Mayfield, near Newcastle NSW, is home to one of the newest chapters of the Tough Guy Book Club (TGBC); a network of men’s book clubs held in pubs around the country and overseas, committed to getting men reading, catching up, and putting decent conversation back in the pub.
New TGBC chapters start for a few different reasons. Someone moves away from their chapter and has the gumption to get one going, a bloke living in a book club desert discovers TGBC online or through distant friends and starts one from scratch, or as is the case here, a chapter becomes too big and splits.
Attendance at the Newcastle chapter had been high for months, 18 goons squeezing around a table in the backroom of The Blind Monk was getting unmanageable. Side chats, interruptions, general disorder – we were keeping it together, but it was bloody close to chaos. There was a tonne of interesting input, but it didn’t feel like everyone was getting a fair go. Hell, they were calling last drinks just as we were getting good and rowdy. Something had to give.
Splitting a TGBC chapter is bittersweet. There is excitement in the adventure; a new pub, potential new goons, and a breakaway spirit is tempered by the sorrow of losing the legends you won’t be catching up with each month. I have experienced a spilt before and still miss the contributions from regulars. What did Jez think about the magical realism in Sharks in the Time of Saviours? How was Jom’s trip to India? Did Monty finish the book on the day of the meet again?
After an enjoyable search of options, The Stag and Hunter Hotel was chosen as the new venue. The spot we have carved out for ourselves is perfect –between the bistro and back bar it feels part of the action of the pub, while being removed enough to hear the conversation. Plus, it has stag heads! The first Mayfield meeting was to discuss The Outsiders by SE Hinton. The Newcastle chapter was relieved of five goons that night to discuss the 60s teenage gang culture of Oklahoma, in a new setting. It was fucking great! The small crowd was poles apart from the recent chats we have been part of. While I am looking forward to the chapter growing, it was enjoyable to experience a discussion this intimate, to learn a bit more about the others and share more than would have otherwise been possible.