Book review: If Wet In Church Hall by Terry Hamilton

Clouds of cigarette smoke, battered old typewriters hammering away, piles of old newspapers and phones constantly ringing for attention...

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 20th December 2012, 9:00 am

Semi-retired national and regional newspaper journalist Terry Hamilton conjures up the world of a 1960s local newspaper office in this funny, nostalgic novel based on his own experiences as a junior reporter half a century ago.

This humorous and at times poignant book evokes the vibrant atmosphere of a busy newsroom where reporters would dash around to `jobs’ ranging from covering church fairs and village fetes to court sessions, council meetings, weather stories and the inevitable fatal accidents.

The title, If Wet In Church Hall, is a phrase that young reporters often saw on notices advertising fetes and other outdoor events in towns and villages up and down the country.

Our young hero sets off innocently and enthusiastically on a series of adventures and misadventures as he begins his journalistic career on an imaginary evening newspaper somewhere in northern England, and tries in vain to savour for himself the delights – imaginary or otherwise – of the Swinging Sixties.

Much of its appeal lies in the rich array of characters who populate the novel, and anyone who has ever worked in a newspaper office will recognise people like Puffing Billy, who is never without his disgusting smelly pipe, and Jimmy the boozy photographer, who has an ‘arrangement’ with the buxom landlady of the pub opposite the newspaper’s office.

This delightfully entertaining story is pure nostalgia for those who remember newspaper offices and many other workplaces in the not-always-Swinging Sixties – and an eye-opener for those who don’t!

(York Place Media ebook, £2.02 Amazon download)