Being Jan Needle.

jan needlePortsmouth’s other famous son now joins the party. Yesterday I welcomed Charles Dickens. Today it’s Jan Needle.  It’s Jan’s birthday today. So my aim is to make him blush! I would tell you his age but I only know he’s older than me and not as old as Charles Dickens. I sense he’s always felt in the shadows being the ‘day after’ Dickens man and so today we elevate him to his rightful place amongst the best writers to come out of Portsmouth (read his impassioned comment on yesterday’s party blog for more info!)

Where do I start about Jan? There are people in life who you never meet and people who you WLTM and people whom destiny dictates you will meet irrespective of what efforts you do or do not make.  Even though I don’t believe in fate or destiny, and even though I’ve only met Jan virtually thus far, given that he lives the wrong side of the border. But I have this feeling that we would always have met one way or another, whatever.

Digression. Please note that whether I believe in fate or destiny is totally irrelevant to whether or not it exists and therefore my belief about the matter is actually pointless either side of the free will/ determinism debate. Okay, I’ll get off my pinhead dancing and back down to reality.  Or its virtual equivalent.  

I might have met Jan in screenwriting circles. I wish I had. It was 10 years remarkably short on either laughs or honesty. And I know that Jan is both funny and not afraid to call a spade a bloody shovel.  There’s a host of coincidences which link me to Jan (admittedly not as many connections as there are non connections!) Here goes: Jan wrote for Brookside. I nearly wrote for Brookside (it’s a long story) Jan is pals with Barry Purchese,  I ‘subbed’ for Barry Purchese once on a short film (at least that’s what the BBC producers told me!) Jan (I believe) knows Mike Harding. I was at drama school with Mike Harding’s daughter (she won’t remember me we were in different ‘classes’) People have been convicted on less compelling evidence.  Maybe it just goes to show that however big the world is, we actually all only inhabit a small part of it. Even in cyberspace. Because it was here that I finally met Jan through Authors Electric.  

Like everyone else I thought he was a woman by dint of his name. Ooops. Quickly disabused of that. And the particular soft spot I have in my heart for Jan (are you blushing yet?) is that he was the first to jump on board the Indie eBook Review. It’s fair to say that without him it would never have got beyond ‘good idea’ stage. So blame him not me!  During the lifetime of IEBR Jan has written some incisive reviews of my plays for which I thank him. It’s not easy to get plays reviewed as scripts. And especially not when they are kind of non standard fare like my plays are. There’s a small set of people who will want to read them and a smaller set of people who can write intelligently about them. Jan is one of that small band.  Hip hip hooray for Jan Needle (he’s hiding himself away now for sure. Either that or using some choice expletives to tell me how cheeky I am!)

Jan even has a Wikipedia entry. How ‘real’ is that? What Wikipedia tells me about Jan apart from that his full name is James Albert! is that he’s written across a broad range from Sooty and Sweep to The Bill. Wow. Eclectic or what? An Amazon book search reveals 91 entries. He’s reworked classics. He’s written children’s fiction, adult fiction, nautical fiction and even a critique of Brecht.  He’s re-imagined Wind in the Willows as Wild Wood from the point of view of the working I’ve been trying to track down a copy and I can only hope he’s wrested the rights back and will publish it as an ebook this year!  More recently he re-imagined Treasure Island as Silver and Blood: Return to Treasure Island.

In total he’s currently got six ebooks out under his SKINBACK publishing label. I’ve just downloaded Albeson and the German which thus far I haven’t read but am going to do today. Right now.

So you see, there’s really no excuse not to get acquainted with the writing of Jan Needle. And it’s probably the best way I can think of embarrassing him. Suggest a mass READ IN of his work.  Go on. You know you want to! His work is so broad it must offer something for everyone.  Well, I personally can think of no better way of celebrating his birthday than by sitting down with one of his books (real or ‘virtual’) and getting to know him a bit better through his words. I suspect Jan can think of better ways and they involve drink!

Today’s slogan is: Buy an author a pint and you buy him a drink. Buy an author’s books and you buy him the means to choose his own drink!

Since he lives in Englandshire and I’ve lost my passport and may even be banned from crossing the border on health and safety grounds, there’s no chance of buying him a pint today so instead I’ll sit down and enjoy Albeson…  why not join me? Go on. Give your wallet an outing, raise a page and a glass to Jan the man! Charles Dickens would want you to if he was here. Honest.

If you feel compelled to go looking for Jan other places you can find him are:

On twitter @janneedle



And of course his WEBSITE

If he doesn’t reply immediately it’s probably because he’s messing about in boats. And why not? Read a book (of his) till he’s ready to get back to you!

