Audiobook for the Blind
I was thrilled when someone mentioned the Windsor Talking Newspaper charity in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Their volunteers provide a valuable information service for blind people in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead council area. They distribute a USB memory stick each week to their subscribers with local and national news stories read and recorded by volunteers – what a great idea.
I met with the organisers and they thought it was a good idea to serialise my short stories in Thames Valley Tales, voiced by actor Richard James, onto each weekly issue for an eight week run.
This will start after Easter, and I’m looking forward to the feedback from their 1,000-odd subscribers across the RBWM Council area.
It is hoped that stories located locally that reflect contemporary issues and evoke some of the rich history and legends associated with the river Thames will surely resonate with the audience.
The Merry Women of Windsor is a comic update of Shakespeare’s classic play; Runnymede Rebellion is a human drama that examines the meaning and relevance of the personal freedoms enshrined in Magna Carta; and Maidenhead Thicket sees the ghost of highwayman Dick Turpin surprise a Council surveyor.
Other stories in the collection of nine are set in Oxford, Henley-on-Thames, Newbridge, Goring-on-Thames and the Uffington White Horse.
Audiobook fans can find Thames Valley Tales on Amazon Audible and Apple iTunes store. It’s also available from Amazon in paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited via this link:
New Audiobook Launched
After eight years and fifteen book titles, I’ve just published my first audiobook. I chose a set of nine short stories under the title Thames Valley Tales, and hired actor Richard James to narrate and produce it. He’s done a fine job, adding in appropriate music and sound effects, and his variation in accents between different characters has really brought the stories to life. Here’s the blurb:
Thames Valley Tales is a light-hearted yet thought-provoking collection of nine stories by Tim Walker. These tales are based on the author’s experience of living in Thames Valley towns, and combine contemporary themes with the rich history and legends associated with an area stretching from the heart of rural England to London.
The collection includes The Goldfish Bowl, in which an unlikely friendship is struck between a pop star and an arms dealer in Goring-on-Thames; Maidenhead Thicket, where the ghost of legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin surprises a Council surveyor; The White Horse intrigue surrounding the dating of the famous chalk carving on the Berkshire Downs; Murder at Henley Regatta, a beguiling whodunit, and The Colnbrook Caper, a pacey crime thriller.
Thames Valley Tales starts with The Grey Lady, a ghost story from the English Civil War, and features The Merry Women of Windsor in a whimsical updating of Shakespeare’s classic play. The Author’s Note explains the context and reasoning behind each story.
Thames Valley Tales oscillates from light-hearted to dark historical and at times humorous stories ideally suited to bedtime or holiday reading that will amuse, delight and, hopefully, inform the reader about the rich history of the Thames Valley as it winds 215 miles from the Gloucestershire countryside, past many towns and villages to London and out to the North Sea.
The book also has a factual chapter and map of the Thames Valley showing the towns through which the 184-mile Thames Path passes. It’s a walk-through history and the natural beauty of England that will inspire and captivate.
Thames Valley Tales, second edition, is available in audiobook, Kindle e-book and paperback from Amazon worldwide, and can also be found on Kindle Unlimited.
Amazon Kindle, paperback, Audible and Kindle Unlimited
Also in Apple iTunes store.
Thames Valley Tales audiobook is 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.
Richard is on Twitter as @RichardNJames
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. 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 2014, as a therapeutic activity whilst recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, inspired by a visit to the site of a former Roman town. The series connects the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend and is inspired by historical source material, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
Book one is Abandoned (second edition 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017) and Uther’s Destiny (2018). The last two books in the series, Arthur Dux Bellorum (2019) and Arthur Rex Brittonum (2020) cover the life of an imaged historical King Arthur, and are both Coffee Pot Book Club recommended reads.
In 2021 he published a dual timeline historical novel, Guardians at the Wall. This was inspired by visits to Vindolanda and Corbridge at Hadrian’s Wall, and concerns the efforts of archaeologists to uncover evidence and build a narrative of the life of a Roman centurion in second century Britannia… and find his missing payroll chest.
