“Francis has an engaging easy style which makes the book very readable, and he has the noveslist gifty of making the personalities in the book real and distinctive... His seventeen years as a deputy head are described in detail, and he goes for Chris Woodhead like a terrier after a rat.” (Shropshire Review, April/May 2009)

A glimpse inside:

At the end of the scene Tony is shot, offstage. It’s a tough world, and one of the things the play does is to look beneath the glamour of violence, and see it from the inside. There’s a ballad running through the play, following Capone’s rise and fall, and the final verse goes:

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“You’re so big that it’s you that they’re after,
Get a bullet-proof place you can hide;
You can hold up the world for a million
But it’s life that takes you for a ride;
There’s a whole lot of grief in the limelight
When you’re dying up there on your own,
Lose your mind but your hand’s on the trigger
And who cares if you’re mad and alone?"

The world premiere of A Whole Lot of Grief took place at lunchtime in the Toot Hill School Hall on May 27th, 1971. Tickets were 3p and the lads, as they say, done great. I knew it was worth the risk of trying to do a play, but I hadn’t realised what it would do for these boys, the pride with which they would talk about particular scenes, moments when they thought they’d got it wrong but it worked out OK. Tony Evans was the first of a long line of kids I taught who feared that they would look stupid, but ended up as stars. It was only twenty minutes long, but the exhilaration of that discovery, of facing potential disaster but coming out OK, is one of the things you hold on to. You’ve done it, and you’ve got the memory for life.