Join The Coffee Pot Book Club in conversation with author Tim Walker #ShortStories #London #AuthorInterview @timwalker1666 @cathiedunn
Short Stories, Book #2
by Tim Walker
This collection of eleven tales offers dramatic pinpricks in the rich tapestry of London’s timeline, a city with two thousand years of history. They are glimpses of imagined lives at key moments, starting with a prologue in verse from the point of view of a native Briton tribeswoman absorbing the shock of Roman invasion. The first story is a tense historical adventure set in Roman Londinium in 60 CE from the perspective of terrified legionaries and townsfolk facing the vengeful Iceni queen, Boudica, whose army burnt the fledgling city to the ground.
Further historical dramas take place in 1381 during the Peasant’s Revolt, the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the last ice fair on the frozen Thames in 1814. These are followed by a romance set during the Blitz in 1941, then the swinging Sixties and wide-flared seventies are remembered in the life story of fictional policeman, Brian Smith. Moving on, an East End family get a fright from copycat killings that are a throwback to the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders.
There’s a series of contemporary stories that reference recent events, including the London terrorist bombings of 2005, a literary pub crawl and a daring prison break, building to the imagined death throes of London in a chilling, dystopian vision. These stories are loosely inspired by the author’s personal experiences and reflections on his time living and working in London in the 1980s and 90s.
Adaptability, resilience, conformity and resolve are recurring themes.
London Tales evokes the city’s rich history and the qualities that were needed by Londoners at various times to survive and prosper – from the base and brutal, devious and inspired, to the refined and civilized.
Available from Amazon in e-book, paperback, Kindle Unlimited and audiobook formats, London Tales is a companion volume to Thames Valley Tales.
Please make yourself at home. Would you prefer tea or coffee, or perhaps something more…fortifying?
Thank you, Cathie. I drink tea in the morning and coffee in the afternoon. In the evening I would enjoy sharing a glass of red wine, ideally French or Spanish. Ah, a bowl of olives!
That sounds perfect.
Before we begin, please introduce yourself.
I’m Tim Walker, now in my sixth decade. I live in the village of Datchet close to Windsor in Berkshire, although I grew up in Liverpool, studied in South Wales and worked for many years in London and Zambia. Health problems forced my early retirement and for the past eight years I have written and published fourteen books. I’m a frequent visitor to Spain, where my parents live, and France, where my daughter lives. When not reading, I enjoy visits to the theatre and cinema – my most recent forays were to the Wyndham Theatre in London to see Kenneth Branagh as King Lear, and to the Olympic Studio in Barnes Village to see Martin Scorsese’s latest, Killers of the Flower Moon. Both excellent.
I mainly write historical fiction, but also co-authored a three-book children’s series with my daughter Cathy, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, and have two and a half books of short stories (the half is flash fiction stories combined with poems in Perverse). My most popular books are my history-meets-legend five-book series, A Light in the Dark Ages. I also helped set up and run a charity that helps older men in East Berkshire overcome loneliness called Men’s Matters. We are finalists in this year’s Kings Award for Voluntary Service.
Could you tell us a little about your new release and what inspired you to write a book of short stories about London?
My new book is London Tales, a collection of eleven short stories that draw on London’s two thousand years of history. I enjoyed researching and writing the historical fiction shorts set in Roman London, the Medieval period (the Peasant’s Revolt), the Stuart period (the Great Fire of London), Georgian London (the last ice fair) and WWII (the Blitz). 20th century events are evoked in Brian’s Beat, a five-part piece that follows the story of fictional policeman, Brian Smith, from the Sixties to the Millenium, and the harrowing events of the 2007 terrorist attacks are evoked in Geraniums. My personal connection to London was a ten-year period from 1985 – 1995 when I worked in the newspaper publishing industry. Some of my own experiences, such as going on a Jack the Ripper walking tour and a London Literary pub crawl led to story ideas, and my exit from the corporate London rat race at the hands of a bullying boss is at the heart of the last story, Valentine’s Day. I decided to make this story a futuristic vision of the final days of London as rising sea levels force an evacuation. In this way, the collection is bookended by the birth and imagined death of London. This collection of stories combines my love of history with my own personal memories of living in London.