Tim has also written three books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (second edition 2023), Postcards from London (2017) and 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).
He plans to re-work some stories in Postcards from London into London Tales, with the addition of new stories, for publication in 2024 in audiobook, Kindle and paperback.
Tim Walker’s Social Media Links:
Goodreads Author Page
Amazon Author Page
Anatomy of an Audiobook
To my mind, an audiobook is half way between a good read and an engaging TV drama or film.
By this I mean a good narrator with appropriate sound effects can bring out the visual qualities of a book in the mind of the listener – painting a picture of a scene, if you will.
In my new audiobook, Thames Valley Tales (March 2023 release) I took advice and read my stories aloud, noting how dialogue between characters sounded and made adjustments. I found my writing style was somewhat formal, and changed a lot of ‘could haves’ to ‘could’ve’ and so on.
I also hired an actor, Richard James, to narrate and produce it, and have marvelled at his ability to bring the various characters to life through use of accents and verbal foibles or signatures, making each one stand out. He also introduced appropriate music at the start of each story in the collection for genre orientation and identified appropriate sound effects.
The net result is to bring my stories to life, lifting them off the page to play out scenes in the mind of the listener in a very visual evocation.
I’m excited. It’s my first audiobook and my tactic of selecting nine stories from a pool of fifteen that I feel have the best visual qualities has paid off. Listen and be amazed.
This collection of nine contemporary tales that resonate with the rich history and legends associated with the flowing heart of England must surely be picked up by a film or TV producer looking for the next big hit!
Here’s the trailer I’ve just posted on YouTube… and watch out for the March launch:
I’ve been busy and, whilst the audio was being recorded, have taken down the first edition of Thames Valley Tales e-book and paperback, replacing them with new second editions. The paperback is currently on discount at £4.99 and the Kindle e-book at £1.99.
Here’s an Amazon universal link: http://mybook.to/ThamesValleyTales
A Cracking Christmas!
It was the worst of times – that dead time between people-focussed governments, when the clocks have swung back to a harsh and mean-minded era. Someone in the food bank queue mumbled, ‘ain’t we s’posed to be one of the World’s richest countries?’ A northerly wind blew snow flurries around numb feet as children forgot the cold to build a snow blob.
Potatoes with pimples, carrots greying at the ends, selection boxes past their sell by date, crackers that don’t crack – their jokes not funny anymore.
His ‘shop’ complete, Bob Cratchit lifted Tiny Tim and held him out to a volunteer. ‘Please let him play here in the warmth for a few hours as I’ve got to get back to work.’
‘This is a food bank, love, not a creche,’ replied a ruddy cheeked matron hardened to the effects of poverty, leaning away from the crooked-limbed child. ‘But here’s a toy for the kid.’ She pushed something into his bag.
Worth a try. Cratchit squinted at the sleet and scooped up his son, holding two carrier bags in the other hand. ‘It’s back to granny for you, Tim.’
‘But her house is cold, Dad!’ the lad squealed.
‘Well, clap your hands and whistle God Save the King like I told you.’
A military ambulance rumbled by and a soldier on patrol eyed him with suspicion. Bob’s minimum wage job barely covered the rent, leaving little for food or heating. The threat of dismissal prompted him to hurry, but as he rounded a corner, he slipped on a patch of ice, child and food sent flying. Cratchit lay on his back, blinking snowflakes from his eyes. He tried to move but couldn’t.
The crying of Tiny Tim attracted the attention of the soldier. ‘You’d better move along, Sir, or I’ll have you interred for vagrancy’.
Cratchit found he couldn’t speak, and could only move his eyes.
The soldier stood over him, looking down the barrel of his rifle. ‘Right, I’m calling for back-up’.
A car slowed, its occupants gawping at the two prone figures guarded by a soldier. Terrorists or Communists. Or perhaps Communist Terrorists? Both words were getting a good workout in the media. The car sped away. Peeling-paint doors remained resolutely closed along the terrace of worker cottages.
