Lost literary legend to speak at local festival

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Described as ‘a long and brutal postcard from hell’ John Healy’s incredible novel The Grass Arena was a lost classic for many years.

John Healy was a former wino and street thief who spent 15 years on the streets of London as a vagrant alcoholic before being taught to play chess in prison and rising to become a chess master capable of playing several games simultaneously while blindfolded.

His experiences are charted in his book The Grass Arena which became a vanished cult classic after a dispute by Healy and his publishers led to it being deemed out of print.

Writer Ian McEwan is among admirers of the book.

Now the book, released as a Penguin Modern Classic, is enjoying a resurgence an Healy himself will be in Hastings on Saturday November 1 to read from it at the Black Huts Festival.

The festival of writing, music and film was launched by poet and publisher Nicholas Johnson and is now in its third year.

Prior to Saturday’s reading, which also features Northumbrian poet Tom Pickard, there is a rare chance to see Paul Duane’s 2011 documentary film on the life of Healy ‘Barbaric Genius’.

It is being screened at the Electric Palace, High Street, Hastings, on Wednesday October 29 at 8pm.

Full details of the Black Huts Festival can be found at www.e-truscan.co.uk or by calling 07905 082421.