Arnie WIlson, Jeremy's restaurant, The moon is toast 0



It’s a small world – how often are these words uttered? But it really does seem to be so interconnected.

As part of an email conversation I was sent the following link: Johannes Kerkhoven – just scroll down on this landing page and there’s a lovely painting of a cricket ground. Immediate thoughts jump to The Moon is Toast by Andrew Samson. The other paintings make me think of Sheelagh Frew-Crane who painted the covers for Sue Hampton’s Ravelled and Leslie Tate’s Heaven’s Rage which then links with the film by Mark Crane, partner of Sheila…

And if that’s not enough, Johannes has published a book of limericks. Link – Arnie Wilson’s A Limerick Romp through Time.

Bringing them all together is this lovely photo of Arnie giving Jeremy a copy of The Moon is Toast soon after TSL launched Arnie’s two books: Big Name Hunting and A Limerick Romp through Time.

Other connections have been aluded to in the past: Sue Hampton and People Not Borders‘ book I am Me with artwork by Paula Watkins who teaches at Community Learning Partnership, South Oxhey, a group one of the TSL Directors is involved with. It was only at a meeting to discuss the book that links were made.

And if you’re looking for another person’s perspective on connections, see Kathleen Bates’ book Joyful Witness.

Why not share some of your literary connections with us…they all help support each other.

Originally posted on 23/06/2018 @ 20:20


Priests and Religious men

Priests and Religious men

Religion in the UK is apparently on the decline yet it features in a few novels – in fact a surprising number.
For example in novels authored by TSL writers, we have:

Most well-known in British literature:
Father Brown by GK Chesterton
and the Irish-based sitcom Father Ted
The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough
all of which
feature Roman Catholic priests.

Some factual church histories include:

And a musical – Faith is the Key by Barbara and John Towell (forthcoming)


Originally posted on 21/06/2018 @ 20:20


Cook #Books #readinglist

When one hears of Cook books, one’s mind automatically turns towards recipe books. At TSL we don’t have recipe books as such but we do have the Sir Chocolate series where each book contains simple recipes illustrating the story which young people can make.
Similarly, Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town also has some recipes to illustrate the story and enjoy.

But we also have a book or two by or mentioning Cook:

Brian Cook’s Home Ground tells the story of families farming in the Yorkshire Dales, international business and the search for love.
A little more obscure is Andrew Samson’s The Moon is Toast – well, you’ll just have to buy the book to see if Alistair Cook is mentioned (or find the index on the TSL website).

And then some related titles:
Beatrice Holloway’s Facts, Folklore and Feasts of Christmas and Debbie Nagioff’s collection of drama pieces, An American Lunch.


Chimney Sweeps

Chimney Sweeps

Little did I know when I met Paul Ross at the TSL sponsored Meet the Author Day that I was meeting a chimney sweep: a real live chimney sweep! I’d read about them and seen pictures of them but assumed they were pretty much an extinct breed. How wrong I was!

Paul has since published a book for children about a chimney sweep – Rodney and his daughter Jemima go on adventures and solve mysteries using their special gifts. These are stories he told his own children when they were little and now his grandchildren get to see them in print.

Probably the most well-known chimney sweep is Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist followed closely by Charles Kingsley’s The Water-babies: A fairy tale for a land-baby. Hans Christian Anderson also wrote about The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep

And for those interested in a history of Chimney Sweeps in Britain, here’s a brief overview.


Thanks Pablo for the image


Originally posted on 16/06/2018 @ 20:20

aristocracy 0

Aristocracy: a developing theme

Aristocracy: a developing theme

Despite today’s ideas of equality, the Aristocracy still features strongly in literature. Suprisingly, in a number of books published by TSL. For this list, we turn things around adding a couple of other related books to those by TSL authors:

1. Pamela Howarth – The Winspeare Lot features Baronette Winspeare and his family.
2. Maya Alexandri – The Celebration Husband features the von Brantburgs
3. Josie Arden – Broken Ties of Time featuring Lord Winsforth
4. Ray Wooster – A Boy’s War Journal 1942-1942 featuring the Bracon family
5. Sam Riverbanks – The Duelling Worlds featuring the Royal Family of Cumbra

Short stories:
The Brute and the Beast in Ravelled and other stories by Sue Hampton
Where the bee sucks in Tea at the Opalaco and other stories by Jane Lockyer Willis

Children’s stories:
Sir Chocolate and the Strawberry Cream Berries by Robbie and Michael Cheadle

The bonus books are:
Lord Greystoke aka Tarzan
Count Dracula
Pomp and Circumstance by Sue Hampton

And more from TSL authors since 2016:

Big Name Hunting and A limerick romp through time – Arnie Wilson
From Commoner to Coronet by Beatrice Holloway (coming 2018)

Henry Dawe performs Two Paces Back, a charity music video celebrating the life of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and raising funds in aid of The Silver Line helpline for older people.