After thirty bone-freezing minutes, during which the child’s crying had become a whimper, a riot van arrived and Cratchit and Tiny Tim were bundled into the back. Squashed vegetables and a crushed toy the only evidence they had ever been there.
The van drove to the local team’s football stadium. It had been re-purposed as a Re-Education Centre, run by Chinese guards. The People’s Republic of China had been the successful bidder, having demonstrated relevant experience and eerie enthusiasm.
Cratchit and son were carried on stretchers into the stadium to a medical tent where they were gawped at and prodded by white-coated orderlies.
‘At least we’ll get fed and have a roof over our heads’ Cratchit said to his son.
An elderly man in the bed next to him leaned over and whispered, ‘don’t bet on it. They’re assessing us for ability to work. If you’re no use to ’em they’ll send you to Maggie’s Cabin.’
A startled Cratchit recovered enough muscle power to twist his head slightly. With a croak, his voice returned, ‘What in Hell’s name is Maggie’s Cabin?’
Bloodshot eyes and a pause were unsettling. The old man leant towards him. ‘It’s the away team changing room. Trouble makers, the old, sick and injured are taken there, and no one ever comes out.’
Cratchit gulped and glanced at his son. ‘Well, we’d better do what we can to make the home team, eh son?’ His reassuring grin did little to lift the spirits of the permanently disappointed boy.
Soon after, they were transferred to trollies and wheeled out through a side exit.
‘Be strong and play well!’ the man shouted, earning a slap from an orderly.
A thin veil of snow shrouded the rejects as their trolley wheels squeaked along a rubber mat that led to… the away team changing rooms.
‘In a curious, disconnected way, I’m ready; and it’ll be a release for Tim from his miserable existence.’ All is calm. Cratchit smiled at the upside-down, narrow eyes above him and hummed the tune that was in his head – Silent Night…
Tall Tim awoke from his dream, quickly dressed in the cold room and shuffled to his kitchen. An army truck pulled up in the snow-mush car park and six squaddies in wrong-scenery camouflage gear jumped out, grabbing the communal Christmas tree and shoving it into the truck.
‘There’s something you don’t see every morning,’ Tim muttered as he stroked his cat, Trotsky, to a purr. One of them returned and planted a sign. Tim moved to another window so that he could read it. ‘CHRISTMAS CANCELLED FOR UNIVERSAL CREDIT SCROUNGERS’ it read, in a menacing script, accompanied by the regime’s iron fist logo.
‘Our government, dropping all pretence of human decency, has spoken.’ Trotsky purred his indifference. Tim shuffled to the front door and picked up a leaflet that had been posted overnight.
‘Join the Resistance and let’s reclaim our country from the fascists!‘ the headline bawled.
He sat at his table, sipping tea and spreading marmalade on his toast. ‘Might be worth a look, Trotters, but only after the snow and ice have melted.’
The Human Chameleon
To mark the latest low in British politics, I intend to re-watch Woody Allen’s charming 1983 mockumentary film, Zelig.
Britain’s version of Zelig is our new Grime Minister, Liz Truss, a faithless human chameleon who has shape shifted from pseudo-liberal anti-Monarchist to head of a ruthless right wing crime organisation in a seamless slither of clawing ambition.
She has wasted little time in surrounding herself with her mates in a Cabinet of dangerous sub-fascist narcissists who are fully aware of their mission. First order of business: the interests of the energy companies who fund their party, and other beneficiaries of privatisation, must be protected at all costs. Posting record profits whilst quadrupling bills deserves high-fives around the table. Item two: a party to celebrate their good fortune, with toasts and rousing cheers to mock the little people whose growing poverty is a major marker of their policy success. Hurrah! 🍻
Zelig is a 1983 American mockumentary film written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Allen and Mia Farrow. Allen plays Leonard Zelig, a nondescript enigma, who, apparently out of his desire to fit in and be liked, unwittingly takes on the characteristics of strong personalities around him. The film, presented as a documentary, recounts his period of intense celebrity in the 1920s, including analyses by contemporary intellectuals.
