Alcoholism got Blackpool poet kicked out of army

A Blackpool resident who has written about his rebellious army career using poetry has had his book published.

Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 3:19 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:43 pm
James Lettice with his new book

James Lettice, 77, wrote Long Journey to Jimbopo after getting encouragement from friends and family.

In it he tells of his spell in the armed forces in Malaysia where his addiction to alcohol repeatedly got him into trouble. James, from South Shore, was kicked out of the army the day after his 21st birthday.

In his 30s he started to attend AA meetings and got himself sober at 38. He hasn’t touched a drink in 39 years.

James Lettice with his new book

He still regularly attends meetings and it was at AA that he started to write about his life in the army as a way of helping him express how he was feeling.

James said: “Words could not sum up how grateful I am to AA for helping me get clean of alcohol. No way would I be here today if not for them”.

At 36 he started working at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court, and stayed until he retired.

He first thought of trying to get published 18 months ago – after a chance encounter with American poet Carolyn Forche, when he read her one of his poems.

James Lettice with his new book

“I thought at first she wasn’t even listening,” he said.

“She told me to keep going and that it was very good. That was so inspiring to hear.

“I like to say that my poems are written in a rebellious nature. I didn’t see myself as a poet – I was not a poem fan.

“My book is about my experience in the army in which I caused trouble mainly due to drink told partly with poems, just telling readers about my experience in the hope people can learn from it like I did.”