Brush with cancer and a difficult army career inspire new book

Jim Lettice of Blackpool who has written a book at the age of 77.
Jim Lettice of Blackpool who has written a book at the age of 77.
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A brush with cancer inspired a first time author to put pen to paper.

Great grandad Jim Lettice wanted to ensure future generations of his family would know about his life story.

But the 77-year-old’s expectations were exceeded when his work, setting out his journey from rebelious soldier to modern day poet, was accepted by the first publisher he approached.

Now his book ‘Long Journey to Jimbopo’ is available on Amazon where it has already attracted positive reviews.

As well as being a memoir of his army career in the Far East, the book includes 10 of Jim’s poems.

He said: “I had no aptitude for writing and left school at 15 before joining the army when I was 18.

“But I didn’t have a good attitude and drink blighted my life. Being in the army isn’t the right place to be if you don’t like being told what to do.

“I am still shocked that what was a memoir of mine turns out to be a book.

“I wrote everything from pencil to paper during recovery from cancer after being diagnosed with a tumour, which was removed and then followed with intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“It was for future generations of my family because I wanted them to know about my life.

“Suffering a serious illness also focused my mind 
on putting my poetry onto paper.

“Now I’m hoping it will encourage others of a certain age, or maybe suffering a serious illness.”

Jim, who was born in Wigan but moved to Blackpool when he was 10, spent three spells in military corrective centres during his short-lived army career between 1958 and ~

On his return to Blackpool he took up menial jobs and began drinking heavily.

In 1963 he married his wife Jaci and the couple now have three children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild.

In 1976 Jim got a job running the inquiry desk at Blackpool Magistrates Court where he worked until 2007, and it was this which helped him turn his life around.

He said: “Some of the people who came to court were people I had been drinking with.

“In 1978 I stopped drinking with the help of AA, and I still go to meetings today.

“But I have never had a drink since.”

Jim’s own experiences of life have motivated much of his poetry – after coming back from the army he spent a short time sleeping rough which is the basis for his poem ‘Streetlife’.

Another, called ‘Listen’, is about conflict.

He said: “My grandaughter asked me to write a poem about the First World War, but I said I can’t because I wasn’t there.

“But I realised there were more wars going on in the world now than ever, and it seems people just won’t listen to each other.

“I write of life in rhyme, but I also write some humorous poems too.”

Jim, who started writing poetry in 1986, became a well known speaker on the local circuit, addressing groups including the Womens Institute and Rotary, as well as appearing at festivals.

But he was finally given the courage to seek publication after encouragement from friends and an encounter with American poet Carolyn Forche.

The name of his book comes from his nickname - Jimbo poet or Jimbopo - and now he hopes it is his writing which will define him as 
much as his early struggles in life.

‘Long Journey to Jimbopo’ is published by Austin Macauley and is available on Amazon.