As seen in the September issue of Uncaged Book Reviews:
Uncaged: You’ve been so kind as to send in short stories that have been published in Uncaged. Can you tell readers more about your full length books?
My baby or my first attempt at writing, ‘Stolen Birthright’, came about by accident. Although I was good at school with my essays which my English teacher always said were too long it never crossed my mind to take up writing as I was always busy working for a living and it was only when I had reached my retirement age when my lovely wife urged me to look up her family tree as there had been rumours throughout time of a lost fortune.
I always scoffed at these but we had letters and other material passed on to us by her parents and so I put our first computer to proper use and was gob smacked by what I found. It was all true, there had been a fraud way back in 1840 although upon investigation it was found to be legally out of statute but nevertheless a book in its own right so I set about weaving a story around what we knew.
Parts 1 & 2 i.e. The Cottage fire, the Murder of Esther (her real name) by gassing, the defacing of gravestones and the shenanigans surrounding the will are all true with my fictional twist.
Part 3 is absolutely fiction but the Scottish Castle on the front cover is the actual Castle built with the money that was defrauded and the gold coin and chain handed down is still in my wife’s possession.
That was it, I was in the groove as they say and when I retired we went to live in Cyprus (that’s the one in the Med) and I joined the ‘Paphos Writers Group’ consisting of like minded people who helped me enormously to edit and finish the final version but also like a lot of naughty schoolchildren we had to do ‘Homework’ set by the Chairman and write short stories on subjects he chose and because of this being a fan of Cold War fiction I changed my genre and using my Military experience I invented my protagonist– George Barrington Hunter.
From the short stories based around him I built up my second novel using his name as the title and the sequel – ‘Below the Belt’ to be followed shortly by, I hope, ‘Upstart’ – which is work in progress.
Other short stories made up my children’s book ‘Henrietta – Tales from the Farmyard’ and a handy book ideal for when you’re flying called ‘Gems from my Pen’ which leads me into question 2)…
Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?
I have two books on the go at the moment, one another historical novel called ‘Eleanor’ (working title) which is currently on the back burner while I concentrate on the follow up to ‘Below the Belt’ called ‘Upstart’.
I read a lot of Frederick Forsyth and I had just finished his book ‘The Fourth Protocol’ for the second time when I had the idea for ‘Upstart’. What if the Russians could create a diversion big enough for the other world powers to be distracted while they move into the countries they lost when the USSR broke down with the excuse that they are protecting Russia from a similar attack?
The plan is to explode two dirty bombs, one in the UK and one in the US at the same time and set it up to put the blame on North Korea or Ukraine but the person put in charge of the operation ups the ante by substituting small Nuclear Bombs for the Dirty Bombs which would have wider consequences.
George Barrington Hunter is dragged out of retirement and into the operation when an MI6 Agent is murdered near his home town and MI6 has no one left to follow it up as their Agents are all busy around the world and he uncovers the plot…
That’s it, I’m telling you no more because I don’t know where this plot is taking me.
For the uninitiated a Dirty bomb is an RDD – Radiological Dispersion Device. A mixture of conventional explosives which is used to spread Radio Active material. Often referred to as a Weapon of Mass Disruption the effect would disperse after about a year unlike a Nuclear Bomb.
The historical book which is my favourite genre and the one my wife wants me to write takes place in the early 19th Century in North West England and Australia when Eleanor at the age of fourteen after the death of her Mother is left to fend for herself and after many harrowing escapades she sets out to trace her father who was deported. It is two books in one. Pt 1 in the UK and Pt 2 the escapades of her Father in Australia and their reunion.
Uncaged: What is coming up next that we have to look forward to?
‘Upstart’ hopefully by Christmas if I can get over this writers block I have at the moment. The plot has got complicated.
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them?
Yes, I do read any reviews both good and bad to see what I can learn from them and is there anything I can change to make things better but I must say that I have had only one really bad review
on Amazon and that was a lady (I use the term loosely) in the US Mid-west who liked my Henrietta stories (she thought they were cute) but said the grammar and spelling were terrible and not fit for her daughter.
As you may know you cannot stop, block or edit a review on Amazon so I had to resort to an alternative review to explain that I am English and the book was written with English dialects, grammar and most of all spelling and it was understandable that it wasn’t good for teaching purposes in the US but it was good to read to children of all ages. I got no reply.
