The Raging Summer
Hardback edition published by Michael Joseph, London, 1972
The cover blurb from the hardback edition:
‘Up in Tai Bach the soil grew a heavy crop of characters,’ writes John Summers, and it is here in the Welsh mining town of Rumni among these characters that the author grew up. The Raging Summer, with an unmistakable autobiographical flavour, is a novel which evokes a past time and a unique and colourful place and draws an unforgettable gallery of portraits.
There is Dai Chavez, part-time bus-driver and bicycle thief, who used dynamite from the pit to blow a hole in his kitchen wall to put in a window. There is Lew Canto, sergeant in the Terriers who for the first few days of World War Two is never out of uniform – ‘I reckon myself,’ says Dai Chavez, ‘his wife do just stick a coat-hanger through the back of him and hang him up in the bloody wardrobe.’ There is fourteen-year-old giant Jackie O’Halloran, the sound of whose lumbering hob-nailed boots in the school corridors makes teachers scatter. There is Alwyn Bopa’s mother, who eats aspirin sandwiches; the West Indian, Precious Mackintosh, nicknamed the Cobra Kid, who can knock a door off its hinges with his left fist; the poet, Idris Davies, who wrote the famous ‘Sad Bells of Rumni’, later set to music by Pete Seeger, and who himself inspired John Summers to write this book.
But these people live hard lives in the middle of this sunlit, rough-and-tumble arena in the high mountains of South Wales and John Summers handles without sentiment the tragedies and dangers that are all part of the life in a mountain mining village. The genuine and painful concern he clearly feels for the people of Rumni balances his own exuberant sense of humour.
Tai Bach – its people and the whole of this remarkable place called Rumni – springs sensuously alive for us from the pages of its sharp-eyed chronicler. ‘All of us,’ as John Summers puts it, ‘part of the melting-pot of nationalities descended from those who had flocked here to South Wales from all over the wide world when people still worked for gold guineas in the hand and the Rumni bars ran with gin, and when labour was cheap and the roads were bad.’
Extract: Idris Davies
Extract: Arthur Corkleg and the King's Visit
Extract: Dai Chavez and the Rose of Tahiti
Extract: Rev Williams Williams Tin-Chapel
Extract: The War comes to Rumni
Extract: Becoming a writer...
The origins of the cover photograph
Review by Alwyn W Turner