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The techniques and tricks of … STAN BARSTOW

Tony Rossiter shows how a northern writer made his breakthrough by writing about the kind of people he knew

Together with novelists such as John Braine and Alan Sillitoe and playwrights John Osborne and Arnold Wesker, Stan Barstow was one of the ‘angry young men’ who came to the fore in the late 1950s and early 60s. Their workingclass heroes were characterised by a disillusionment with traditional society and a desire to escape to a better world.

How he began

The son of a coal miner, Stan Barstow was born in Horbury, near Wakefield, and spent most of his life in West Yorkshire. He grew up in a social environment characterised by thrift and selfrespect – what he later described as ‘the lace curtain’ working class. As a child he enjoyed drawing and reading. He won a place at Ossett Grammar School, but left at sixteen to work in the drawing office of a local engineering firm. Bored by his job, he spent most of his spare time reading fiction in the local library. He wrote his first short story in 1951 at the suggestion of his wife, Connie – on a rainy afternoon during their honeymoon in the Lake District. The story was not publishable, but it stimulated him to learn the craft of writing.

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