Guardians at the Wall

Guardians at the Wall has now been proof-read, beta-read and copyedited, and will be finalised in early May ahead of a planned 1st June launch. It might be released earlier if ready – I’m looking at Friday 28th May as a possible early release date.
I’m in the process of arranging book blog appearances in June. I’ve decided to not go wide and just put it out as an Amazon exclusive in Kindle e-book, paperback and Kindle Unlimited.

Every independent author needs favourable reviews to entice casual browsers to make a purchase decision, so if you are defined interested in reading and reviewing it on Amazon (and/or Goodreads) please email me to request a pdf (for ipad); epub (for Kobo reader) or mobi file (for Kindle) so you can get started.

Guardians at the Wall blurb:
A group of archaeology students in northern England scrape at the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes.

Twenty-year-old Noah makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He is living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding ancient riddle, and an artefact theft, as he comes to realise his future career prospects depend on it.

In the same place, 1,800 years earlier, Commander of the Watch, Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen.
These are the protagonists whose lives brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one trying to get himself noticed and the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement.
How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology dirt rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by his gaming mates and the attentions of two very different women, work out who to trust?
Find out in Tim Walker’s thrilling historical dual timeline novel, Guardians at the Wall.

SHADOWPLAY

ian-curtisI jump out of bed and get dressed as quickly as I can in a practiced routine, clothes laid out neatly on a chair before going to bed, knowing how cold it’ll be in the morning. I ignore the gloominess of the tiny terraced house, the cracked bathroom mirror, narrow corridors, treacherous stairs carpet. I quickly eat my toast and drink my tea with just a grunt of acknowledgement to my nan, pull on my great coat and head for the bus stop. I am a young man and this is my World.

Stamping my feet on the frosty pavement, I take a deep drag on my ciggy. It looks even bleaker in winter ‘round here. Macclesfield is a dump. Meeting her, though. Something to look forward to. I turn up the collar on my coat to deflect the biting wind from my ears – a bargain from the army surplus shop – and shuffle forward into the warm of the bus’s interior, finding a seat upstairs. To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you.

I’m glad I put that advert in the shop window to be a singer in a band. Wasn’t sure at first, but now I’ve met those mad lads from Salford, maybe something’ll come of it. It’s stimulated my creative juices and given me a reason to turn my poems into song lyrics. What can you write about living ‘round here? There’s little colour in this grey landscape. The factory owners have fled, leaving dilapidated buildings and forgotten people, wandering about searching for meaning in this post-industrial wasteland. The Germans didn’t bomb here – they didn’t need to.

But I’m meeting her. She makes me laugh, with her cheeky Scouse humour. Our tribal cousins and football rivals – Liverpool – a port city with people coming and going, plus the Irish influence that crept westward along the canals, rail and roads to Manchester. Hell, they built it all. But they brought laughter and music and a positive outlook, to mix in with us bleak mill workers. So now we can be both dour and happy. Light and shade, we live in the shadows, we play at being thinking, rational humans, and kid ourselves that we have a say in our destiny. A kind of shadow play. She makes me laugh, though.

I’m waiting for her in the caf in a department store. Busy, clean, bright. I’m scared though. Scared that my eyes will roll back, my body will tense, I’ll black out and end up on the floor, twitching, sending the kids running to their mums. I can’t control it. Confusion in my eyes that says it all, I’ve lost control. The drugs just make me feel shit, grumpy, moody. Here she comes. I break into a smile and stand awkwardly to half-embrace her, hands on her arms, a peck on the cheek. I need her positivity like a shot of caffeine. She’s a nurse, and sees the good in people; a reason to save them; a reason to save me. I feel like I’m in the sea, swimming up to the light, and she’s there, in a boat, pulling me out. To the depths of the ocean where all hope sank, waiting for you.

She chats madly, and I think I’m falling in love. The way she flashes her blue eyes at me makes me feel more than I am, more complete. I hand her the letter.  Concern is etched into her furrowed brow as she reads.  A treatment plan for  your epilepsy, Mister Curtis, a course of medication. She squeezes my hand across the table.  She understands.  She’s on my side.  She cares.  Still, my spirits sag, my mind reels. I feel my immortal soul is dying.  In my twilight moments I see them, from across the expanse of time, and hear them calling me.

She has to go – she’s on shift. Good luck with the job interview she says. I say it’s not an interview, just a check-in at the Labour Exchange. It does what it says on the tin – exchanges your labour for cash. I wander through the city centre and end up in the record shops, flicking through albums and singles. I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you. Will my songs be here one day? Sometimes I feel so alone, even in a crowded place, I want to curl up in the corner, arms around my knees, head down, thinking. In a room with a window in the corner, I found truth.

What do you want to do? he says, smoking and not minding where he blows it. Not bothered, I say, and then – but I like writing. Oh, a writer are you? Then maybe an office clerk. He smiles like a movie villain. Think I’ve got something here… As the assassins all grouped in four lines dancing on the floor. Maybe I can use that. I did everything, everything I wanted to, I let them use you for their own ends.

