In the late 90’s, when I was researching a never published piece on writers in Nottingham, Stanley Middleton suggested I read his friend Philip Callow’s first novel, ‘The Hosanna Man’. I’d never heard of it, which is hardly surprising, since most copies were pulped shortly after it was published in 1956. Stanley had a copy because Philip had given him his mother’s copy after her death. It’s a remarkable novel about working class bohemians in a part of Nottingham I know well. Stanley introduced me to Philip on his next visit to Nottingham. I told him how much I liked his first novel, but he wasn’t inclined to discuss it in any detail. I went on to read a lot more of his work, including the late memoir ‘Passage From Home’, which I think is terrific. It covers the same ground as his second novel, ‘Common People’. One of my favourite groups nicked the title for a song – appropriately, because Jarvis Cocker’s subject matter could almost be from a 60’s Callow novel.
Philip died on Saturday, his death coming as a relief after more than three years of terrible depressive illness. Today The Independent published my obituary of him. You can read it here. This tells the story of ‘The Hosanna Man’ and why he wouldn’t let it be republished. There are lengthy obituaries in the Telegraph and Times with, I know, one in the Guardian to follow. It’s good, at last, to see this great but neglected writer getting his due. I urge you to read his work, including the poetry, much of which is as fine as his prose. John Lucas’s Shoestring Press publishes his selected poems, along with ‘Passage From Home’.