The spelling, grammar thing applies to all my books although I do try and use the international spelling where possible and if my book goes to the US like in ‘Below the Belt’ I use US terms like cell phone in that section etc…
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
I think the nicest things said were for ‘Stolen Birthright’ when they referred to the easy change between modern and 19th Century dialogue and the way the story flowed easily from one scene to the next.
Quote 1: A very skilful historical novel that moves smoothly through various periods, expertly adjusting setting, appearance and dialogue to suit…
Sly Williams – Author of ‘Stonefish’
Quote 2: This is one of the best written and thought out books I have seen.
It takes the reader back into a time where speech was more poetic in it’s nature.
The writers ability shines through from the very beginning of the story and the voice comes across strongly and the descriptive scenes of an age gone by make this book a compelling read.
Neville Kent – Author of ‘The Secrets Of The Forest’ (Series)
Uncaged: I read Stolen Birthright recently, which was your first novel and it also has a film script written for it. How did that come to be?
When I was with the ‘Paphos Writers Group’ there were many budding authors and a couple of established authors one of whom was Douglas Stewart who had written film scripts for a couple of his novels and had one produced. When ‘Stolen Birthright’ was published (LULU self publishers)he bought a copy (we all bought each others books)and after having read it he said he liked the plot could he have the film rights although he did say at the time that his script would only be based on my book and not the actual book, I didn’t care, I just said ‘YES!’ and we signed up.
These things take time and he had a bit of bad luck when the film was about to go into production. The Producer he was signed up with passed away unexpectedly so he had to start the whole process again. It is with his Agent and currently doing the rounds in Hollywood and he keeps me up to date. Needless to say I am still penniless.
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
My favourite pastime is the game of Snooker and I go to my local club at least once a week for a few hours but most days my wife and I, both pensioners of advanced age, go out in the morning even if it is just for a coffee. Anything that gets us out of the house for a few hours so we don’t get bored. We don’t go to the same place all the time but spread our favours around and mix it with shopping or a small walk.
When I am back in our apartment I do a little gardening or DIY to keep the place in running order when I’m not fixing computers for our aging neighbours and my sister and in the afternoons I try to write.
I have two favourite places. One is anywhere with my wife and the other is a place where I had the best part of my childhood and that is a small country town in Cumbria Northwest England called Kirkby Lonsdale. We lived three miles outside of town and were there for only eighteen months way back in 1947-48 but we were so far away from our neighbours in the middle of a small forest. We lived off the land mostly and the freedom to do our own thing as a family was excellent except the long walk to school in bad weather which wasn’t often and I can still remember that one of my jobs was picking up a can of fresh milk from a local farm on the way home from school.
I use this area as the childhood opening chapters of my next book ‘Eleanor’ albeit in the early 19th century.
Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you?
That would be egotistical, but my wife says I am an alien or a freak as at the grand age of eighty my hair is still its natural dark colour with just a few silver ones creeping in over the last six months and I have the rarest blood group on the planet.
9) What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
Because I am lousy at modern communications like blogging, Facebook etc… and I no longer have a website I have not got many fans but to those I have who have given me many good reviews a special ‘Thank you!’
And to my most enthusiastic fan, one Donna Robison, a leading Lawyer in Florida who gave me wonderful reviews and encouragement for my novel ‘George Barrington Hunter’ you can add a big hug! She even begged that I did not kill Hunter off in the sequel ‘Below the Belt’ so I only had him shot and run over by a car to live and be my protagonist in ‘Upstart.’
I really must get stuck in and finish that.
In between I made up a children’s book about Henrietta – Tales from the Farmyard’ and a book of short stories from my files called ‘Gems from my Pen.’A follow up to ‘Below the Belt’ called ‘Upstart’ and another historical novel called ‘Eleanor’ are on the way.
I also edit on a small scale other peoples work and prepare them for Amazon E-books and I have ‘ghost-written’ a biography for a client in S. Africa.
Favourite books Anything by HV. Morton, John Le Carré, Dennis Wheatley and Frederick Forsyth
When Jane Ross from Edinburgh died in 1839 she knew nothing of the phalanx of evil created by William Maxwell a hitherto unknown relative to steal her legacy.
His web of deceit, bribery, murder and arson was to extend over 160 years…
But he did not reckon with Ellie Hinchcliffe who made a promise to her Mother that she would retrieve their ‘Stolen Birthright’. Her efforts extend over 38 years during which she was to endure hardship, get married, encounter Royalty and have a love affair…
In 2002 Jenny Beaumont discovers two of Ellie’s letters and intrigued by the allegation of fraud in the family she sets out to uncover the truth. Her roller-coaster ride of passion, inexplicable accidents and Dark horror before the truth is revealed comes as a shock into her shy uncomplicated world.
