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Whatever Next

By Billy Hopkins

ISBN: 9788 7553 3641-8

Headline Press 2007

This is the latest of a series of six books, which are semi-autobiographical novels by Billy Hopkins. It is a welcome sequel to the earlier novels that related a childhood in the over crowded industrial North, a well-rounded traditional education and marriage, the upbringing of 6 children set against a demanding vocation as a teacher.

The inevitable ageing process in retirement, which covers this part of the series, is related in an honest, humorous and entirely plausible way that marks the style of an outstanding author who will now be familiar across the English speaking world and indeed in many other countries in translation.

It is remarkable for a man, born in 1928, to a very poor Manchester family growing up in the Collyhurst area of Manchester to achieve so much. His vivid and arresting descriptions of childhood in a deprived area of Manchester have always been the author’s special forte. These colourful and manifestly believable accounts of growing up, school, the street as a playground, harsh and hard manual work at a time when physical strength and the work ethos for little reward were the norm for so many. The gaps between the very poor and the ‘comfortable’, the well off and hugely rich then were gross and even grotesque. It took a five year period of World War to enact the start of social revolution long overdue and peacefully achieved thanks to so many of the like of this author.

A style that is very easy-to-read, anecdotal and full of interest engages the reader from the first chapter on.

The second park of the book takes us towards his authorship via a course for writers in London, several false trails along the way through investment, private teaching and even supply teaching in the most difficult areas of Manchester. Eventually established authorship was at last realised.

Part two of the book takes on the character of an autobiography. It is interesting that the author wrote the story of his Collyhurst upbringing mainly for his family and possibly great-grandchildren yet to be born. His first book called ‘Our Kid’ he considered to be the only literacy work likely to see the light of day. Yet, partly because of encouragement from friends, he was persuaded to write a second book, which was another best-seller, and three were others just as engaging to follow. Finally we have this delightful and absolutely satisfying novel which updates on-going readers and introduces many new ones to the unique world of the Hopkins' household. Clearly, no matter what age we are and whatever our background life can be full of surprises.

Footnote

Collyhurst district of Manchester is (or was) the most deprived area with many families barely coping and having to endure extremely crowded and unsatisfactory tenement conditions whilst bringing up young families against a background of grinding poverty.

Professor Brian McGuinness,

President of the Society of Medical Writers

 

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“Whatever Next” is the latest of Billy Hopkins’ triumphs, and when I finished the work I tried to analyse what has made all of Billy’s books a sheer joy to read. The answer lies in their simplicity of the telling. There are no ‘alljawbreakial expressions’ of words or phrases that even an orang-utan would have difficulty of wrestling with. The prose flows on, and with his glistening pen the Master has his will. Billy is the Mariner, who, not quite Ancient, has steered us through a wonderful sea of troubles, woes, and wonderful triumphs. He has given us these beautiful vignettes of the ordinary man going about an unextraordinary life, just like our own. There are no rapes, murders, or sexual scandals that sell the daily tabloids, or, are the core of the penny dreadfuls. No, Billy has inherited the gene of Irish storytelling, and the imp of humour is with him all the time.

I think that I would love to have been taught by Billy; I have a feeling that I would have excelled at anything he taught me because the simplicity of his style hides a crafty and astute mind. I mean, who could have thought of writing their Autobiography in the third person and then have the audacity to tell us that “Whatever Next” is ‘a fictionalised autobiography. All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental’ Never have I observed this disclaimer to be so untrue. I, too, have lost money on the stock market, as Billy Hopkins has. I have dozed in deckchairs dreaming dreams as Billy has. That is the wonderful thing about Billy’s works, we all, each of us, are the coincidental persons in his social histories, we are the living people, remembering memories of things that we thought were dead, until Billy brings them all back to us.

Billy, you see, is the ‘character’, we, the readers, are his puppets. He strings us along from one scene to another. He is the master of the difficult art of simple story telling. I await, with a certain amount of suspense, for Billy to give us, what ever is next!

Dr. Darragh Little,

Limerick,

Ireland

 

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RETIREMENT - It must be the ugliest word in the English language in regards to its true meaning.  Better to think of it as a renaissance, a rebirth and the start of a third career …a fresh start.

Such were the thoughts of the fictional Billy Hopkins driving home after leaving his teacher training job for the last time.  Such were the thoughts of the real-life Wilfred Hopkins when he did the same and it was Wilf who was to create Billy as part of his personal renaissance.

The rest is history.  After Wilf had self-published his semi-autobiographical first book it was immediately snapped up by Headline which knew it was on to a winner.

