From jumble of notes to Book of the Year

PUBLISHED: 01:01 13 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:53 10 June 2010

THE memoirs of a Topsham man have been acclaimed by Britain's most influential critics - thanks to his widow's efforts. Retired teacher, Jenny Pearson, 68, of St Margaret's Terrace has finally published her late husband Tony's account of his time in Natio

THE memoirs of a Topsham man have been acclaimed by Britain's most influential critics - thanks to his widow's efforts.Retired teacher, Jenny Pearson, 68, of St Margaret's Terrace has finally published her late husband Tony's account of his time in National Service six years after his death - and it was named as one of critic Brian Sewell's books of the year.Her determination paid off after her approaches to several publishers rejected In The Mob, before she turned to friends and published it privately.It was named as Book of the Year 2007 by Brian Sewell, who described it as 'vivid, funny, pathetic and rewarding', in the London Evening Standard, as well as being praised by many National Servicemen as an 'outstanding record' of how things were.Peacetime conscription, or National Service, existed from 1949 to 1960, and remains the only period of peacetime conscription in UK history - apart from the periods immediately before and after the Second World War.From 1949, every healthy man between the ages of 17 and 21 was expected to serve in the armed forces for 18 months, and remain on the active reserve list for a further four. Originally born in Sidmouth, Tony Pearson moved to Torquay before his parents moved to London during the war. Following his stint in National Service, where he had the ignominy of beginning officers' training school before getting kicked out and having to sign up again as a Lance Corporal, he served in Iraq, Libya and Ethiopia before moving back to Devon.He penned the book after retiring from South Devon College where he was a lecturer for almost 30 years.After his death at the age of 64 in 2002, his widow, Jenny, who typed up her husband's notes, decided to publish and, the with the help of friends, the book was finally out last year.In The Mob describes Tony's experiences and observations as a National Serviceman in the 1950s, as well as a first hand commentary on the British Army of the time, and a society where conscription was still acceptable.The book traces his time from basic training in Colchester to Eaton Hall officer cadet school, where he brushed with authority, to the Outer Hebrides as a cook on a tank landing craft - where he was shipwrecked.Each paragraph is intelligent and humorous, and Jenny said: "Tony had read a couple of accounts of National Service and he found them to be unsatisfactory, unrewarding, lacking in detail and full of inaccuracies."So he decided to do something for himself, and thought he could do a better job, especially as his story was quite unusual - he got kicked out of the officer training school, re-enlisted and was back in the company as a corporal."She said when he died his notes were 'not in a publishable form', and required a lot of editing: "A lot of it was still in handwritten notes, and I had to type it; but the last two chapters were just jumble of unfinished notes, so I finished off the book the best I could. "I went to several publishers and they weren't interested, and so a friend showed me how to use a desktop publishing package. I felt it deserved to be published."I think we've made a very good job of it, I was very pleased indeed. It's been very rewarding."In The Mob is available, priced £10 plus £1.50 postage, from Jenny Pearson: (01392) 879216.

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