by his son Kieran Connell


John Dalton

JOHN DALTON 1948 – 2013


My father, John Dalton, died of lung cancer in March 2013 aged 64. He published two novels, The City Trap (2002) and The Concrete Sea (2005), which were set in Birmingham where he lived for most of his life. In the Guardian Newspaper in 2005, Maxim Jakubowski wrote that his descriptions of Birmingham “begged worthy comparisons to Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh” and described the novels – much to John’s amusement – as “British dirty realism at its strongest“.

Born in Nuneaton, West Midlands, the youngest of three children, John moved to Birmingham to go to university. He stayed there for the rest of his life and in the late 1970s began working at Trinity Arts Association in Small Heath, a diverse inner-city area of the city which had a strong West Indian community. He was the head of their Literature Department and mainly through his inspiration and enthusiasm, he founded The Small Heath Writers Workshop. In between 1978 to 1982, he had established a reputation for uncovering and encouraging writers in the Small Heath area. John was committed to the ethos of the community arts movement, which aimed to ensure that ordinary people were able to access the arts. While he was at Trinity he played a pivotal role in the publication in 1982 of BAD FRIDAY, a novel by the pioneering black British novelist Norman Samuda Smith.

Exhausted from his time at Trinity Arts, John stopped working. He devoted much of his time to his children, me and my brother Laurence and focused on his writing. Later in his life, John became an adult education tutor. Although he hated the bureaucracies of the job, he enjoyed teaching and was always warmly thanked by his students, often with gifts of samosas or curries.

After a few years apart, my parents eventually re-established their relationship, partly as a result of a shared enjoyment of country walks. Twelve months ago, before John was diagnosed with lung cancer, they bought a house together. John continued to write right up until the sudden deterioration in his health. He recently completed an “urban nature notebook”. His last work was about a man who discovers a rare bird in his garden but decides not to tell anyone, preferring instead to enjoy it as a secret pleasure.

John is survived by my mother Myra, me and Laurence, and his older siblings Moyra and Dave.



Norman & John

Norman & John at the Bad Friday Book Launch

New Beacon Books, London 1985


In this issue of PANTHER NEWSLETTER it is with great pleasure that the FEATURED STORY is one of my favourites written by the late John Dalton; my first editor and mentor, but most of all a good friend. The man who introduced my novel Bad Friday to the world in 1982. We were recently working together, re-visiting the Bad Friday manuscript and preparing it for its re-publication. Rest In Peace my friend. It is truly a fine place you have flown to.




© 1984 John Dalton


I used to hate them, I used to think they were a right menace. Sundays were the worst. You’d begin to hear them from miles away; they would gradually wend their way closer until the blaring jingles were echoing in your street, were blasting through your open windows. I really used to hate ice cream vans. And even when their excruciating music had stopped, you had to put up with the loud droning engine which caused interference on the TV. Then they would rev up and drive off again and give you a further salvo of their rotten tune. They were far worse than the Salvation Army band that used to come round of a Sunday morning and wake me up. That was “Onward Christian Soldiers” at 10.00 am after a night on booze. I ended up throwing a bucket of water on them. But ice cream vans were far worse and you couldn’t do anything to stop them. On a summer Sunday you could have two or three coming round every hour. All you could do was try and ignore them but that strategy never really worked, they still got to you and some mornings I’d wake up and find myself humming one of their stupid tunes. Well, this is what I used to think about them, but then something strange happened. It all started with Surinder, the little girl in the downstairs flat, it was she who introduced me to it. Suddenly for me and many others in our street, Sundays were never the same again…


Continue reading ICE CREAM SUNDAYS here…


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