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Tue September 2nd 2014 



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Author Biography - Mark Hodkinson

Background:

Mark HodkinsonMy whole family, as far as the past can see, seem to come from Manchester. I was born in the north of the city and we lived in Blackley. My parents were from Collyhurst (Mum) and Harpurhey (Dad, very close to Carisbrook Street where Anthony Burgess was born: much pride). Our house was built from Accrington brick and on a cul-de-sac but none of us spoke French. If you went down the entry and nipped through a few streets you came to the most wonderful Boggart Hole Clough.

When I was ten we moved to Rochdale. My parents had noticed there was some grass around there, fields of it. So off we went. I liked Rochdale. Still do. The hills, the people, the mucked-upness of it all.

I was always writing, from very young, hammering away at a typewriter (which was tantamount to declaring yourself homosexual where I come from, I can tell yer) and always knew exactly what I wanted to do for a job.

At first I worked in local papers in and around Rochdale. I enjoyed journalism, meeting people, bumping into a lot of life. And a fair slab of death too. I was on the 'death knock' at nineteen, calling on people who had lost sons or daughters the night before in fires or car crashes or from swimming out too far in a reservoir: not pleasant.

I loved the discipline of having to write in a clear, unpretentious way but wanted to go further. I turned freelance in 1989 after I was commissioned to write a book on The Wedding Present. I fell in with Omnibus Press and was commissioned to do more books. I was flattered and did as I was asked, though it meant I covered groups I didn't actually like very much. My name is next to theirs forever now and I feel a bit funny inside about this. Probably because I'm a bit snobby.

One night in 1996 I couldn't sleep and, lying in bed, wrote an entire article in my head. The next morning I jotted it down word for word and faxed (remember them?) it to The Times. Four days later it was featured in its sports section. Thus began another life. I became part of the paper's football match reporting team, flitting up and down England filing reports from places like Anfield and Old Trafford and Feethams (ask your folks).

On three occasions I was farmed out to clubs and became a sort of writer-in-residence over the course of a season: Barnsley, Manchester City and Rochdale. My pieces ran in The Times every Saturday and were later gathered together as books. Of these, I am immensely proud. I still contribute to The Times, book reviews mainly, but have spent the past few years working on a novel (The Last Mad Surge of Youth) and a memoir centred on football called Believe in the Sign which has just been published.

I have been extremely busy these past few years with Pomona Books, an independent publishing house (more of a shed actually) that I have set up with some close friends. It has enabled me to meet and work with several of my heroes - Barry Hines, Fred Eyre, Clancy Sigal, Trevor Hoyle, Hunter Davies etc - and put out their work.

Music:

Parallel to writing, since the age of 16 I have played guitar in various groups. The first was Untermensch, superficially an anarcho-punk agit prop shouty band but, really, a kind of crossover between Joy Division, The Cure and Crass. Weirdly, in this past year or so interest in the band has suddenly developed. One track, Ashfield Valley Headkick, was featured in a punk compilation CD (Anti-Society: Anarcho Punk Vol.3, Overground Records, a sample of which can be heard on Amazon). Untermensch has also been included at length in an excellent book (The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984 by Ian Glasper, Cherry Red books).

By the mid-1980s Untermensch (more or less) became The Monkey Run. By now, we were enthralled by The Smiths and The Chameleons (for whom I've written album liner notes) and it bore little resemblance to the old stuff. We released two singles and an EP, supporting bands like The Stone Roses, The Chameleons and The Wedding Present. Our highpoint was recording a Radio One session. We split in 1989 although a retrospective album, Escape from the Rake, was released a few years ago, available via Pomona.

A couple of years later I joined a band from Halifax/Hebden Bridge called The Last Peach. We were Melody Maker's 'Tip for 1992' along with Suede and Pulp (who we supported along the way) but didn't quite break through. We released two great EPs, Jarvis and String-Like, before splitting amicably. I now play in an ad hoc group called Black September (awful name, I know) and we've put out two albums again available via Pomona.

Other stuff?

People say I'm restless. I hate anyone complaining that they're bored. There's so much to do. I have two sons. The youngest told me when he was about five: ''I can't wait until I'm grown up and can throw you around the streets.' Something to look forward to, then.

I like walking around cathedrals. Wells and Salisbury are my favourites. Exeter is good too. And the Chapterhouse at York. My favourite writer ever, probably, most likely, is Alberto Moravia who says very much, very astutely, on love, life, and relationships.

Mark walking in the hillsDevon, where I have many relatives, is my favourite part of England but I also like it where I now live in West Yorkshire, the moors, the emptiness, man. I like people but am probably happiest on my own, writing. I am still obsessive about music and buy or blag about four CDs a week. I like guitars that are happy and sad (in the same song if possible) and plaintive lyrics about either finding a girl or losing her or all the bits in between.

I drink bitter, never lager. I like Art Company shoes (in fact, I have a lot of shoes, probably about 20 pairs). I still play five-a-side football and feel pissed off if I lose. My three favourite films are Midnight Express, Birdy and The Wicker Man. I have had hypnotherapy to cure a fear of flying and it worked. I have taken, this past year or so, to saving train tickets or those little rubbishy cards you get in restaurants to keep as souvenirs.

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