The film was well received by critics and was nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Costume Design.
Dribble Drabble #04
Billy picked up the letter and kicked the door shut. He edged along the left side of the worn carpet to avoid a creaking floorboard. “Grandad!”
“In here son.”
“There’s a letter.” He handed over the brown envelope and dropped to his knees, stroking the cat to a purr.
The old man’s rheumy eyes read the contents, then searched the peeling wallpaper for meaning.
Billy read the bold header in his grandad’s lap, slowly enunciating the first three syllables. “‘Eve-ick-shun’. What does it mean?”
The old man smiled. “Do you think your mum’s offer of the spare room still stands?”
Who’s Guarding the Wall?
2022 marks the 1,900th anniversary of the Emperor Hadrian’s visit to Britannia and the start of the northern frontier upgrade from earth and bank defence to stone wall. The Wall marks the fall back line beyond which no raids by Caledonian tribes would be tolerated. But more than that, it was a grand imperial statement that boasted of the might of the Roman Empire that came with a statement of intent: “You’d better get used to us as we’re here to stay.”
But the life of Hadrian’s Wall as a frontier barrier lasted for only another 280 years, abandoned by Rome around the year 410 – the year Rome itself was sacked by the Visigoths.
I visited Hadrian’s Wall in September 2020 and was inspired to write my own story of frontier life in the heyday of the Roman Empire, choosing the final days of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who died in the year 180 C.E. My hero is Centurion Gaius Atticianus of the VI Legion, a real figure whose name is engraved on an altar stone excavated at Whitley Castle – once the Roman fort of Epiacum. I have imagined his story and struggle to survive in the harsh Northumbrian climate. I also wanted to showcase the work of archaeologists in uncovering and breathing new life into our understanding of Roman Britain, so I settled on a dual timeline story that flips from a contemporary tale to the life of Gaius in alternating chapters.
Guardians at the Wall is a dual timeline historical novel set at Hadrian’s Wall in which archaeologists uncover artefacts that connect them to the life of a Roman centurion in second century Britannia.
Available to buy from Amazon worldwide in Kindle, paperback, hardback and to read on Kindle Unlimited:
GUARDIANS AT THE WALL http://mybook.to/guardiansatthewall
The Guardians at the Wall
Who Were the Guardians at the Wall?
My 2021 novel, Guardians at the Wall, is a work of fiction, inspired by an inscription on a Roman artefact discovered in 1803 at Whitley Castle in Cumbria, once the Roman fort of Epiacum. Following a visit to five Hadrian’s Wall museums located at fort sites in 2020, I became so intrigued by the work of archaeologists to uncover and piece together a narrative of how the Roman occupiers lived that I resolved to write my novel as a dual timeline with an archaeology story intertwined with the story of a Roman soldier during the occupation.
The main character in the contemporary thread is archaeology student Noah Jessop. In Noah’s presentation, he refers to three mentions he found of Centurion Gaius Atticianus. Of these three, two are fictitious and the true one is the dedication on an altar stone. In the Roman Inscriptions of Britain archives, there is an entry for an altar pedestal stone inscription, dedicated to the god Hercules. The translation reads:
‘To the god Hercules
Gaius Vitellius Atticianus
centurion of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis’
This altar stone (sketch from http://www.romaninscriptionsofbritain.org) now resides at the Higgins Art Gallery and Museum in Bedford.
From this, I’ve taken my character, Gaius Vitellius Atticianus of the VI Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis (‘the victorious, loyal and faithful Sixth Legion’), and imagined his story, including the invented burial of a payroll chest. One real event is included in the narrative; the burning down of Corbridge/Coria town in 180 or 181, thought to have been in an attack by Caledonian raiders from north of Hadrian’s Wall. 180 is also the year that Emperor Marcus Aurelius died – memorable depicted in the opening scenes of the movie, ‘Gladiator’. Two of my named Roman officers are also real, plucked from mentions in inscriptions on monuments or in surviving records, namely Legate of the VI Legion, Claudius Hieronymianus (between 190-212 C.E. – I liked the name so I placed him in office as a young political appointee, nine years earlier); and Tribune Publius Helvius Pertinax (VI Legion, 170s). Great names that deserve to live on. Further reading revealed that Pertinax retired to Rome after a long career as a provincial administrator, only to be persuaded out of retirement in the wake of the murder of Emperor Commodus by the Praetorian Guard. His short reign was the first three months of 193. He was murdered in turn and replaced by another candidate in the tumultuous Year of the Five Emperors.