Did you come upon any unexpected surprises during your research?
I always enjoy learning new facts and assumptions about the past when doing my research. I learned much about Roman Londinium from Life in Roman London by Simon Webb. I was able to include details of the buildings and layout of pre-Boudican revolt Londinium, including that the main east to west road was named the Via Decumena, and that the early settlement grew around two army camps on the highest hills – Ludgate Hill and Cornhill. The city that was overrun and burnt down by Boudica in 60 CE, the subject of my story, Londinium Falling, had only a ditch and earth bank defence, perhaps with two corner towers and a simple wooden gatehouse to the north road. This was because the Romans were not expecting attack from the land side as the local tribes had been pacified.
The details of the Peasant’s Revolt in June 1381 are laid out in a fascinating narrative by historian Dan Jones in his excellent book, Summer of Blood. My story, A Summer’s Disquiet, is built on a coming together of the two main historical characters, Wat Tyler, the leader of the revolt, and Mayor of London, William Walworth, who kills him. In this case, the facts provide a compelling framework for a story.
Act of Oblivion, an historical novel by Robert Harris about the hunt for those involved in the execution of King Charles I, inspired me to explore the list of regicides who escaped the wrath of King Charles II and were still alive in 1666 at the time of the Great Fire of London. I settled on the figure of lawyer William Say, thought to have drafted Charles I’s execution order, who lived in Holland and Switzerland until his death, thought to have been in 1666, at an unknown place. In my story, Burning Shadows, an elderly William Say pays a secret visit to his daughter’s family at the time the fire starts. The sheriff’s man is onto him and pursues the puritan family across London as the flames lick at their heels. I enjoyed the challenge of linking two historical events in this story.
Does one of the stories hold a special place in your heart? If so, which?
As mentioned earlier, Valentine’s Day includes elements of my own experiences from the year 1994, and is a favourite of mine because I have wrapped up personal memories in a bizarre dystopian vision of the future to create something surreal.
What is it about London and its history you find so fascinating?
London’s history stretches back for two thousand years, making it one of the World’s most interesting cities that has been continuously occupied. London’s history parallels the development of human settlement post Iron Age in Britain since records began with the Roman occupation. It has been defined by waves of settlers from mainland Europe, each bringing something of their own cultural identity to add new flavours and styles to the steadily growing settlement. To walk around London is to walk through history. I love it.
What are you currently working on? Will there be more titles in this series?
I’m finalising an audiobook script for London Tales, hopefully to be produced by March 2024. I have booked actor and author Richard James to narrate and produce it, as he did a good job with Thames Valley Tales audiobook. I’ll then turn my attention to writing an historical novel. I already have a draft first chapter and outline to revisit for a follow-up novel to 2020’s Roman Britain novel, Guardians at the Wall, set in Hadrian’s Wall country.
Thank you for your time.
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. Although born in Hong Kong in the sixties, he grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. After attaining a degree in Communication Studies he moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business. He returned to the UK in 2009.
His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, inspired by a visit to the part-excavated site of former Roman town Calleva Atrebatum at Silchester in Hampshire. The series connects the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend and is inspired by historical source material, presenting an imagined historical fiction of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
The last book in the series, Arthur, Rex Brittonum, was published in June 2020. This is a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur and follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum. Both titles are Coffee Pot Book Club Recommended Reads. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018).
Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker.
Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (second edition 2023), London Tales (2023); a book of verse, Perverse (2020); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); and three children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017), Charly & the Superheroes (2018) and Charly in Space (2020).
Tim took early retirement on medical grounds and now divides his time between writing and helping out at a Berkshire-based charity, Men’s Matters.
London Tales and Thames Valley Tales audiobooks were narrated and produced by actor, author and playwright Richard James who has been appearing on stage and screen for over thirty years. Most recently, he played a guest role in Miss Scarlet & The Duke for PBS and Alibi Films and was nominated for 'Best Supporting Performance' at the Off West End Awards for his roles in A Sherlock Carol at the Marylebone Theatre in 2022. The play will be reprised in winter 2023/4. Richard is on Twitter as @RichardNJames.