Monday, 22 June 2009


The trouble with blogging, of course, is that you have to keep at it. And I am very much aware that the it to which I have not kept has been absent for some two and a half months now. The reason is that I have finished, polished and delivered the manuscripts of two books in that period: the latest Fonthill novel, THE SHANGANI PATROL, sent off as usual to Hodder Headline for publication (hardback) in January 2010 and then paperback the following September; and an autobiography, which under the title of BOMBS AND BETTY GRABLE winged its way to a different publisher, Brewin Books, and is destined to leap onto bookshelves next September.

So, with some 210,000 words knocking about my desk in that crowded two and a half months, there wasn't much time nor energy left for blogging. Yes, I know. It's a pathetic excuse and I just don't know how determined bloggers knock off their postings - and probably these days their twitterings, too - with their left hand while finishing novels with the other.
I need a bit of time to lie with my eyes closed and worry about the nation's debts.

The other problem is that the two genres demand different techniques in composing and styles in writing. Pace is important in writing historical adventure but far less so in recording the story of one's life. One of the glories of writing fiction is that the author plays God - he creates his own characters and has them act just as he wants them (although, if one is lucky, the protagonists in the story begin to develop a will of their own and to behave as their on-page personalities dictate, despite the wishes of the author). In a biography, of course, the facts are there and must be related more-or-less as they happened, so imposing constrictions on the story-teller and rachetting up the need to make the words dance a little as the tale unfolds.

I guess I should add that BOMBS AND BETTY GRABLE is not a conventional autobiography. I am no television personality with large breasts (though I do insist that my pectorals are as good, if not better than the next man's), nor have I the urgent need to share the agony of missing a goal in a penalty shoot out while playing for England. My story mainly falls into two sections: that of a small boy growing up in war-time in a large industrial city; and a tragedy that occurred much later in life that was not only the most devastating event of my years but also the most interesting. Linking the two was not easy.

So two very different books, demanding different approaches. SHANGANI takes Simon Fonthill, 352 Jenkins and Alice Griffith into King Lobengula's Matabeleland and Mashonaland with Cecil Rhodes's invading forces in the early 1890's, while BOMBS presents a series of personal reflections and reminiscences from the World War II and the late 1970's. As always, I shall be fascinated to hear what readers think of them, when they come onto bookshelves in a few months' time.


  1. I am looking forward to The Shangani Patrol as I have been helping research the story for a school magazine (Signalman Dillon/Stonyhurst College). One thing has evaded me, and I wonder if in your researches you ever came across it: the whereabouts of the painting of "Wilson's Last Stand" which used to hang in Bulawayo City Hall? Any help very gratefully received! (Anthony Eyre,

  2. I'm too looking forward to The Shangani Patrol, for some reason I love historic British Empire war-fiction, though I am not in any way British (Living in Greenland)
    I spend hours with google earth trying to follow the footsteps of Fonthill and Jenkins and read about the places in Wikipedia.
    I hope one day blogs like these (or a postscript in the book) will put koordinates for Google Earthso it will quicker and more precise to follow our heros on their travels. I believe I'm not the only one who follow up on the
    novels ..
    Thanks for the novels, looking forward to find out if it is a boy or a girl :-) and how 352 does babysitting ..