My new novel, ‘Tales of the Riverbank’, has been published. It’s a first, tentative step back into creative writing for me—a return to the days when I regularly wrote short stories, radio drama and other fiction as a much-needed distraction from the day job.
About the novel
The novel’s locus is Parliament, Westminster, and Whitehall—places I’ve worked over many decades.
My original working title was ‘The Westminster Tales’, in homage to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the rich assortment of characters gathered together at the Tabard. However, since the Thames provides a sort of spiritual anchor for the book, and makes several guest appearances, I decided to rename it after the riverbank instead, where much of the action is located (quite literally in the case of the cover illustration above).
I’m not quite sure how to classify the result. It’s a bit of an oddball novel, a mixture of unlikely characters, places and events—hopefully funny, sweary in places (Chaucer’s influence again), occasionally repellent and even sometimes possibly touching.
‘Tales of the Riverbank’ is an assortment of interweaving tales, a series of tributaries that make their own unique, and often eccentric, contribution to the flow of life and work in around Westminster. Maybe it’s just my book poor choices, but I haven’t read many novels that reflect anything like the contemporary world of work and people and politics as I’ve experienced it during what passes for my career. So this is my exaggerated, fictional way of capturing a personal impression of what a lifetime largely spent (or misspent) working in and around Westminster has been like. Bizarre and unlikely as it may seem, it remains only a distant echo of reality: there are many more tales yet to be told.
Speaking of which, a word of warning: I’m already considering a sequel. One where the characters, storylines and events of ‘Tales of the Riverbank’ come together in a mega-scandalous final (mis)adventure. Although I suspect it will prove challenging to conjure up anything more scandalous and cynical than many of the real life events that happen in the corridors of power.
The novel is illustrated throughout by the very talented Clive Edwards. From the time I started drafting the stories, I had in mind the look and feel of some of my favourite and fun books from childhood—books that were generously illustrated with wacky and irreverent images, or the dark menace of illustrated fairy tales by the likes of the Brothers Grimm.
Ronald Searle‘s timeless work in the strangely dated but also wonderfully anarchic ‘Down With Skool!‘ in particular kept coming to mind, and pretty well anything of Quentin Blake‘s. That’s why all 35 tales have an appropriate (and sometimes appropriately inappropriate) illustration to accompany them.
Thanks to …
It’s taken a while to get my head back into the right zone for creative writing and away from techno-business babble and bits and bytes and office politics (although outbreaks of techno-business argot intentionally infest various parts of the novel).
I’d like to thank the various friends and colleagues I somehow persuaded to read through early primitive and embarrassing drafts, enduring the misery of a clumsy and woefully imperfect work in progress. Without their feedback, it would have been a dark shadow of what it now is, remaining flaws and all.
‘Tales of the Riverbank’ is available in paperback via Amazon in the UK here and on Amazon’s respective national sites in other territories. It will be making its way through the usual book distribution channels over coming weeks, so you should also be able to order it from your local bookseller of choice (ISBN 979-8588129763).
version’s out on 1st May 2021 is also available on Amazon UK and other national Amazon sites. But I’d strongly recommend the paperback edition: the design and reading experience is way better; it’ll look great on your shelves or coffee table (although you might also want to find time to read it); and it’s much easier to enjoy the illustrations (as well as encountering occasional rats—of the furry kind that is, rather than some of my less endearing characters).
I hope you enjoy it. I’m sure some reader feedback won’t be kind—I suspect it’s a bit of a Marmite book. But, being a fan of Marmite, that’s fine with me—it’d be a very dull world if we’d all had the same experiences of life and work, and all liked the same books.
Some Amazon places to buy ‘Tales of the Riverbank’
Amazon India: eBook.
Amazon Netherlands: eBook.
Amazon Brazil: eBook.
Amazon Mexico: eBook.
Other places to buy
You should be able to order ‘Tales of the Riverbank’ through your local bookshop, at least in the UK and US, although it may take some weeks after publication (April 19th 2021) for the novel to percolate through mainstream distribution channels. Publishing remains quaintly old fashioned in many ways. The ISBN number may help track it down: 979-8588129763.