Synopsis: When Sir Humphrey Myles Pinkerton Strange, huntin' shootin' and fishin' Squire of Batch Magna, goes to his reward (doubtless to find God as true-blue British as his more recent but equally worthy ancestors), his rambling but rotting estate passes to distant relative Humph, a hapless dollar doodler in New York.
With $$ in his eyes, Humph decides to make a killing by transforming the sleepy backwater of Batch Magna into a theme park image of rural England - a vacation paradise for free-spending US millionaires.
But while the village's threadbare businessmen see the plan as a windfall, the tenants of the estate's dilapidated houseboats are above any consideration of filthy lucre and stand their ground for tradition's sake … and because they consider eviction notices not to be cricket.
Each disgruntled faction sees the other as the unwelcome cuckoo chick in the family nest!
So, lead by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, RN (ret) - a man with a glass eye to suit every occasion (and all painted with naval battle scenes where the Union Jack flies triumphant) - the motley crew takes on Wall Street … broadside to broadside.
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Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.
It's a Kindle edition called The Cuckoos of Batch Magna. It's what might be described as a feelgood book, set in the mid-1970s in a river valley in the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. In a small village, Batch Magna, the death of the squire, the 8th baronet, leads to the title and the remains of his estate being left through the ancient law of entailment to a distant relative. And so it is that Humphrey Strange, or Humph, as he likes to be called, an amiable short-order cook from the south Bronx, finds himself most remarkable to be the 9th baronet and squire of Batch Magna. Manipulated by his Uncle Frank, a small-time Wall Street broker with an eye on the big-time, Humph finds his has plans for the old place; the entire estate is to be turned into a theme-park of rural England - a vacation paradise for free-spending millionaires. The tenants of the dilapidated houseboats on the estate's stretch of the river are given notice to quit - and it's then that Humph's problems begin. Each faction sees the other as the cuckoo in the family nest, so led by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, Royal Navy (ret), the motley crew run up the Union Jack and battle ensign and prepare to engage with Wall Street.
Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?
Well, I started out as an actor, and worked also as a fringe theatre director, and as a script writer (scripts for pilot – or pitching - films for independent film companies). I had quite a few short stories and non-fiction writing on the English countryside published, and a novel seemed to be the next logical step. And I was helped by that background – actor, director, script writer, I am all of these when writing. I write the script, see the scene through the eye, as it were, of the camera, and then act it out on paper.
Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Getting down on the page – I write in longhand first – what I, the director, ‘see’. Somerset Maugham said there were three rules when it came to writing the novel – the trouble is, that no one knows what they are. Well, as far as I am concerned, there is one rule that if not kept will leave your story dead on the page, when it should take on a second life in the imagination of your reader (because reading should also be creative). And the rule is this: you must ‘see’ the scenes you are writing – or, to put it more actively, you must ‘watch’ them happening, as they happen. And certainly quite a few crime novels I've read could have benefited from that - particularly so in scenes of danger or tension. Anything other than a scene stripped for action would be intrusive, and will anyway be skipped by the reader; be you would have weakened the scene.
Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?
No. I need silence. I need to concentrate, to fully see and hear that life on the other side of the camera (‘Quiet please!' on the set'.)
Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I don’t think I have one. I’ve read about other writers arranging their pens or paper in a certain way before starting, and can only wonder at their evident neatness. I write in a blitz of paper, yesterday’s work waiting to be typed up, scraps of character details, bits of dialogue, notes on future scenes, etc.
Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?
Yes indeed. Cuckoos is the first in a planned series of Batch Magna novels. I have two finished sequels waiting in the wings for their turn on Amazon.
Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!)
Interest (and so far it is only that) shown by a UK independent film company in the novels.
Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes: thank you. And to add that I have had quite a few references in reviews and other feedback to Batch Magna being a place people have enjoyed visiting and were reluctant to leave. I find that very satisfying, the thought that I have taken those readers out of themselves, given them, as feelgood books/films should, for that short while another world to live in. That, as a writer, will do me.