BOOK LAUNCH of 'Odd Man Out - A Motiveless Murder?' - I'll be signing copies of 'Odd Man Out' just a few feet from where the murder of Nancy Chadwick occurred, at The Weavers' Cottage, Rawtenstall, Lancs., from 11 am till 5 pm on Sat 7 and Sun 8 October, when the centre hosts its annual Craft Fair.
Also, catch my talk about the murder at Burnley Literary Festival on Mon 9 October, when I'll be signing copies of my book at the festival's pop-up venue in Burnley's Charter Walk Shopping Centre at noon.
WOOBURN LITERARY FESTIVAL 18 Sept - 21 Oct 2017: Catch my talk on Buckinghamshire Spies & Subversives at Bourne End Library on 21 September at 7.30 pm. Tickets £5 from the library and there will be copies of my book available to buy on the night at discounted price.
The release is imminent of my latest non-fiction, 'ODD MAN OUT'. This tells the true and tragic tale of Margaret 'Bill' Allen, a transgendered bus conductress, hanged in January 1949 for the 1948 murder of a woman she scarcely knew.
Look out also for Joan Brant's book 'Homes for Heroes', her memoir of life in a 1940s prefab, ghost written by me.
7.30 pm Mon 10 April I shall be talking about Bucks Spies & Subversives to Flackwell Heath Local History Society at their community library.
12.30 Tues 11 April is my interview with BBC Three Counties Radio on the Nick Coffer Show.
Weds 12 April 2pm come to St Andrew's Hall, Gerrards Cross, for Afternoon Tea and Cake and my talk on 'The Famous and Infamous of The Chalfonts & District'.
My new book 'Odd Man Out' is completed and will be published soon.
20 March 1960's pop idol Jess Conrad joined me at Gerrards Cross Book Shop for the re-launch of my book 'The Famous and Infamous of the Chalfonts & District.
My screenplay 'Odd Man Out' is completed and ready for submission. Now working on the book to accompany the film.
Saturday 17 December 2016:
I shall be signing copies of my books at GERRARDS CROSS BOOK SHOP 11am till 1pm. Join me for a mince pie.
Saturday 3 December 2016:
Today sees the launch of She Voices anthology 'Notes on a Page', at RICHMOND LIBRARY (extension) 2-6pm. Tea, cake & music plus readings. See you there.
Saturday 15 October 2016:
I shall be speaking at the CHORLEYWOOD LITERARY FESTIVAL. Do catch my talk on 'Buckinghamshire Spies & Subversives' at 2pm at The Junction. Tickets available from Chorleywood Book Shop or Gerrards Cross Book Shop. Tea and cake included.
Thursday 6 October 2016
Come and join me on my 'Graveyard Walk & Talk'. I shall be taking a small party of people tripping around the headstones in St Peter's Garden, Chalfont St Peter, at 10am and we shall hear about some of the famous, worthy and interesting people who lie there. Tickets from Gerrards Cross or Chorleywood Book Shops.
Saturday 21 May 2016:
Admission is FREE to the WRITERS' CAFE & POP-UP BOOK SHOP event organised by the Chalfont St Giles & Jordans Literary Festival. I and 7 fellow authors will be at The Reading Room, Chalfont St Giles, to chat informally to visitors on how to get inspired, get writing and get published. Teas, Coffees & delicious home-made cakes on sale and lots of books to browse while you sip. See you there.
Saturday 16 April 2016:
A most enjoyable day was had by all at the DOWNLEY LITERARY FESTIVAL, Bucks. The speakers were No 1 bestselling author Elizabeth Buchan; writer, editor & literary agent Jemima Hunt, hugely succesful short story scribe Tracy Baines and 'Frost Magazine' editor and ace blogger Catherine Balavage. All proceeds went to the charity for wounded ex-servicemen WORDS FOR THE WOUNDED.
I am thrilled to announce that Buckinghamshire Spies & Subversives was the year's no 5 best seller of 2015 at Gerrards Cross Book Shop, beating Girl on a Train and Go Set a Watchman.
2 December: I'll be having a book signing at Gerrards Cross Book Shop 6- 8.30pm during the GX Christmas late night shopping event. Do pop in and say 'hello'.
12 December: I am one of 10 guest authors honoured to have been invited to participate with top booksellers at the KENSINGTON BOOKSELLERS FAIR in Kensington Town Hall 10.30-4.30. You'll find us near the entrance to the cafe.
On the evening of Weds 18 Nov I'll be giving my talk 'Buckinghamshire Spies & Sunversives' to HEDGERLEY HISTORICL SOCIETY.
'BUCKINGHAMSHIRE SPIES & SUBVERSIVES' IS CURRENTLY AT NO 9 IN THE TOP 20 BEST SELLERS AT GERRARDS CROSS BOOK SHOP AND NO 1 BEST SELLER AT ONLINE DISTRIBUTOR.
Weds 1 July 2015:
COME AND MEET ME AT GERRARDS CROSS BOOK SHOP THIS WEDS BETWEEN 6 AND 9 pm. I SHALL BE SIGNING COPIES OF MY JUST RELEASED BOOK:
'BUCKINGHAMSHIRE SPIES AND SUBVERSIVES'.
Wednesday 3 December 2014:
Come and meet me at GERRARDS CROSS BOOKSHOP CHRISTMAS LATE NIGHT SHOPPING EVENT where I shall be signing copies of my latest local history book 'The Famous and Infamous of The Chalfonts & District'. 6.30 till 8.30 pm.
Thursday 20 November 2014:
RICHMOND LITERARY FESTIVAL: Catch my talk on 'Achieving Success as an Indie Author' at The Tea Box, Paradise Rd., Richmond, kicking off promptly at 7pm.
Sunday 16 November 2014:
I will be signing books and meeting folks at the INDIE AUTHOR'S FAIR at CHORLEYWOOD LITERARY FESTIVAL, British Legion Hall, Chorleywood 2-5pm Admission FREE, talks, books, tea and cakes - what could be nicer on a Sunday afternoon?
Saturday 26 July 2014:
I'll be signing copies of THE CHALFONTS AND GERRARDS CROSS AT WAR and chatting to customers at Gerrards Cross Book Shop.
My Book 'The Chalfonts and Gerrards Cross at War' has just reached the number 3 spot in the TOP TEN BEST SELLING BOOKS bought at online book supplier FeedARead:
And my novel 'A Wistful Eye' just reached the no 7 spot, too.
I am thrilled to have been commissioned by Titchfield Festival Theatre to adapt my novel 'Running with Crows' to a 3 act play. The completed script of 'Death of a Tan' is currently with them and they hope to produce the play in the spring of 2015. I cannot wait to see it on the stage. I have also prepared a synopsis and treatment of the story, should any film production company be interested ....
15 June 2013:
GLAD Productions will be presenting a theatrical adaptation of my book 'Running with Crows' at the Dunlavin Arts Festival, County Wicklow. I am thrilled and shall be there to see it.
16 June 2013:
The Irish Book Launch of 'Running with Crows' will take place at the Dunlavin Arts Festival in Co Wicklow. I shall be giving a talk and slideshow about the Milltown Murder case; meeting local readers and writers and exploring the location of the murder which is the pivotal incident in 'Running with Crows'. I cannot wait to explore this beautiful corner of Ireland.
12 June 2013:
I shall be giving a slideshow presentation about the Mitchell case at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester (my home city). The show kicks off at 7.30pm and there will be signed copies available of 'Running with Crows'. A big 'thank you' to Arts & Cultural officer Rose Morris for arranging this and also for reading and reviewing 'Running with Crows'. I'm so looking forward to being back in my old north Manchester neighbourhood.
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A WISTFUL EYE - THE TRAGEDY OF A TITANIC SHIPWRIGHT
[setting: Belfast 1910]
"The spring of nineteen ten was a long time coming to Northern Ireland. Winter had been slow to relinquish its iron grip on the land and reluctant daffodils were still in the green out around the fine gardens of the suburbs. In the crowded working class districts of Belfast however there were few flowers to herald the changing of the seasons. Here, it was the gradually increasing daylight and the lessening of evening chills which were intrerpreted as a precursor of spring. As March gusted into April, the trees along Duncairn Gardens grudgingly opened their pink and white blossom, lifting the spirits of passers-by and providing free confetti for weddings at the church of St Barnabus.
The middle-aged couple trundled the hired handcart, laden with their furniture and cooking utensils, past the church and over the New Lodge Road, leaving early morning tracks on the damp, petal-strewn pavements. They had been up since early on, unable to sleep for the prospect of all they had to do for their latest house move....
...The new house was not new at all, of course. There were no new houses in the New Lodge area, contrary to what the name might suggest, and nor were there any in Tiger's Bay, whence they had come. Of course there were no tigers their either. Belfast was a place of contradictions, right enough. Sailortown, however, where the couple had started their married life more than thirty years earlier, was indeed home to sailors and their families as well as to those who supported the city's great maritime tradition - the shipwrights, the ropemakers, the engine makers, the dockers and carters.
All Belfast's working class neighbourhoods shared a dowdy and close-knit character. William Henry thought that maybe the people did too. One little street looked much like the next one and one working class family looked much like another. The little red-bricked dwellings had been hastily constructed, to a mean specification, almost a century earlier, to accommodate the many wrokers needed to support Belfast's rapidly developing industries. On slob lands, where once the curlew swooped and the oyster-catcher stooped, slate-roofed terraces had sprouted and had spread upwards, in tightly packed rows, radiating outwards from the docks, around the shipyards, warehouses and factories. Where purple sea fog had once rolled in unimpeded, now grey smoke curled skywards from chimneys, both tall and small...
.. Belle stoked up the fire. The glow from the hearth filled the void in the room left by son Billy's departure, and made her feel a little cheerier. William Henry chided her for being so profligate with the fuel, when there would be just the two of them at home on this mild spring afternoon. He did not understand the importance to her of warmth and light, and indeed she had not the words to explain it.
Whilst the children were still young, Belle had been busy enough to ignore her depressive feelings - mostly. However, now that the children had all left home and William Henry was out at work for ten hours or more each day, it would not take her long to tend this empty wee house. Now she feared she would have too much time to reflect, to dwell on her loneliness.
She gazed around the little kitchen, which was indeed tiny but which nonetheless accommodated their little wooden table and two chairs and a little sofa. The iron range was the same as the one in their previous house and the tiny scullery, with its large sink, single cold water tap and old iron mangle, was similarly appointed to the Collyer Street scullery. Their former house had boasted a larger front parlour, which they had converted into a little grocery shop, but Belle thought the Shandon Street parlour ample space for the two of them now. They would see out their declining years together comfortably enough in this little house.
Although she had enjoyed chatting with the locals who came into the Collyer Street shop for their messages, there were mornings when, William Henry having departed for the yards, her depression would not let her get out of bed. Unconcerned that customers were knocking, she would only rouse herself when prompted by hunger. A pot of tea might have cheered her, but she would have had to light a fire to boil the water and somehow she could not raise the energy or enthusiasm for that. Staring into the blackness of the grate, its dead ashes awaiting removal to the earth closet down the yard, she would instead succumb to inertia..."
It was a warm and slightly windy day, as William Henry climbed up the staging to a narrow platform, some seventy feet above the ground, whence he might observe the water rising to the desired level. He set his piece and his billy securely on the platform beside him, for a billy can falling seventy feet could easily concuss a man below. He settled back as comfortably as he could and filled and lit his pipe again. He now had a great view of the Queen's Yard, and indeed of most of Belfast and the beautiful surrounding countryside. What was more, he would have several hours to enjoy it. Of course he could still hear, from around the yards, the ear-splitting clangour of the riveters' hammers as they struck, each pair in unison, compacting rivet into steel plate and working with methodical precision.
He knocked his pipe out against the staging. He now took out his piece of bread and jam and, pouring some tea into the lid of his billy, he sat back to enjoy his breakfast. Food, no matter how modest, always tasted better in the open air, he thought. Although no longer hot, the sweet milky tea refreshed and sustained him. His eyes narrowed in the reflected glare of the sun, as it now rose over the Lagan water, and he marvelled at the beauty of the green landscape which encircled the industrial city. Gulls were now circling and screeching overhead, so he guessed the fishing boats must be in harbour after a night spent out at sea. There were far worse jobs than shipbuilding, he mused.
Once the hull and the metal decks were fully caulked, the caulking squads would turn their attention next to Titanic's sixteen lifeboats. Hughie had said Mr Andrews' original design for Titanic had included twenty lifeboats, but that this number had exceeded the minimum recommendations of the British Board of Trade, and the Harland and Wolff management had decided to reduce the number. According to what Hughie had heard, Mr Ismay felt that too many lifeboats hanging from their enormous davits would be off putting to passengers and would also reduce the amount of deck space available for leisure activities. That seemed an odd decision to William Henry. Surely, you either needed lifeboats for everyone or none at all? He bet Hughie that it was done to save money, for rumour had it that Ismay was as tight as a crab's arse."
".....William Henry's protests were silenced by a fist in his face. Suddenly, he was on the ground and his assailant was kicking him in the stomach and ribs. He turned onto his side and rolled himself into a ball in a vain attempt to make himself a smaller target, but every kick hit home, and one got him in the head. The screams and shouts around him seemed to be receding and he feared he was losing consciousness. His attacker was shouting abuse about killing all the Socialists too, when Johnnie Beasant, his nose and mouth pouring with blood, caught the man from behind, swung him around and, with one blow, laid him out. Johnnie now had William Henry on his feet and the pair were running along towards the river. Various sharp missiles rained down upon them as they reached the edge of the quay and continued to strike them as they entered the water .... "
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RUNNING WITH CROWS - THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A BLACK AND TAN
RUNNING WITH CROWS - THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A BLACK AND TAN
[setting: Dublin 1921]
The Joy [June 1921]:
The sorry ruins of Dublin’s elegant Custom House smouldered still on the quayside, yet the black waters of the Liffey lapped by unconcernedly. The sun was rising and wary citizens began to appear and go about their business as best they could on an otherwise pleasant June morning.
