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Against the Grain: A 1950s Memoir

Authors: E. A. Markham

Published by Peepal Tree Press

ISBN: 9781845230302

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When E.A. (Archie) Markham came to London in 1956 from his native Montserrat, his ambitions were to make it as a writer or pop singer, and at the same time, fulfil family expectations to become a scholar and academic. Unfortunately the young Archie’s attempts to combine elements of Little Richard and the now forgotten Jim Dale never found the success he was convinced they deserved and it has been in less lucrative fields that Markham established his reputation as a ‘nimble-footed, silver-tongued’ poet, critic and fiction writer.

His memoirs begin with a return to post-volcanic Montserrat to rediscover the now abandoned village of Harris’ and his grandmother’s old house and his meticulous and moving reconstruction of his boyhood in that house – a grand house that made the family feel that settling in the Harrow Road end of Maida Vale was a distinctly ‘downwards’ move for a cultivated Caribbean family.

And it is Markham’s wryly humorous navigation between the poles of his family’s confident sense of their worth and the racial attitudes of those times that makes his account of his travails in the rag-trade, his pop-singer ambitions, the discovery that they were living next door to a leading member of the British Union of Fascists, and his involvement with the ‘angry-young-men’ shifts in 1950s British culture such a rewarding and human document.

E.A. (Archie) Markham died unexpectedly in Paris on 23rd March, Easter day. Born in Montserrat in 1939, E.A. Markham worked in the theatre, in the media and as a literary editor.
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