What demonic forces awaited her and was she any more successful?
‘Sad times, eh,’ Professor Mildmay remarked as Angus prepared for the evening session.
‘Yes sir, and all the accounts I have found in diaries and such like say that Esther was a lovely girl. Shy, modest and well liked throughout the village and she was sorely missed in church, not just for her flower arranging but for her singing also.’
‘Did they catch anyone?’
‘No, sir. I have checked Police records for the day and the case is still open. Filed, but not forgotten.’
‘One thing you forgot to mention, young Lane. What did they do next these would be millionaires?’
Angus flicked through the file and read for a few moments, turning pages backward and forward in an effort to find the missing information.
‘It appears you’re right, sir. I don’t know how I came to miss that.’
Mildmay sighed and shook his head. ‘Now maybe a good time, aye?’
Angus took a sip from his tumbler.
‘Thomas Bosworth, the patriarch of the family, was as good as his word and set about covering the ground that Stephen Beattie had done before him. Meanwhile, Maxwell was also busy arranging insurance against further claims and fulfilling a dream.’
The everyday life in the village of Longhope was undisturbed by the presence of two strangers. The locals paid scant attention to Oates and Barley as they rode through and stopped at the end of the village, talked for a moment, turned and made their way back to the Plough Inn.
Minutes later James Mackenzie arrived. He sat apart enjoying his lunch before he engaged them in casual conversation.
The landlord served more ale and ignored the trio thereafter.
Leaning forward and speaking in a lowered tone Mackenzie said, ‘Did you get a good look at the church?’
Barley, the taller of the two replied. ‘Aye, we did that. It’s convenient having the rectory opposite like that.’
‘Good. There is extra work for you tonight. I want you to deface a couple of gravestones. I will walk the churchyard this afternoon to locate the graves of William Ross and his daughter Mary, so that you may go directly to them while I do what I have to. You will have to work quickly as the noise is bound to wake someone.’
He raised his voice so that all around could hear. ‘Gentlemen, let us be on our way. Good riding and luck be with you.’
They emptied their tankards and stamped out laughing and talking meaningless banter before going their separate ways.
It took Mackenzie little time to break into the vestry and locate the burial records and there were plenty of candles and matches to aid him with his search.
Using the stolen records in his possession as his guide, he was able to go directly to the years he required. With a sharp tug he removed the offending pages.
He moved onto the marriage and baptism records and scoured them repeatedly.
‘That’s odd,’ he muttered, ‘there’s no record and it cannot be. Beattie’s documents clearly show them to be here.’
There was a creak, and he jumped, his heart pounding. He paused and listened. Breaking into a cold sweat the hairs on his neck prickled. The flickering shadows thrown by the candles in the darkness of the church made his flesh creep.
‘Why am I doing this. I’m a lawyer not a thief and why does the house of God feel more like a morgue?’
He continued his search, nervously jumping at every sound and flickering shadow, mystified why he couldn’t find the name, Hall.
He became aware of noises outside and slammed the books shut in disgust, doused the candle, hurried from the vestry, and rushed through the darkened church cursing as his thigh encountered a hidden pew.
In his haste he slipped on the polished tiles and crashed to the floor. With a barrage of colourful language he ran from the place that tormented him.
Outside he became aware of the commotion coming from the Rectory. Angry voices carried over to him and lanterns were lit as people made themselves ready to investigate.
‘Oates, Barley! Where are ye?’ Mackenzie called in a hoarse whisper, ‘You drink sodden louts, show yourself.’
The voices were growing louder and with no time to linger he ran towards the surrounding wall where his companions should be waiting for him with the horses.
‘Mackenzie! Over here, where the hell have you been?’
‘It’s a long story. Let’s get away from here.’
Quickly untying the horses they walked unhurriedly following the line of the walls behind some cottages until they reached the road. They continued on foot until they were clear of the village before mounting and melting away in the darkness down the Gloucester road.
‘Did you get those gravestones done as I said?’ Mackenzie enquired. He had little faith in the bar scourings he had been forced to hire.
‘Aye! Just the surnames like you said. We was almost done afore they woke over the road.’
‘Good. A day’s rest and then I’ll leave you while I take a look at Frampton.’