Not quite an aristocrat but with a Crown in his name is Christopher Crown and the Immortal Signal by Tricia Price.

Thanks to Pablo for the image

Originally posted on 15/06/2018 @ 20:20


A Jewel(l) of a find

A Jewel(l) of a find

Back in 2016, I worked with the Jewell family editing their grandfather Norman Parsons Jewell’s manuscript recalling his time On Call in Africa in War and Peace, 1910-1932. It opened new windows on the First World War in Africa and has since led to further research. The book also contains the story of his wife Sydney – who, as a young girl, published poetry and sent a book to Queen Victoria. She was also one of the first women to attend Trinity College Dublin as a student before travelling to Seychelles where she got married and then moving to Africa during World War 1.

Mr Jewell and the Crown Jewels feature in The Hidden Sun – a light adventure-suspense romance set on Cyprus during the British occupation of the 1950s.

Mystery at the Manor – Jemima and her father Rodney, the chimney sweep, solve the mystery of stollen jewells at the manor.

Other books by someone named Jewell:

Jewells seem to dominate as authors non-fiction

  • Jewell’s Crescent City (1893) by Edwina Jewell tells the commercial, social, political and general history of New Orleans, reprinted in 2011 by Applewood Books
  • Women in Medieval England (1996) by Helen Jewell – the opening lines of the review tell it all.
  • Lisa Jewell has written a number of novels: After the Party, The Making of Us


Originally posted on 14/06/2018 @ 20:20



It’s been a week of the Circus, and just about everyone I know loves the circus.

First was George and Flora Head to the Country where the cats join the circus.
Then there was the Bafta award winning film Marvellous which tells the story of professional clown Neil Baldwin.
And today, Hillingdon Libraries shared some books about the circus and PT Barnum in honour of the film The Greatest Showman.

In West London you can take courses in Circus Skills with Tiggy And Circus who has taken over from Albert and Friends. It’s incredible what young people can achieve in a week. Growing up in South Africa, we had the famous Boswell Wilkie Circus. It was courtesy of the circus that I can honestly say I’ve see elephants walking along the highway near Edenvale. There’s also Giffords Circus in Gloucestershire and the famous Cirque du Soleil.

And to take a detour, Anna Ryland and Arnie Wilson mention Oxford Circus in their books, A Second Chance and Big Name Hunting respectively.
There’s also the famous Circus in Bath.

Want to read more about real circuses?
Emma Caroll recommends 10 books, while Bustle has a list of 12.
For something a little more factual, there’s the Circus Book Store.
Marthe Kiley-Worthington researches animal behaviour in circuses in Family are the Friends you Choose and see her in action on Youtube.

updated Dec 2019

Originally posted on 02/02/2018 @ 20:20



The idea of making things fly has an appeal for most young people irrespective of gender or where born. The precision that goes into making paper aeroplanes, watching youngsters hold a banana leaf behind them running across a field, and tying sticks to pieces of paper or plastic in the hope that once a strand of string is added the wind will pull it up into the air are situations we’ve either witnessed or been part of. And have you ever known an adult male not to get involved when a little person is struggling to get their kite (or paper aeroplane) airborne? Here’s a little background on ‘big boy’ kites.

We tracked down some books for big and little people dealing with kites. But before we look at those, you might want to read up about kites in general.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite by Somerset Maugham has an interesting back story.

Curious George flies a kite by Margret Rey (some of the science behind a kite – specially for young people)

Rhys and his friend Giddy try flying kites in The Sometimes Society.

And one should not forget the bird, kite. Sue Hampton mentions a red kite in her short story ‘The Golden Baby’ in Woken.

Thanks Pablo for the image

Have you seen?

Originally posted on 08/06/2017 @ 20:20


Austin Motor Cars and Others

An Austin features in both Michael’s Magic Motor Car by Ray Wooster and Leslie Tate’s Heaven’s Rage. I’m not one to know much about cars but given that the Austin has featured in two of our books, it seemed an appropriate theme to explore – well, that of cars featuring in novels.

At the time of writing this piece, I was proofreading another of our novels, The Duelling Worlds by Sam Riverbanks when the eye just happened to fall on the sentence ‘A Vauxhall Astra, not the swanky BMWs and Range Rovers that some London councils thought fit to provide their police teams.’ Thinking about cars in books, there are a few no-name brands in Broken Ties of Time by Josie Arden. Broken Ties of Time also includes a daimler, ‘red Triumph Herald Estate’ and ‘A left-hand-drive daffodil yellow Lamborghini’, registration number ‘1LL WIN’. Another book which features a range of cars, including a yellow sports car, is Anna Ryland’s A Second Chance.

