Lescar's new chapter

TO the Lescar Hotel at Hunters Bar to interview author Zack Wilson about his new 'chapbook' of stories set in the boozer.

Now this 17th century term is not one you hear much these days, but think bigger than a booklet, smaller than a book.

We arrange to meet in the Lescar itself. Zack, a former English teacher at Westfield School, hasn't been in there for getting on for three years, ever since he went on the wagon.

The book is set in what Zack insists is a fictional Lescar in 2004 so the fact that his Lescar has a landlord called Duncan McAllister and the real Lescar had one called Duncan MacFarlane, or the pub had a barmaid called Emma and the book one named Emily is purely coincidental.

It's perhaps best not to inquire if there really was a Jewish Dave or a Bob Brown, about whom it was rumoured... no, we shan't go on.

The one character Zack says is not a composite is Mayhem, a man devoted to the music of Status Quo.

"It's very definitely fiction but like all fiction every writer takes what they see and weaves into it their own experience. There are several things which really happened... but the details and context have been changed, usually for the sake of style," he says over a lime and soda.

The stories are written in a crisp, vivid style which often reads like reportage. There was a visit from the Blades Business Crew but, says Zack, he wasn't there at the time.

His stories started on the web, where much of his writing now is. He gave up teaching to work for the city council's youth offenders' service (another literary gold mine) but is now full time as the Premier League reporter for a football internet website.

It's not clear what the new management of the Lescar will make of the book. He's not told them but wonders whether they'd like to sell it on the bar.

The Diary asks why he needed to name the pub at all and not just make one up.

"I am drawn to fiction set in recognisable locations, as in James Joyce's Dublin or Irving Welsh's Edinburgh. There is a recognisable context for what goes on," he says. Besides, the Lescar was then his local and had a heady mix of respectability and riff-raff. It was what you would call bohemian, a place where you could find people with recreational substances.

Those days have long gone, of course. We are intrigued to find the 2009 Lescar has a wine club.

The stories don't sound like they were written by a man who sat alone in the corner.

"I used to stand here at the bar. I hardly ever sat down," he says.

This collection of stories is the first volume. Another is planned for the spring and, sitting on the backburner at the moment, is one on the Lescar's women.

After all these years of self-imposed exile that will have to be done from memory. And any resemblance between fact and fiction will be purely coincidental.

Lescar, Volume One, is available online at 5 from www.blackheathbooks.co.uk

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