Mackenzie had little trouble finding the Bosworth household. He gave himself a quick brush down before he knocked with some authority. He had to wait some moments before he heard shuffling steps and the door opened a little. The time weary face of Emily peered at him suspiciously.
He raised his hat and bowed slightly. ‘Good morning, ma’am. I’m James Mackenzie, Advocate, down from Scotland to see Thomas Bosworth on the matter of his inheritance. My card.’
She ignored the card and said abruptly. ‘He’s not here. You’ll have to go over to the store,’ and she closed the door firmly in his face.
With a shrug of his shoulders he said to no one in particular. ‘Methinks I’ve been rebuffed.’
He found the store without difficulty and presented himself to Thomas who stood behind the counter in readiness for his next customer.
‘Good day, sir, can I help you?’
‘Do I have the pleasure of addressing Thomas Bosworth?’
‘I am he, but you have the better of me.’
‘James Mackenzie, Advocate, and I am down from Scotland on the business of your inheritance. My card.’
Thomas took the card and gave it a cursory glance before replying, ‘Mr Beattie is my solicitor in Scotland.’
‘Correct, sir, but Mr Beattie is exceptionally busy and he has sent me on this errand which is of extreme importance. Time is of the essence and owing to the unfortunate demise of your sister, Esther. I beg your pardon—it was your sister?’
Suspicious of this sinister character Thomas replied with a cautionary, ‘Yes.’
‘In that case we must hurry as the judge has closed the case. It is a matter of some urgency to get it back into court as quickly as possible before it goes out of statute. I need whatever information you have as proof.’
Thomas rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a moment. ‘Does not one of us have to live in Scotland?’
‘You’re right, but at the moment all I need is for you to sign a power of attorney naming me as your representative and we can present it to the court on your behalf.’
‘Why couldn’t we do that the first time?’
‘Because it was the first time.’
Thomas looked askance at Mackenzie, ‘Oh, I see.’
Mackenzie pulled out what appeared to be a legal document and spread it on the counter. ‘I have one prepared. All you have to do is sign it and give me all your documents.’
‘I will sign it,’ said Thomas, ‘but I will not give you my proof, such as it is, and we are unable to get evidence of the last marriage anyway.’
‘I must have the documents,’ insisted Mackenzie.
Thomas shook his head. ‘No, they stay here in my safekeeping up at the house.’
Mackenzie snatched his paper from the counter and said angrily, ‘You’re wasting my time, good day to you, sir,’ and as he was leaving he turned in the doorway and said as an aside, ‘You have little time to waste if you wish us to help you. Keep in touch by letter and we will advise you on your position.’
He turned on his heel and left, cursing under his breath.
Barley and Oates crept up the garden path of the Bosworth household and around the side of the building
‘Bloody hell,’ Oates cursed as he stumbled on a carelessly left garden utensil and made a grab at Barley for support.
Barley swore under his breath. ‘Quiet, you damn fool. Have you got the jemmy?’
‘What are you waiting for? Open the bloody window.’
Oates inserted the jemmy under the kitchen window and applied downward pressure. The window stayed firm and Oates cursed, ‘Bugger! Of all nights we had to get a tough one. I hate these people with new frames. Give us a hand, Barley.’
‘It’s not new, they use oak hereabouts.’
‘They’re still a bloody nuisance.’
They applied further pressure until, with a sharp crack, the catch gave way and after waiting a few minutes Barley whispered, ‘Let’s do it. I’ll go first.’
The sash window pushed up easily on the counter weights. ‘At least he keeps his runners well soaped,’ muttered Oates.
‘Shut up, it’s your mouth that needs soaping.’
They wedged a convenient piece of wood under the window and Barley pulled himself over the sill, held onto the edge of the kitchen sink, twisted around and lowered his feet to the floor.
Oates thrust himself enthusiastically over the sill and missed the sink, sliding instead, head first into the waiting Barley sending them both crashing to the floor.
They spent the next minute cursing, fighting, and slipping on the flagged kitchen floor while trying to untangle themselves in the darkness.
Barley grabbed Oates around the throat and shook him. ‘You clumsy dolt,’ he cursed. ‘Why did I have to pick you?’
Finally settled, they stood silently for a few minutes before searching the kitchen for a candle. With the light of a couple of matches they found one and lit it.
‘What are we looking for,’ muttered Oates.
‘Documents, like we did before, you oaf.’
‘What’s with the bloody paperwork?’ Oates complained in little more than a whisper. ‘Don’t they want something of value for a change. A thief can’t make a decent living like this.’
