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Ordinary people with extraordinary tales; As Daily Post columnist and writer David Charters publishes a book of his work Philip Key discovers the man behind the by-line.

Byline: Philip Key

DAVID Charters is one of the Daily Post's best-loved writers, possibly because he overturns the popular conception of the hard-nosed, rough-and-ready, cynical journalist.

In contrast, David is an emotional writer, one who loves his subjects and writes about them with some feeling in his own inimitable style.

``I love listening to people,'' he states simply and it shows in every line.

Many readers have cut out and kept his numerous columns and features and for them the good news is that Charters' writings are now in more permanent form.

Liverpool: The World in One City, a generous collection of his work over the last seven years,has been published in book form by the Bluecoat Press.

``It's a fulfilment of a dream for me that I have a body of work given a permanent place in the popular history of Liverpool,'' he says.

Regular readers will know something of David's history -he often includes aspects of his own life in his columns -but there is much more to him than family life with his wife Alison and son Cameron.

He was born in 1948 into a middle-class family in Birkenhead, their home a semidetached suburban house, his father a family doctor. There were three sisters, all older than him.

His love of words was to come early and from an unlikely source -a packet of Rice Krispies.

``The packets carried stories about the great figures of the Wild West. I was particularly interested in the stories of the Indians -or Native Americans as they are now known -andI realised how badly Hollywood had treated them.

``I avidly read the packets with the stories of people like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and, a special favourite, Pontiac. I consumed large quantities of Rice Krispies just to get to the next packet.''

It led not only to in interest in the written word but a life-long interest in the American Indian. He and his pals would play cowboys and Indians in Birkenhead's Arno park on tricycles (serving as horses) with David always on the side of the Indians.

``We would get the girls to dress our wounds -this was before political correctness.''

Comics were another early source of inspiration. He read The Eagle (''for Dan Dare''), the Lion, Tiger, Beano, Dandy, Topper and Beezer.

His childhood reading was to turn to more conventional children's literature. ``I loved Just Williamand reading tales of the Empire, quite a bit of Kipling.'' This was an era,of course, when Britain still retained the remnants of an Empire.

He also became an Everton fan -centre-forward Dave Hickson a favourite -an enthusiasm which led to dreams of becoming a football writer. ``I loved the purple prose the writers used to make very dull games sound interesting.''

In the event, at the age of 16 he joined the staff of the Birkenhead News after passing a few OLevels -he was educated at Pershore House School, Birkenhead -later collecting an A-Level for General Studies.

He moved away from Merseyside to work for a news agency in Guildford,Surrey. ``It was a great time. I was meeting famous people and dealing with the national dailies. It was tougher work, meeting lots of deadlines.'' And while today better-known for the sentiment in his writing, back then he really was the hard-boiled hack. ``Yes, I did all the foot-in- the door stuff but I never really liked it,'' he admits.

Backat the family home,he turned a room into a office and began his own agency, West Cheshire News Service, which he ran for 16 years, working mostly alone but occasionally withhelp.

It was a lucrative business but national t abloidnewspapers were to change and in a way not to David's liking. ``They stopped using human interest stories in favour of celebrity stories,'' he says. His preference had always been for the human interest, preferably with a touch of humour like the man stuck in a lavatory or the man who grew enormous vegetables.

Eventually he closed down the agency, did ``bits and bobs'' like public relations work,beforehe found the newspaper that would offer him a more amenablehome, the Daily Post. He was a reporter and also worked on the news desk.

But 12 years ago he began writing the personal columns that would introduce his quirky,humorous literary style that would win so many admirers -and not a few journalists' awards.

Later he would be given a wide brief that would find him reporting on subjects as diverse as Scotland Road,Merseyside villages, ethnic communities in Liverpool and war veterans.

HE WAS particularly pleased with his series on the veterans of World War I, many of them having reached their century when he met them. ``I just loved listening to their stories and these are men who are now dead. It was a privilege to hear from people who went through experiences that will never be felt again by any generation.''

That series is included in the new book as are his fascinating histories of the various ethnic communities who make up cosmopolitan Liverpool, from the Italians and Greeks to the Somalis andChinese.

His life-long love of popular music is also well represented with tributes to people like George Harrison, Lonnie Donegan and his personal account of Paul McCartney's appearance at the Cavern Clubin 1999.

There are,indeed, famous people in the collection and these are people who have earned their places in history.

But David retains a dislike of the cult of the personality. ``I prefer writing about ordinary people doing extraordinary things rather than extraordinary people doing ordinary things,'' he says.

Liverpool: The World in One City is published by Bluecoat Press at pounds 7.99 and is available in most bookshops.


A DREAM FULFILLED: David Charters' book means he can make a permanent contribution to the popular culture of Merseyside
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 18, 2003
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