filmmaker whose talk I attended in 1996? Shane Meadows, no less. I think he’d just completed Small Time, his first film. Shane’s DIY punk approach to scriptwriting and filmmaking inspired me and later that same day in a pub in Nottingham, my idea of writing a novel set in a betting shop was hatched.
It seems fitting that it was a filmmaker rather than a novelist who provided me with the initial motivation to write Shouting The Odds. This is because the stories that made the biggest impression on me during the late 1990’s all came from ‘The Big Screen’, Channel Four Films such as Brassed Off, The Full Monty and Fever Pitch during a golden age in British mainstream film.
The photograph at the top of this blog post shows a bookies on Manvers Street in Sneinton, a district of Nottingham. It’s here that the action in my novel unfolds. I worked there part time while I was studying photography. Those of you who have read Shouting The Odds will recognise the taxi firm next door to the left and the Chinese takeaway to the right, albeit with a different name to the one I gave it in the book. The betting shop manager was a fellow called Gordon. He was a Goth and was covered from head to toes in tattoos. We got along well, though a character based upon him didn’t make it’s way into the cast of characters for my book because he wasn’t interested in racing or betting, an essential character trait for all of my characters. Some of the regulars from the shop however did make the final cut; Big Les, Duke, Sammy and Lee Chan, The Reverend Des and One-Armed Bruce, you know who you are! Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead within the pages of Shouting The Odds are not entirely coincidental! Needless to say I’m joking. Though each of the characters I created are based upon people I met down the years on both sides of the betting shop counter, none of them really ever existed.
While researching my book a few years back, I discovered that the betting shop I worked in is sadly no longer there. Today a micro-brewery stands in its place, mixed blessings for those who had made the bookies their second home down the years. I guess the Coral shop ten minutes away was glad to accommodate them if, indeed, it hasn’t suffered a similar fate. Sad when I consider had Big Les, Duke, One-Armed and the others existed in reality, they’d no longer have a local bookies at which to congregate today.
The cast of characters I write about in my book aren’t perfect people. Having said that, in writing Shouting The Odds I believe I’ve challenged the wider public’s misconception of betting shops and the people who frequent them; while celebrating the unique excitement betting on horse racing offers without over glorifying it. Do I succeed? Well, I’ll best let you be the best judge of that …
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