My story of Noah and the archaeologists is fiction, although the settings are real. Both the Vindolanda Trust and English Heritage are registered trusts under UK law, and manage functioning museums situated at the sites of part-excavated Roman ruins. English Heritage manage many sites on Hadrian’s Wall, including the fascinating Corbridge Roman Town, Housesteads (near the much-photographed Sycamore Gap), and the beautifully located Chesters fort, baths and Victorian era museum in the grounds of the Clayton family estate.
The Vindolanda Trust has an ongoing archaeological dig, started in the 1930s by owner Eric Birley, and continued by his son, Robin, who in 1973 oversaw the discovery of the Vindolanda tablets. Vindolanda remains with the Birley family beyond 1970 when the Vindolanda Trust was founded, with Dr Andrew Birley as the current Chief Executive Officer. Many wonderous finds, including the tablets, can be seen in the onsite museum. Because peat contains very little oxygen, organic materials like wood, leather and textiles do not rot. They can survive for thousands of years, preserved by the stable anoxic chemistry of the soil.
I visited these places in September 2020, between Covid-19 lockdowns, and the idea for this story came to me shortly after, whilst I was blogging about my visits. I saw for myself the Gladiator drinking bowl or tankard (passed around by Gaius and his mates in chapter two and featured in miniature on the book cover) and was awe-struck by the Vindolanda tablets and the details of the inscriptions on the information cards. The whole museum is fascinating, as are the grounds. I was extremely grateful to escape the confines of my home for three glorious days in the fresh, Northumberland air. In January 2021, whilst in the midst of writing, I enjoyed watching Robson Green’s television series, Walking Hadrian’s Wall. I note that Mr Green is a Patron of the Vindolanda Trust, and his visit to meet with his ‘old mate’, Andrew Birley, was both fascinating and timely.
The novel’s title, Guardians at the Wall, came to me once I’d sketched out the plots of each timeline strand. The Roman and auxilliary soldiers stood guard at the Wall for over 200 years, but the current generation of guardians are the archaeologists, curators and historians who strive to expose the past and make it live on in public consciousness – a part of our history and cultural identity. In the novel I talk of a Combined Universities dig at Vindolanda. This is made up. There are no combined universities digs that I know of, but there are archaeology degree courses offered by Durham and Newcastle Universities, with fieldwork practicals.
The novel’s action is set at Hadrian’s Wall, one of Britain’s World Heritage sites. When finished, Hadrian’s wall stretched 117 km (73 imperial miles) from sea to sea. It stood about 5 meters (15 ft.) high and 3 meters (10 ft.) wide. The core consisted of packed earth and clay and the sides were faced with blocks of stone. There may have been intermittent platforms on top of some stretches of the wall between watchtowers and mile forts, where auxiliary sentries kept watchful eyes on the north lands. The wall was a highly visible symbol of the Roman Empire’s might and prodigious activity at the peak of its power and dominance. Now, barely 10% of Hadrian’s Wall remains in place, and its stone blocks have been pilfered over the centuries to build dry stone walls, buildings and even an entire village of over 300 dwellings called ‘Wall’.
2022 is a big anniversary year for Hadrian’s Wall, marking 1,900 years since the Emperor Hadrian ordered its construction during his visit in 122 C.E. At the time of writing, the Hadrian’s Wall Partnership Group are planning a number of events to mark the anniversary. Year-long activities based at or near Hadrian’s Wall, including online events, can be found listed at the Hadrian’s Wall Country website.
Guardians at the Wall is a 90,000 word novel available from Amazon in the following formats: