The characters we first met in Turned Out Nice Again, and grew to love in Mice That Roared, are now plunged into the maelstrom of the 1960s and the summer of love, which has a profound and cataclysmic effect on all their lives, as they struggle to adjust. They say that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t actually there, but as this book demonstrates, you probably were there, it’s just that the "there” in question was Mansfield. The other significant "there” in the book, Brighton, is perhaps slightly more qualified to be Britain’s answer to Haight-Ashbury, but only just, as these were the days of Mods and Rockers, before Brighton turned into be-right-on.
Love has, of course, touched Beryl, we discover, but not precisely in the happy-ever-after way everyone in the 1960s intended. Still, it doesn’t stop her twisting the night away to Lord Rockingham’s XI playing There’s a Moose Loose Aboot This Hoose. Grandwem, a woman for whom the word "redoubtable” might have been expressly coined, has to step in and take control. Still, it makes a change from her usual task of having to replace the dead budgie. George Formby, with a lookalike new incumbent of exactly the same size, colour, and vocabulary, each time, before anyone notices.
The 1960s find Cooper and Bean having successfully made the transition with their act to TV, but still having to jump trough some rather odd hoops to stay there. As usual, the world of entertainment looms large. We also meet some tragic others who have not been so lucky: the ill-fated Arco Regalia ("Always some monkey business”) and the sinister "Mr Gin-and-Tonic” to name but two. There are new kids on the proverbial block, as well. From America comes the New Beat tour, led by the charismatic Big Webbly Jones in his electric suit. Imagine Little Richard crossed with James Brown crossed with Bo Diddley, all inside the same large suit, which also lights up in the dark!
However, there’s more to this collection than simply the chronicle of the creeping Americanisation of popular entertainment and the hippy influences on pop. The shenanigans of the sub-plot surrounding Norrie’s funeral and the involvement of the enigmatic Gypsy Sayers alone see to that. Once more, Deborah Tyler-Bennett has, although, sadly for the last time in their lives, taken this wonderfully gaudy set of lovable characters, steeped in the lore and language of both Tin Pan Alley and also. paradoxically, the East Midlands, out of their box, and once more commanded them to perform, sing and dance before us. A fitting finale to a great series which combines the very best traits of Priestley’s Good Companions
and H. E. Bates in The Darling Buds of May
, and one that leaves us shouting "encore”as loud as any fan of Big Webbly Jones ever did.
Critical reaction to the previous two volumes, Turned Out Nice Again and Mice That Roared
"...the action and dialogue are well-observed (and could even form the basis for a TV drama series?)” - LONDON GRIP
"...well-written fiction, too... leading to a stark and convincing climax...”
- CALL BOY [The Magazine of the British Music Hall Society]