Healy didn't stop here, he then switched his attention to writing, another alien and unknown practice. He begins to write with no prior literary experience or any type of writing tuition, The Grass Arena, a narrative which recounts vividly, graphically and compellingly his extraordinary life from childhood through to his success as a chess champion, 'which shows his clear genius for mastering anything that is put in his path...'
(Alan Franey, Vancouver International film magazine 1992.)
The book is released, to incredible critical acclaim, it is reputed as a literary masterpiece and modern day classic, a truly phenomenal and unique piece of literature:
'Justifies some of the extravagant claims that have been made for it' (Sunday Telegraph)
'An autobiographical classic' (Irish Post)
'A savage masterpiece' (Books)
`Stuns the reader like blows from an invisible assailant' (London Review of Books)
'Disturbing and compellingly readable' (Sunday Times)
'It has caused a literary sensation' Kirsty Wark (News Night review)
'Made all the more frighteningly readable by a vivid though understated style' (The Independent)
'Somehow he survived and emerged to tell his terrible tale superbly' (Mail on Sunday)
'Compels attention but it does not button-hole. It is sober and precise, grotesque, violent, sad, charming and hilarious all at once' (John Kemp)
'Terrific' (Harold Pinter)
'Brilliant' (The Guardian)
'The only book which even begins to evoke a real comparison in English is William Burroughs' Junkie ... Beside it, a book like Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London seems like a rather inaccurate tourist guide' (Professor Colin McCabe)
'Time and again one is appalled by the pleasure The Grass Arena furnishes as literature, when it is so very clearly not fiction. And this sense of the reader's dilemma as a privileged observer in a world of casual savagery that is palpably real is a troubling and thoroughly enriching one.' (Literary Review)
'The Grass Arena - One of the most powerful books ever written about a vagrant alcoholic.' (Lord Clive Soley former parliamentary chairman in the House of Commons)
Healy went on to win Britain's top literary award for autobiography, the JR Ackerley. The previous years winner Anthony Burgess commented at the time: ' The Grass Arena was Healy's first book and to win such a prestigious award at your first attempt reveals Healy's extraordinary talent and the true worth of the book. The book is a total 'one off', a truly exceptional piece of literature'.
The subsequent film of the book, also titled The Grass Arena went on to win a host of major national and international awards.
Britain: Best British Feature Film, Edinburgh Film Festival, 1991 Golden Gate Award for Best TV Film, 1992 - BAFTA Best Drama Nomination, 1992
USA: Special Jury Prize, San Jose Festival, 1992 Special Jury Award, San Francisco International Festival, 1992
France: First Prize and Special Jury Award, Dinard International Festival
Germany: Special Jury Award, Wurzburg International Festival
Spain: First Prize, San Sebastian International Festival
Holland: Winner of Jury Award, Rotterdam Film Festival
Czech Republic: International Film Festival, Winner of the Prague D'or and Special Jury Award
His second book: Streets Above Us again was reviewed with enormous acclaim and outstanding reviews:
"He has drawn a version of London that knocks Colin Maclnnes one into the Mary Poppins league... A kind of latter day Bartholomew Fair."
"It has an undoubted immediacy, the literary equivalent of Cinema Write... novel of the week."
Irish Sunday Independent
"He writes with telling style and has an expertly fulfilled grudge against Society. He is often witty, picturesque in his descriptions, and possesses a wicked accomplishment for portraying the obscenity of the seamier side of life."
South African Radio
"For those who'd would like to put their heads above the parapet, this is probably the most accurate and entertaining picture of the strata in society we'd most like to forget."
"The writing has a quick witted resilient style, words lift off the page as easily as a flock of birds."
"Life mixed with vignettes of the sub culture sustained by London's underground... Present tense sting-in-the tail anecdotes."
"The most outstanding parts of this book are undoubtedly the beautiful Bourghsian routines he builds up in and around his self portrait... He'll certainly become the truly great writer he deserves to be."
"Healy has an unusually cold but nevertheless incisive eye." Literary Review
A cast of down and outs show Healy's powers of observation and ear for dialogue."
Times Literary Supplement
"love it, it's extremely funny- right on the nail".
Streets Above Us is out of print and it is extremely difficult to obtain a copy.
Why is it the British Public are totally unaware of a man who has over come every obstacle and achieved so much? Why are the British public ignorant to a man with such undoubted talent? Who completely self-educates himself to become a top class chess champion and prize winning author? Is it because of his background; his class? Or because he has lived a savage existence?
Although he still retains something of the warrior about him, Healy is not demonstrative. He has a sort of aura about him, an eerie composure. I don't think he is trying to be mysterious. He appears almost detached. But to Faber and Faber he was seen as threatening, a low-life, an ex-con, vagrant alcoholic with convictions for violence and mugging. Though initially incubated at Fabers, the poison soon spread through the publishing world as the press began to divest him of certain elements of humanity. So unfortunately Healy became emblematic of everything that was low life, which was very unfair because his talent became secondary to the hype. Though he was a chess champion many times over (ten major British chess tournaments), a poet, award winning author and playwright. It is ironic that when the evidence of his talent was all around them, Fabers resisted the logic of it preferring, at best, to portray him as some kind of idiot savant. Extraordinary! He is published by Gallimard, one of the most selective publishing houses in the world, whose lists include such names as Kafka, Camus, Sartre, etc. and yet, for 15 years, he was kept out of print in his own country. In fact only in a country with such a weird class system could such a thing happen or indeed be allowed.
'Something is terribly wrong here' (Ian Sinclair) 'There's something fishy about it'.(John Gellar - Senior Agent at Curtis Brown)
Whatever the reason, it is transparent the public are being denied an unrivaled (in his genre) and phenomenal talent.