The sixth ‘Billy’ saga, ostensibly the last, begins with those musings on retirement but optimism reigns supreme as you can tell from the title.  Fans of the fictional Billy will be delighted as he looks back on all that was, or might have been, and reflects on his ‘third age’.

Even his reviewers earn a mention – including a fellow with a posh name you just might recognise from the Warrington Guardian!

Wilf said: “If you find yourself passing a garden in Southport and see an elderly lady tending flowers while her husband is dozing in his deck chair, don’t jump to conclusions.  That old man could be Billy thinking up his next novel.”

Review by Alan Domville,

retired Leader Writer,

Warrington Guardian

 

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Dear Mr Hopkins,

I was overjoyed to hear from you, Thank you for all the information you gave me re on the books. I meant to ask you last time if there are any plans to make a drama of your books, as I think they would make fantastic viewing. Much better than what is on television now.

Best wishes to you and your family,

Yours Sincerely,

Kristina Masters

 

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Dear Billy...

Congratulations on the final book of your family saga, “Whatever Next!”  Mavis and I both enjoyed it immensely. Your humour shines through as you overcome all your setbacks, It really shows your tough Manchester upbringing and the loyalty of your longsuffering wife, Clare, helped you come shining through, I think that would be a good title for the next book that we all hope will flow from your "pen".

Norman & Mavis Pemberton

 

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Thank you so very much for your latest book. Whatever Next, I read most of it while travelling by train from the South to the Midlands, a very long slow journey made bearable by your book!!!! My only concern is: have you anything else to write? I sincerely hope so!!!!!

Gillian Breeze,

Chichester

 

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I have just finished your latest book and I have two words to say to you 'Whatever Next'. Really enjoyed the book thank you for sharing your life with us. In my job I visit a lot of the places you have mentioned in your books, I feel as though I have grown up with Billy and his family. Hope you continue writing for years to come.

Derek Poland,

Saddleworth

 

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Hi Billy,

Sorry for taking so long to read the book. But I loved every word of it. You write such splendid books, l love getting in bed cuddling up and delve into your world. My mother used to read Nevil Shute, Graham Greene, and AJ Cronin. And l know she would have loved your books. Thanks again for a brilliant journey.

Robert P Splaine,

Chester

 

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Dear Billy,

I am sure I will be able to purchase your books here in Australia, and how I look forward to many happy hours reading them. You do so capture the mood of the times and take me back to my childhood Please keep writing!!!

Kind regards

Anne Hand,

Australia

 

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Dear Mr Hopkins

I am writing to say how much I have enjoyed your books.  I was introduced to 'Our Kid' while travelling up and down the motorway between Bolton and Kendal where I worked for 3 years.  I used to borrow talking books from the library to keep me sane on the journey and the chance loan of the CDs captured my interest I have thoroughly enjoyed all the other works in the more traditional written word format. As many of your other readers have said The story strikes a chord and the themes run parallel to that of my late father Dennis Casey  (born in Salford 1924).  I must say thank you very much for giving me a more vivid insight into life in Manchester at that time. I have just finished reading “Whatever Next!” As expected I was delighted with each and every word.  Absolutely delightful - Thank you.

My husband (who is a barrister but used to be a teacher) is about to embark on the journey through the books. I am sure he will identify with your account of supply teaching in Central Manchester.

Mary Hill

Manchester

 

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I wish to say I have never read such lovely and compelling books. I am so pleased to have found your web site. After reading three of your books, I feel we are old friends. 

Georgina Ayres,

Cornwall

 

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I have read “Whatever Next!” and I would just like to say yet again what a brilliant book. You always know a good book when you cant put it down, I read it in two days and then read it again. I am so glad to know that your family and yourself are enjoying life and believe me if any one deserves it you do as you never give in to any challenges in life.

Thank You.

Mr David Kelly,

Old Salfordian

 

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I would like to take this opportunity to say a big 'THANK YOU' for helping to make my mum’s Xmas, special.

Earlier this year my mum queued up in Oldham to have a brief chat with you and you signed one of your books. She was thrilled and re told the story of your meeting many times.

She said that you are the true spirit of an English Gent. Following our brief recent communication, I know this to be true.

Mum opened her present “Whatever Next!”.

She smiled when she read the title and the Author, but she cried out with delight when she read the personal message on the label that you so kindly sent to me.  You write about her history, in the places that she spent so much time, Ancoats and the surrounding area.

Seldom have I seen my mum so animated when telling the stories that you have written and then marrying them up with the episodes that she herself had.