Barley could hardly suppress his anger. ‘Shut up and get looking. Here‘s another candle.’
Satisfied that there was nothing in the kitchen of any importance they tried the connecting door, eased it open and cringed at the loud squeal.
‘Shit! He doesn’t oil his hinges.’
They squeezed through the half open door and waited briefly before crossing on tip-toe to the bottom of the stairs.
Oates stepped on one of Emily’s walking sticks lying unseen on the floor and his feet went from under him. With a loud crash he hit the floor and his candle went scattering across the hallway and came to rest against the drawing room doorjamb and set light to the draught curtain.
The racket awakened Thomas who shouted. ‘Who’s there? I have a gun and I shan’t hesitate to use it.’
‘Let’s get out of here,’ Barley shouted. ‘Leave the bloody curtain.’
The pair of would be burglars crashed back through the kitchen door fighting with each other to get through. In their haste they overturned an unlit oil lamp spilling its contents across the floor and Oates’s trousers. Barley pushed Oates aside, threw his candle down, and ignoring the screams from Oates as the oil on his trousers exploded into flames scrambled out of the window .
‘You bastard, help me,’ Oates yelled at his disappearing companion.
Barley turned, grabbed Oates by the collar and dragged him bodily
through the window and beat at him with his hands to dowse the flames.
‘You’re alright now,’ Barley growled at the hapless Oates. ‘Let’s get out of here.’
They dashed off pell-mell into the darkness. At the end of the path they looked back to see the interior of the house lit up by flames which had an intense hold on the tinder dry woodwork and the draught from the open kitchen window was fanning the flames.
Thomas dashed down the stairs and immediately saw the hopelessness of chasing the pair. With no time to fight the fire he scrambled back to his room, threw a gown over Elizabeth his wife and pushed her to the top of stairs.
‘Wait there, I’ll get the children.’
He raced along the landing and into the children’s room to find his daughter Charlotte cuddling her brother.
‘Come on you two, put a blanket over your heads and follow me, hurry!’
He shepherded them to the head of the stairs where Elizabeth was shielding her face..
‘Follow me,’ he shouted over the noise created by the flames.
The heat coming up the stairs was intense but passable. Keeping to the side farthest away from the flames he led them down into the hallway.
‘Out through the front door, quickly.’ He ushered the reluctant Elizabeth towards the door. ‘I’m going back for Mum.’
‘Thomas, be careful.’
‘Go, before it’s to late.’ He gave her a helping shove and turned to go back upstairs.
She urged the children forward past the flames and opened the door. The sudden inrush of air made the fire explode up the stairs and Thomas screamed as the flames engulfed him and set his nightshirt alight.
Through the haze of pain he fought his way into his mother’s bedroom, threw himself on the bed and rolled in the quilt to quench the flames.
‘Come on, Mother,’ he yelled as he pulled her out of bed and dragged her over to the window. He pushed it open. ‘It’s out of here for us.’
He helped her onto the ledge. ‘Jump, Mother, jump, it’s getting hot in here.’
He gave her a gentle nudge and she leapt into the flickering semi–darkness. A quick glance backwards was all that he needed to see that the situation was hopeless and he followed her out.
Landing awkwardly, he stumbled over something and crashed to the ground. Laying breathless, drawing fresh air into his lungs, he realised he had fallen over the inert form of his Mother.
‘Mum, Mum, are you alright,’ he shouted, cursing the pain of his burnt back and legs. He dragged himself over and shook her, crying out in disbelief as her head flopped sideways at a crazy angle.
‘Mother, what have they done?’
He cuddled up to her prostrate body and sobbed uncontrollably trying not to believe that he had rescued her only for her to break her neck in the fall.
The village people turned out to help but a bucket chain was of little use against the inferno and it was two days before the ashes cooled enough for them to poke around and search for any possessions that may have survived.
A very nicely written suspense that weaves in real life events with the fiction, and gives it a believability. This book will span several different decades and the author does a good job keeping you in the story, and kept the world building in each era perfect. As we go through time, the speech starts out in the early 19th century, very poetic and “stuffy” that is common for the times. As we progress, the speech, mannerisms and even the surroundings change right along with it and the author expertly brings us along.
The mystery is very cleverly brought out in the book, and the book will keep you turning pages. Most people who know me, know I’m not a huge mystery/suspense reader, but books that are so smartly written like this one, keep me on my toes and makes me wonder why I don’t read more of them. Reviewed by Cyrene