Bookings are now open for an Auckland Writers’ Festival cabaret that features the labour number Which Side Are You On?, the Italian communist anthem Bandiera Rossa, and the Popular Front war-time classic, Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’ (later famously recorded by Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt).

Stalin wasn’t stallin’
when he told the beast of Berlin
that he’d never rest contented
till he had driven him from the land.
So he called the Yanks and English
and proceeded to extinguish
the Fuhrer and his vermin
this is how it all began…

Calling themselves “The Men Alone—down from the Kaimanawas,” Linn Lorkin, Hershal Herscher and Peter Scott will be performing songs that feature as a background to Dean Parker’s recent novel, Johnson.

Parker will intersperse the songs with brief readings from the novel’s electrically-charged love affair.

Johnson is a sequel to John Mulgan’s classic 1939 New Zealand novel, Man Alone.

Man Alone was the story of a loner who migrates from England to New Zealand in the 1920s, gets caught up in the Queen St hunger riots of 1932, is involved in the killing of a farmer in the central North Island, goes on the run in the Kaimanawas, flees the country and ends up heading into Spain to fight with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.

Its sequel Johnson takes the story on from Spain into the Second World War with episodes in Crete, Cairo and central Greece, then back to New Zealand and the 1951 waterfront lockout.

Other songs sung are a tremendous variety from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s. Red River Valley, Heart and Soul, Lili Marlene, Night and Day, Rum and Coca Cola, Red Red Robin, September Song are all popular favourites from the past, stalwarts of radio listeners’ request sessions.

An interlude in a Cairo hotel means a floor-show of In a Persian Market and Sheik of Araby.

The consummative meetings of the lovers in war-time Athens brings At Last, recorded by Glenn Miller in 1942 and then in 1960 a massive hit for Etta James.

At last
my love has come along
my lonely days are over
and life is like a song…

The Auckland Writers’ Festival takes place at the Aotea Centre over 15-20 May.

The cabaret show will be at the Limelight venue at the Aotea Centre, 7pm, Saturday night, 19 May.

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