(city Voices Publishing, 2014)
The one thing a writer of memoirs needs more than anything else is the happy knack of being someone to whom interesting things happen. Despite downplaying his achievements as a poet and composer David Vickers has said knack, as this charming, funny, sometimes profound and always interesting book demonstrates.
In twenty or so chapters he takes a leisurely wander through his life and times, covering a period from the end of the war to the present day. Along the way he has a range of mostly comic misadventures, including coming face to face with a demon cardboard baler in his first job, having an authentically swinging sixties night out in Wales and accidentally rubs shoulders with several stars including country singer Gene Pitney.
The interest in the book is primarily local with the names of long gone pottery works and the much missed, by the generation before mine, Sherwins record shop in Hanley featuring prominently There is though plenty to interest readers from further afield.
Vickers is an adept observer of human nature in all its flaws and virtues, a skill honed no doubt during his stint as a 'Man from the Pru,' This section of the book yields some to his best anecdotes showing his customers as a more diverse, even eccentric, community than might be expected.
His writing style is self deprecating with a strong sense of compassion for the sometimes troubled people he has encountered along the way. The whole thing puts you in mind of a chat around the fire in a back street pub rather than the 'look how well I've done' showing off that often spoils autobiographies.
This is an amiable and unpretentious book, rather like its author, only after a conversation with both has ended do you come away surprised by having heard something unexpected.