THANK YOU so much for making both my mums and my Christmas special.

Lorraine Hill,

Middleton,

Manchester

P.S. Mum says that you have to continue writing!!!!

 

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Dear Billy,

I am halfway through "Our Kid" and will really hate reaching the end. I guess I will have to proceed to your adventures in Kenya.

I suspect Kenya would have proved to be an initial cultural shock. It probably surpassed the shocks I felt on arriving at a provincial town in Victoria called Bendigo in 1959. I felt as if I had walked on the set of a Western film. Wooden buildings, all with verandahs. Nothing like the familiar terraced streets of Barrow-in-Furness!

The books have done a magical thing for me - by proxy. They have filled out and provided a very real detail for the hazy memories I have of the Grammar school and earlier days. My own memory for detail always disappoints me and you have filled many hundreds of gaps for me, so that memories of my early days are much enriched. Thanks so much.

Gerald Hayward

Australia

 

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Dear Mr Hopkins,

I have just finished “Whatever Next” and It is the best read I have had since “Anything Goes”

Ken Robinson

 

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Hello Billy,

Just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed reading your book Going Places, immensely!  I picked it by whimsy off the  shelves of the Hornsby Shire Library and it was a very pleasant surprise.  The book really did immerse me in your story, and I am now about to search for the follow-ups!

Kel Eggins

Asquith

NSW 2077,

Australia

 

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Just about finished the new book “Whatever next!” and it’s very hard to put down like your others.

Phil Steel

 

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Dear Mr Hopkins,

Today I've finished reading a special book. It was YOUR book! Namely: "High hopes". I could not refrain myself from looking for some more information about you. I am a teacher of English in a small town in Poland. I've been teaching for 10 years now, and I'm 32 years old.

I bought from somebody a big box of used English books and among them there was also yours!! I must say how much grateful I am for your story and your rich sense of humour.

Beata

 

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Dear Mr Hopkins,

I have read five of your books, and am now on “Whatever Next!” I have enjoyed reading them very much and now that I am on the last one, I know I will be sad to put them down. I often wonder about what happened to your mother’s friends though, as not much was said about them after “Kate’s Story” and also her cousin who went to America.

Your books were wonderful to me because you are the same age as my Dad and I have heard loads of stories of that era when you were born. Although my parents come from Oxfordshire, I was born in the early sixties so I could definitely see where your children were coming from. Also sympathise with you as a parent.

It is amazing that stories based on real life are more fascinating than fiction.

Once again thank you for some truly amazing books.

I’d like to get hold of your audio versions too as I am partially sighted.

Kristina Masters

 

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Hi Billy Hopkins

Just finished your latest lovely book.  “Whatever Next!”.  Couldn't put it down.  Loved it so much as it brought back such a lot of things for me:  radio programmes, sweets etc

I am 76 years young and your Number One fan in the south

Thank you so much for the pen and bookmark you sent me with the book. I will treasure them always

Bye for now.  Here's to the next book and no sitting about in your garden doing nothing!

Regards

Mrs Janet Dann,

Surrey

 

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Billy

Just to confirm that I did receive ‘Going Places’ from Father Christmas and it’s proving to be every bit as enjoyable as ‘High Hopes’

Of course now I am on the route to ‘having’ to complete the whole Billy Hopkins cycle of six books.  So thanks for the addiction and keep up the good work.

Roland,

Openshaw Tech,

Manchester

 

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What a wonderful discovery.  Your books!  I’m unable to put them down. After a recommendation by a friend I started reading Kate’s Story – what a tremendous gift you have. I didn’t want the book to end, and within a week I had read Going Places and am now half way through Anything Goes. I’m sure High Hopes is going to be just as wonderful.

What next???

Grateful thanks,

Olwen Chislett

 

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Dear Billy,

I have just read your book "Anything Goes" and just love it. I can't wait to read more and hope they have all reached our libraries here in Western Canada.

I left England in 1967 and emigrated to Vancouver with my husband and two boys. My mother's family were all from Manchester and I attended Manchester High School for Girls and then completed a two year teacher training course at Bishop Otter College in Chichester , Sussex. It is now the University of West Sussex. I knew Didsbury as our school was evacuated there during the Manchester Blitz. I remember Wiles the toy shop and the wonderful jokes one could buy there.

Thank you for evoking such wonderful memories of England for me.  I am living in a small town called Chemainus on the west coast of Vancouver Island, famous for its murals.

Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,

Christine Bennett,

Canada

 

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