A CONCISE HISTORY OF AN AUTHOR
Updated: Jun 7
Please help me welcome Mr. Tony Milligan to the Writer's Journey Blog this week. Get ready for an entertaining story!
Anthony Milligan Author
When he was eleven his father went to prison for a crime of violence. The North West of England author Anthony Milligan wrote about it. His teacher showed it to his mother. He received a clip around the ear and an invitation to stop.
In 1953 a prison sentence was something to be deeply ashamed of. Of course, he continued writing in secret and hid it under the mattress. It was found and retribution followed. The power of the priesthood was invoked. This time he stopped.
One teacher encouraged him. Mr Machin was brilliant. ‘Read this over the weekend, Tony, let me know what you think.’ Or ‘look at your second paragraph, how do you think it might be improved?’ Mr Machin never criticised. Tony loved that kind man.
Fast forward to 1956 he’s fourteen and now living in Wellingborough “down South” He was bullied because his accent was ‘Northern’ and considered thick so he learned to mimic the locals. He also became the class clown. Humour is a great suit of armour. It also attracted girls.
He still loved writing. Given the subject of ‘my living room’ for an English essay he likened the room to a landscape with the chairs as trees and the sideboard as a range of distant hills. Called to the front of class he was expecting praise for the work he had put so much effort into “Where did you copy this idea from, Milligan?” His world caved in. The next incident was a poem “This looks like William Wordsworth; you’ve simply copied his ideas.”
Academically, he learned to keep his head down, it was best to hide in the crowd, he was an outsider, he was never going to win.
His father moved prisons again so the family moved so mother could visit him.
Dudley, was an industrial town near the city of Birmingham. At the inner-city type school expectations of the pupils were low. Male pupils were to become factory fodder, the girls would become packers or shop assistants until they got married and bred more factory fodder. He left at fifteen without any qualifications but still with a love of books. Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and Coral Island had been the companions of his youth. Now, though, it was time to knuckle down to work, his earnings desperately needed. He had a younger brother, two older sisters and two younger sisters. He wanted a job on the local paper, ‘no chance’ he was told by his careers officer ‘you don’t have any qualifications.’ So, he went to work in an engineering factory.
His father, a fiery short-arsed Scot, came out of prison and the drinking and violence started again. At eighteen, things came to a head and he beat his father half to death and joined the army to escape.
Hallelujah! they had a Regimental magazine. He was in heaven. Things one daren’t say to one’s superiors’ faces could be crafted as humorous anecdotes, woven into stories with a generous dollop of blarney and published. One young officer who loved the mag, never recognised himself as Bell-tent Billy so named because given a map and compass he could still get lost in an empty bell tent. His men followed him out of curiosity.
An Army in peacetime needs entertaining, so “sod’s operas” were organised. Sketches, bawdy songs, in-jokes and the like all needed to be written. He invented characters like General Neu-Sance and Major C Risis helped by his friend Frank. They relished the task. He discovered he could make people laugh with the written word, Oh joy!
It wasn’t all fun though. In 1961, they sent him to Malaysia, then called Malaya. The Indonesians invited him to a couple of small, private wars in Brunei and Borneo. He found the jungle very beautiful but a hellish place to fight a war.
He was back home in September ’63 and was writing up his experiences when, in May ‘64 trouble broke out in the (then) colony of British Guiana. (Now Guyana) This time it was civil unrest. People of African origin and people of Indian origin were blowing up ferries and chopping each other up with cane cutting machetes. Off he went again leaving his writing behind in his locker. Big mistake. The locker was cleared whilst he was away and the writing trashed.
Dealing with machete murders, arson and learning to become a rifle butt diplomat caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition not recognised back then. Writing came to the rescue. Poems about his experiences seemed to help alleviate the problems a little, so a few got written, read, then ritually burned.
He was in Libya in 1969 when Col Gadaffi took over the country. Three months of stress waiting to see if they would be ordered to take him down made him think about his future. Married now with a daughter, he and his wife wanted another child and to see them grow up. He wrote long letters home from Libya with poems for his beloved.
More trouble in Northern Ireland saw him leaving the army in ‘72, he’d had enough. Of Anglo-Irish Catholic extraction he’d no stomach for it. He worked as a commission-only salesman learning as he went along. He was the sole breadwinner, writing had to go on the back burner. He did, however, prosper during this period.
1993 and divorce came along. He lost everything. Now came a difficult period. No car meant no job and no job meant no car. He did have an old Amstrad word processor so he wrote what was probably the world’s worst novel, pouring out violence and vitriol onto floppy discs. The work was rubbish but it rekindled the urge to write.
Slowly his writing skills improved. He wrote short stories and was published in a regional magazine and a local newspaper; he even won a couple of contests. Also, www.UKAuthors.com have published several of his pieces in their anthologies. He has self-published three novels, a novella, a book of short stories as well as a book of comic verse and stories.
There is also a book of adult poetry lurking somewhere out there. His next task is to re-format his existing work and spruce it up a bit where needed. He believes writing is a continuous learning process.
Tony took a couple of writing courses; he has studied and recommends “Immediate Fiction” by Jerry Cleaver. This book he found easy to follow and filled with down-to-earth common sense. If he were in a position to give advice to a new author it would be to keep going, write every day even if it’s only a few words, even if you think it’s rubbish. Use what you have, write what you know, dress it up with imagination and bollocks to what anyone else thinks about you or your writing.
A relative asked him recently. "Why do you want to be an author at your age?"
His answer? "Cos it’s the only bloody age I’ve got."
Are you still reading this? Bugger off and do some writing, yer lazy sod. 😊
The Journey was the wonderful bio of Tony Milligan and you can find him at the links below:
Trigger Warning: The thrillers do contain sex and violence