Very Far From Here

Coming soon on Print-on-Demand from Back-to-Front

 

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

 

 

Special Offer !  

While 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 for details

 

 

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

The paperback edition of Mystery Stories - click on the picture.  From creepy school computers to bungling bank robbers; from lost villages to deadly Christmas presents :

 

 

My biography

 

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 UK

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 for adults.

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 :

Haunted United

Beautiful Games

Death Penalty

 

Two chilling ghost stories

You can buy them by clicking on the titles :

The Ghosts Who Waited

The Railway Phantoms