If you don’t know where to start check out some of the reviews of his work on IEBR.





Or stop by Amazon and FILL YER BOOTS, there’s plenty on offer.

Late news. When looking for a ‘nice’ picture of Jan to adorn this blog with I lit upon a two part article written about him the Oldham Chronicle.  It will tell you more about Jan than I ever can! And I’m sure you’ll agree the picture is every bit as good as Charles’ yesterday!

PART One  and PART Two

Respect, Jan. Respect. And happy happy birthday.


About callyphillips

6 Responses to Being Jan Needle.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Indeed indeed – have shared this on Strong Winds trilogy page for reasons given there. Halppy Albeson, Cally

  2. Karen says:

    Happy birthday Jan! Here, have a glass of virtual champagne (not too much, the stuff I had yesterday has gie me a virtual headache)

  3. Jan Needle says:

    Bloody hell, Phillips! You’ll have me blubbing, gal. I’m more used to reactions like this one, from my son Matti. I rang him up in London to wish him luck for his job interview today (he’s got a master’s and a first class hons, and this is his FIRSTgermane job interview in the eighteen months since he finished) (and yes, he does speak germane – fluently.) and after a bit of chat he actually remembered it was my birthday. Much more normal in the Needle world… Bet Darles Chickens didn’t have the same trouble.
    Maybe it’s a Portsmouth thing, tho. I think I’ve said before that I’ve got a girl’s name because my mother was a very stubborn example of even that very stubborn breed. She knew I was going to be another daughter when she was not far into pregnancy (she believed in palmists, too. But not god. ‘I’m not bloody stupid!’, she would say) so I was always Jan, even as a bump. When the bump betrayed her, gender-wise, she chose initials that added up to the same thing – hence James Albert. Albeson and the Germans, incidentally, is a lot about my Portsmouth childhood. I lived next door to ‘Smithie’ and the bomb-sites were my playground when I wasn’t crawling all over ships in the Camber and wagging school.
    As to other vague embarrassments – I’ve never done a Wikipedia page myself, but people can apparently put up any old shite about you. It used to be madly wrong, but one of my kids tidied it up a bit, if not a lot. And it’s not like the Oldham Chron piece, where the man got so carried away by my uxoriousness that I had to bring in my second wife and family in the second part
    for the sake of balance. Now racists in brave owdham throw shuttles and bobbins at me in the street because they think I must be a Muslim. You can’t win, can you? Good picture of me on the tin whistle, though.
    Ah, Englandhire, Scotlandshire. I’ve only stopped being snowed in today, and I suppose you’re sunbathing on the beaches of Turriff, or doing dangerous things on the golden sands on your quad bike. (How is the injury? Better, I hope) I will come up and see you one day, I’d really like to. My son Wilf, at Glasgow University, has a fine flat (where he ‘stays’. Why can’t you bloody heathens speak the language proper?) where I will stay (but not live) and use it as a base. I suppose one can still hire camels there?

    • Jan Needle says:

      Incidentally, if I got put thru to my mum by a medium, she could tell me if there really WAS a god when she died, and if so, how hard she had to grovel to get in. Nah – Dot Needle didn’t do grovel. She’ll have sat outside the pearly gates and sworn at the hopefuls massing there.

    • We are 10 miles from the sands of Banff. Reading Albeson – took kobo to doctors with me this morning – rare for it/me to leave the ‘mountain’ of Hillhead soon to become fortress hillhead as we put up MORE fencing to stop Dude escaping. We could just about have afforded to buy another pedigree GSP for what we’ve spent on fencing thus far. Anyway, like Albeson – kicks Lord of Flies ass thus far! Will finish it this after. Weather here perishing which is good for keeping fingers cold but will not help my great plan to pick up the guitar again any time soon. Maybe it’s natures way of telling me NOT to pick up guitar and/or sing. My brother had a better way, he used to hide outside my bedroom listen to me sing and do a slow handclap when I’d finished. That’s my excuse for chronic lack of confidence. That and that my mum made me take up a wind instrument to STOP me singing. Families eh? Some time when you’re ‘staying’ with Wilf come north and build fences. Or sail up to Banff. Your choice. But wait till all snows gone ( there might be a week in July?) Anyway old Jan old chap, have a great birthday and prepare for Berties on Sunday!) The fun just WON’T stop coming now, will it?
      Oh an we speak wur ain langwidge proper we juist dinnae dae yer english thingamy!
      Best scottish word ever HOUGHMAGANDIE. Look that up on yer wikipedia!

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