As the military vehicle sped along the quay on its way out to Phibsboro, the handcuffed prisoner in the back strained to take a last glimpse at his native city. He noted they were taking a roundabout route along the north bank of the Liffey, presumably to avoid being delayed by the city’s many roadblocks. All too soon the vehicle reached the North Circular Road and the entrance to Mountjoy Gaol and shortly the reception process was under way...
... The first thing he noticed about Mountjoy was the smell. It was the unmistakable stench of urine, not dissimilar to the stink of the foul tanneries of his adolescence. Arbour Hill Prison, by comparison, had not smelled bad. Arbour Hill was a military prison and therefore had been organised like any army camp, with well-scrubbed floors and well-scrubbed prisoners. Military prisons in the field were a different matter again, of course, as well he knew. Even the army abandoned its normal standards of cleanliness and hygiene during war. Perhaps the same was true here in Mountjoy, or The Joy, as the ever ironic Dubliners called it. Dublin was at war these days, after all. Perhaps The Joy wasn’t always this pungent – perhaps.
All around him, the early morning routine of the prison bustled along. Staff came to the reception area and went away again. Prisoner-orderlies shuffled to and fro. Their whistling, the clink of keys and the slamming of iron doors were magnified in this echo chamber which was the heart of The Joy. All were oblivious to the plight of the lone standing man – a tall man, ex-soldier, ex-policeman, a condemned man whose trepidation grew as he waited. He knew The Joy had seen so many executions of late that such an event must now be almost commonplace. That Prisoner Mitchell was to die here was a prospect remarkable only to himself...
'So this is what a condemned cell looks like?’ he said, ‘I’ve always wondered.’
The Somme 1914:
Tension along the line was palpable as the men stood ready. Some swayed in fearful anticipation: some pressed their foreheads against the cold, damp clay to steady themselves. Mitch could hear someone else close by muttering a prayer. Further down the trench, someone was taking a piss. The tension affected each man differently. The months of training - training which Mitch had not needed in any case, and which had mostly involved horseback charges, plunging lances into sandbags - had not prepared them for this moment. The horses and lances were now far behind the lines. Only the sandbags had come with them to the trenches.
As a groom, Mitch had until recently been assigned to stay back behind the lines and care for the horses whilst others in the regiment went up to the front. The men of the 16th had taken a hammering though. The lancers were effectively infantry now and it was a case of all troops to the front line.
Unlike others of his new comrades therefore, Mitch had little idea of what would confront him when they scrambled over the parapet. However, he guessed the chances of coming back alive and in one piece were not great. Someone in the company had described these last minute nerves, in the moment before an attack began, as being just like the stage fright he had experienced in his acting career - wishing he had relieved himself before the curtain went up, wishing he had chosen any other occupation but this. For some however, quiet resignation and making peace with God was their natural response to the fear.
The waiting was the worst part; worse perhaps than the eventual charge out into the darkness. It would not be too long before that darkness would be illuminated by the angry glare of the enemy's artillery fire. Mitch was already familiar with the rattle of machine gun fire and the thunder of artillery, as it was plainly audible even from well behind the lines. Soon though, he would see what it looked like close up. This would be his first experience of engaging the enemy.
The Wicklow Warriors [Wicklow February 1921]:
The drive from the camp at Gormanstown down to Dublin gave the dozen temporary constables in the back of the personnel carrier a chance to get acquainted. Although they had all undergone the same two weeks of induction at the Royal Irish Constabulary's training camp, the instruction had been so intensive that most of the RIC's new recruits had not had a chance to socialise.
Mitch knew only one of them slightly. George White, Blanco to his mates, had arrived at the Gormanstown camp on the same day as Mitch. Blanco had been a professional soldier before the war and had been made up to corporal whilst in France. Despite Mitch's extreme distrust of NCOs, he thought Blanco seemed decent enough. The twelve men had been advised that six of them would be posted to the Dame Street barracks in Dublin but the other half dozen, Mitch and Blanco included, would be posted to a place named Dunlavin, in County Wicklow.
As the wintery countryside of County Meath gave way to the smokey outskirts of Dublin, Mitch speculated on what might be expected of them once there, for no-one had spelled out the precise nature of their duties as yet. As part of their training, the new temporary constables had been read the text of a newspaper cutting from Freeman's Journal. The trainers explained it was a part of a speech made by RIC Divisional Commissioner for Munster, Lieutenant Colonel Smythe. It was the nearest thing to clarification of their role which the recruits had so far received. Mitch could recall a particular line of that speech:
'The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you, no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man ...'
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