It’s 1952 and Britain is slowly climbing out of the austerity of the immediate post-war years when Dolly White gets the letter she and her husband Jack have been yearning for: they are going to live in a brand new, five-roomed house on the Heath Park Estate, Dagenham. A home in Cromwell Close is beyond the wildest dreams of the Whites and the other seven families whose fortunes, dramas, losses, dreams and lives we share while they all rub along together in neighbourly harmony in The Banjo…
Last year it was my pleasure and delight to “meet” Elaine Spires – we haven’t actually met properly yet, but do plan to remedy that soon. First I appeared on her website in her Hot Holidays feature (here’s the link), and then I reviewed the really excellent Single All The Way (you’ll find that review here). Elaine has just brought out her sixth novel – and although her books are usually set in rather more exotic locations like India and Antigua, this one is set on the Heath Park Estate, Dagenham, East London where Elaine grew up.
The Banjo, Book One, follows the lives of the eight families who live in The Banjo from the time it was built in 1952 up until 1970. Two more books are planned; Book Two 1970 – 1985 and Book Three 1985 – Present. Although Book One is only available on Kindle at the moment, it will be out in paperback by the end of the year.
Here’s Elaine to tell you a little more:
First and foremost, I want to say that the book isn’t about a musical instrument! A banjo, of which there are many in the street layout of the town, is a cul-de-sac of houses, usually built around a small green or wide pathway, giving it a banjo-shape. The idea for the format of the book and its title came from a conversation I had with my sister about the word banjo being peculiar to Dagenham; if you talk about banjos anywhere else people don’t know what you mean.
The Banjo in my book, Cromwell Close, is fictitious, as are the families who live in it. I always wanted to write about growing up in Dagenham, because although it’s often looked down upon as the ‘Poor Man of London’ my childhood there as a baby-boomer was brilliant and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I hope I have produced a realistic picture of life on the Heath Park Estate in the 50s and 60s and that the characters living in The Banjo and their stories will appeal to everyone, not just those who are familiar with Dagenham.
Families come and go over the twenty years the book covers; it is the Banjo itself that has stories to tell about what goes on behind the closed doors of the houses
contained in it.
Elaine is now working on another book in the Singles’ Series. This one is called Singles at Sea and is set on a cruise-ship.
Originally, it was only going to be a Singles’ Trilogy, but after being bombarded – in the nicest possible way – by people asking ‘What happened to Eve?’ and ‘When are you going to write some more about the singles?’ I decided to write a couple more to keep my readers happy. Singles at Sea will be out in September.
And that’s one I’ll definitely be reviewing, Elaine! For more information about The Banjo and Elaine’s other books, you’ll find all you need here on Amazon.
Elaine Spires is a novelist, playwright and actress. Extensive travelling and a background in education and tourism perfected Elaine’s keen eye for the quirky characteristics of people, captivating the humorous observations she now affectionately shares with the readers of her novels. Elaine spends her time between her homes in Essex and Five Islands, Antigua (W.I.).
Elaine has a really excellent website and you can also follow her on Twitter, or via her Facebook author page.