Very Far From Here
Coming soon on Print-on-Demand
This was the second novel I wrote and
it was first published in 1976. I’ve
always had a soft spot for it. For
the first time I wrote about the First World
War, something I’ve returned to in three
later books. Find out more about
Very Far From Here here.
Find out what progress I'm making with new books, and hear about my plans
stocks last, the Joslin de Lay Mysteries,
the Hare Trilogy and Out of the Mouths of
Babes are sold as new, signed by the author and
personally dedicated to the buyer if specified
! Click here
If you want to see want you can buy
that is currently in print, there is an
update to this section here.
For links to buy books secondhand through Amazon Marketplace, see
the complete works here.
You can purchase all my current books at Amazon, and you can even get the older ones from Amazon marketplace.
Now available from OUP
paperback edition of Mystery Stories - click on the picture. From
creepy school computers to bungling bank robbers; from lost villages to
deadly Christmas presents :
If you’ve ever read The War and Freddy, you’ll know that
Freddy was three when the Second World War started and nine when it
finished. He’s exactly the same age as
me. There’s a coincidence!
I was born in Kent but spent most
of my childhood in Winslow, Buckinghamshire,.
The Second Word War was raging and, like Freddy, living in a country at
war was all I knew until I was
nine. I think the war was the
biggest shaping experience of my life.
In 1946 I went to the local
grammar school, The Royal Latin School, Buckingham.. After that, and after two not very glorious
years in the RAF, I went up to Jesus College, Cambridge, where I read
English. Many years later I took some
time off writing to complete a PhD.
All my working life – in a job,
that is, not just writing – was spent in education. I was a teacher at Stockport Grammar School
and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Wakefield, where I made all my early mistakes. Then I trained teachers at Milton Keynes
College of Education (trying to make sure they didn’t make the same mistakes) and
also worked for the Open University. I
finally ended up as County English Adviser for Hertfordshire. My first-ever book was published in 1962, Three Towneley Plays, modern versions of
three medieval Miracle Plays for schools, but I didn’t start writing seriously
until 1971, when I started my first children’s novel, Pageants of Despair. This
was published in 1974. After that I was
writing in the moments I had free from teaching and advising until 1992. In that year, fed up to the teeth with
dashing round the county peddling the then new National Curriculum and seeing a
job I loved take new directions that I didn’t like, I retired early to become a
full-time writer, which I’ve been ever since.
I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve written, but there are over sixty
now, all sorts – novels, short story collections, books for schools,
non-fiction for all ages.
In 1985 I started the “Lending
Our Minds Out” writing courses for children at the Pearse House Conference Centre,
Bishops Stortford. After I retired
early, Philip Levy, the owner of Pearse House, and I decided that these courses
offered too good an experience to let die so we set them up for primary school
pupils from all over the country, using Youth Hostels as venues. These courses ran until 2004, when rising
costs meant they had become too expensive for most schools or parents to
afford. Many hundreds of children had been
to them over the years. And now there’s
a chance that I may be able to start them afresh, here in Oxford.
My wife, Agnes, from Ireland, and
I had two children. Well, when I say
‘children’ I’m talking about two people now in their mid-forties with children
of their own. Peter, my son, is a
scientist. My daughter Mary is in
publishing. I have five grandchildren.
2005 was an unhappy year, Agnes became very ill. She had contracted cancer and died in
January, 2006. When I was able to think
straight again, I had to decide what I would do with the rest of my life. I felt I didn’t want to be in Hertford any
more. I had loved living in the town for
twenty-seven years but now I somehow felt I was a stranger there. But where to go? Peter and Mary suggested I move to Oxford. The second paragraph above will show you why
my first reaction was, ‘But I couldn’t possibly
live in Oxford.’
Luckily I soon saw sense. I moved here in October 2006 and since then
have lived a very eventful life indeed.
I joined Writers in Oxford, a society for local published writers which
includes Philip Pullman as one of its members.
For the last three years I have edited The Oxford Writer, its
quarterly newsletter. In 2008 I was
asked to be Tutor for Short Fiction for the Oxford Undergraduate Diploma in
Creative Writing. It’s wonderful after
all these years to be teaching again, especially with such able and responsive
students. I also work for The Oxford
Editors, writing reports on books sent in by new writers asking for guidance
and editorial help and also mentoring them in their writing afterwards, a process
which can take months, even years, and is entirely fascinating.
A lot of my time now goes on
preparing out-of-print books as ebooks for Kindle and later for other formats
like Kobo, Sony and Apple. The world of
publishing is in a sorry state at the moment – at least, it is for people like
me who have been writing successfully for a very long time but are now seen to
be not profitable enough any more and so find getting new publishers difficult. There are many in the same position,
including some very famous names. So we
have to take matters into our own hands. As a result we feel suddenly free and
in charge of our own destinies, like farmers giving up their ruinous contracts
with big supermarkets and opening their farm shops.
The main reward for any writer is
to be read. That’s more important than
earning lots of money, more important than being famous. If nobody reads you then you’ve got no chance
of either. This is why so many of us are
turning to open access publishing on Kindle and the like. This is why some writers, including me, are
planning to set up their own publishing co-operatives, to reissue some of the
books we have put on Kindle as high quality printed editions and publish new
ones. After all, nothing in the world
can really beat the feel, the smell, in fact the beauty, of a new book – or the
indefinable romance of an old one.
But the most important thing to
happen to me in Oxford occurred on a Sunday evening in September 2007, when I
went for a walk along the Oxford Canal path and met Kay, from New Zealand. Kay is a painter. There was an immediate mutual understanding
and we now live together in a very happy relationship. I used to think I would never see the
southern hemisphere, but now New Zealand has become almost like a second home!
Pageants of Despair out now !
Pageants of Despair, my first novel, has
been reissued by Paul
Dry Books. Click here
or on the cover to buy the book from Amazon UK, and click here
to see the superb cover in full.
Yule Logs now out !
Click on the cover to order from Amazon
Christmas has always been and always
will be a special time of year, a time either
of great happiness or great sadness and
sometimes both. Here are eight stories
of different Christmases, all of which are
memorable in their different ways.
The stories are arranged in order of
age: the first for young children, the last
There are two World War 2 stories, one
which refers to it and one which refers
to another war. There’s a football
story, a ghost story and two stories
with carols in them - and a lot more besides.
There’s a story about a really
weird Christmas guest and another about
a tumultuous family row. All
ordinary Christmases to start with, but
which turn into being anything but ordinary.
Each story has a postscript telling what
real memory lies behind it and how it came
to be written.
Many of my earlier books are back in print via the Back-to-Front
imprint of the Solidus Press. I have chosen some of my favourites to be rereleased by this new publisher. Here
are some that you can read now :
The Great Football Treble
All three books are now available. You can buy them by
clicking on the titles :
Two chilling ghost stories
You can buy them by
clicking on the titles :
Ghosts Who Waited