Moving to our books on African themes and the means of transport differs to those used in England. John Samson’s Shaka are Dead has the two young boys hitching a ride in a ‘bakkie’ (open backed mini-truck and a hiace taxi whilst Maya Alexandri’s female heroines in The Celebration Husband make use of an ox-waggon – not quite a motorised vehicle.

Building cars features in non-TSL children’s book The Car by Gary Paulsen.

In amongst all the books on Austin cars specifically, this one caught my eye.
Austin Pedal Cars by David Whyley

Finally, Rodney the Chimney Sweep had to feature only because there’s a car (okay, a van) on the cover. Does that mean Six for the Road and Bus Stop Blues are applicable too?

Originally posted on 03/12/2016 @ 20:20


Playing with history

Playing with History

On the historical writing spectrum, I fall into the more academic category for the majority of history readers, however, for my academic colleagues, I am a little too casual in my tone and I make use of novels, short stories and film.

So, I was rather intrigued to read Leslie Tate’s interview in two parts with Katherine Ashe who writes historical fiction. My perception is that to do it well, you have to know your history or use an incident to spark a story. William Boyd’s An ice cream war and CS Forrester’s The African Queen spring to mind as examples respectively – both dealing with World War 1 in Africa. I don’t believe you can stay plausible if you don’t. Maya Alexandri’s The Celebration Husband recognises this, whilst Hamilton Wende (The King’s Shilling) and Wilbur Smith (Shout at the devil and The Burning Shore) both go off on tangents in their accounts. Smith’s Assegai is better. The cleverness of the BBC2 series Cunk on Britain reinforces the importance of a solid grounding in historical knowledge – you can’t break the rules meaningfully if you do not know what they are; a point authors are very aware of in crafting their stories.

My fascination with the novel and how it could be used in non-fiction historical accounts stemmed from being asked to explain the social scene in South Africa for readers who were in the UK. Having read Doris Lessing’s The Grass is Singing a little while before being asked this question, it immediately sprung to mind as a means to doing so. When this was allowed to stand in my thesis, I had the necessary approval to continue using fictional accounts to try and explain non-fiction contexts. This in turn engendered a fascination of how it works for others, hence this reflection.

What struck me in Katherine’s first interview was the following:

  • A return to the source material – she notes that historians were contradicting each other so she returned to the 13th century documents. New angles and ideas are always hiding in the original primary source material. We read things today differently to how they were read even five years ago, let alone twenty or a hundred.
  • Simon de Montfort found Katherine – it does seem this way. We each have our own journeys to what we study and engage with, and as with Katherine, it can take a long time in coming to the fore. Thirty-five years of research and relationship building with the man before she felt able to write about him.
  • The tangents one follows to discover new and confirm other information – in Katherine’s case, brushing up on her Latin and learning Old French. I too, have done similar things – studied French and read up on all sorts of seemingly unrelated topics (railways, Serbian barrels to name a couple). Language is an incredibly important part of writing – not just the language used for the writing, but the languages used by others to record their stories which form the basis of the research. Learning another language means engaging with the culture behind the language and that in itself brings a sensitivity to characters and events denied to those who only have access to one language. This was brought home by the third part of Michelle Payette-Daoust’s ‘lyrical essay’.
  • How we explore alternatives because of the high prices institutions demand for use of images. This in itself opens up new ideas and avenues to explore.

From the second:

  • Details are often surprising, and the most counter-intuitive are most persuasive. An historical novel with details that could be true for any period make me doubt the author’s depth of research. Anachronistic details are a danger and require breadth of research into the target period. This needs no further comment, it is so true.
  • I look upon the first draft as my having created an equivalent of a block of marble. Editing is what sculpts it into a literary work. The corollary of this, in writing first draft, is don’t let yourself get hung up on the words. Leave a blank space for any word you can’t think of – just get the draft written. Again, a statement that can’t be bettered.
  • I never leave off writing for the day without knowing what I’m going to be writing tomorrow. That’s my technique for avoiding writer’s block. And what good advice this is. I know if I sit down to write without having thought or primed myself to do so, I struggle. It’s almost as though you need to prepare the brain for what to focus on. And it works. Using one of my favourite analogies – the cow chewing the cud: give it the right food and it will produce quality milk.
  • Many readers are devoted to the ‘truth’ of their favorite author and don’t understand that all writing of history, whether novelized or academic, is by its very nature speculation. This is so true for non-fiction writing too. It took me a while to realise this but doing so has been liberating. Using the documents and taking inspiration from what others say allows the material to create its own story or truth. Keep true to the documents and you can’t go wrong.

Writing history is an art in whatever form it takes. Patient research and developing empathy with and a sympathy for one’s characters is crucial to creating something others see as plausible, irrespective of the audience and form.



Originally posted on 01/06/2018 @ 20:20