That evening it’s rehearsals. I bring my notebook with my scribbled thoughts. Hooky’s fooling around and Bernie’s sullen and moody. We need a new drummer, he says.   We need a new name, I say. Warsaw’s too bleak. Yeah? Says Bernie. What else is there ‘round here but bleakness? Them grey pictures of post-War Europe describe the urban shithole we live in, and our music mirrors that. It’s only a backdrop, I say, although we’re its products and we can’t escape ourselves, I concede. Our music is our way of rising above the gloom, Hooky chips in, and bursts into a manic bass riff. We can lie in the gutter and look at the stars.  One day…

In the shadowplay acting out your own death knowing no more… I sit at a table and refine my jumbled ideas into song lyrics. I’ve got a new song, I say, and laugh, which gets their attention, as it’s not something I usually do – laugh out loud, I mean. What’s it about?  The usual – you’re born, live in a shithole and then you die.

In between, try and live a little! someone says.

Yeah, after all, it’s been a good day.

If you like this, then try my new novel, Devil Gate Dawn…

http://myBook.to/DevilGateDawn

On John Cooper Clarke and The Fall

Ever been dragged to a gig by a mate and had your eyes opened a new and unexpectedly amazing experience?

JCCAs a young impressionable schoolboy in Liverpool during the punk rock explosion of ’77-’78, I was asked by a classmate, John, if I would go with him to see John Cooper-Clarke, as he also wanted to be a punk poet.  I said, “Who’s he?”  …Come on, cut me some slack here…it was March 1978 and there was no internet, only the music press for info…JCC was just starting out.

And so I went to my first ever night club gig at Eric’s in Liverpool, on Mathew Street, opposite the once famous but derelict Cavern Club (it had been closed for some years, before it was revived as a tourist attraction).  It was 7th April 1978 and was billed as ‘The Fall plus Special Guest’ (see attached flyer with JCC autograph!).  The special guest was a lanky Salford punk poet with dark glasses and a mop of black hair – pretty much identical to how he looked a few months ago in 2015 on TV in ‘Have I got News For You’.  The Salford Bard, now being touted as the next Poet Lauriat and with poems on the school curriculum, was unexpectedly brilliant.  I still remember ‘I Married a Monster from Outer Space’, and ‘Kung Fu International’, apparently recorded ‘live’ at that gig and used as a B side.  He was followed by Mark E. Smith and The Fall, at that time a rough punk-imitator band, as most new bands felt they had to be. ‘Last Orders’ was the stand-out track from this early punk thrash.

Erics_John Cooper ClarkeNow, the reason I’ve put finger to keyboard with this blog post is that it just occurred to me that both these unwell-looking acts ARE STILL GOING! Both are gigging in 2015, John Cooper-Clarke down the road in Guildford this week supporting Squeeze.  I loved the last scene of the last episode of ‘The Sopranos’ played out with JCC’s ‘Evidently Chicken Town’.  Now cropping up in TV commercials, the former coke and brown addict is an inspiration to us all in….well….survival.

The Fall, who released their first album the year after I saw them in 1979, have gone on to be one of the most prolific recording acts in British music history.  With 31 studio albums to date, and many more live albums, Mark has tried his level best to bore us all to death.  Although not such a big fan, I was persuaded to see the Fall in the late 80’s twice, and enjoyed both, very different, performances.

One was in a dingy club in Croydon, where, with Brix on bass, they belted out classic and memorable versions of ‘Eat Yourself Fitter’ and ‘Cruiser’s Creek’.  The other was at Sadler’s Wells Theatre (I kid you not) where sometime in September 1988 I was dragged by mate Jimmy to see ‘I Am Curious Orange’ with The Fall on stage with the Michael Clark contemporary dance group cavorting around them to quite brilliant versions of ‘Curious Orange’ and ‘Big New Prinz’ (scan of programme cover shown – anyone else go to this?).  Inspired and innovative…

Curious Orange_The FallWhat impresses me most about JCC and Mark E. Smith is their unshakable belief in what they’re doing – in their art.  They have spanned the late 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and are still batting on in 2015 and, no doubt, beyond.  They must have met virtually everyone in UK showbiz….a kind of anti-advertisement for Manchester.  Keep Away!  It’s all like Beezley Street!  But bizarrely, Manchester and Salford acts like The Fall, The Smith, JCC, Joy Division/New Order (Happy Mondays, Oasis in the 90s)  have all tickled my imagination, tuning me in to a grim Northern outlook that is remarkably tough, resilient and strangely uplifting.  Hell, they’re even thinking of taking tourists there!

I say, Rock on JCC and Mark E. Smith.  You have inspired a generation and now reach a younger audience who see the Punk Era that spewed you out as a kind of Golden Age.  We grew up then, and understood the value of questioning the Establishment and of rebellion…without questioning, without perspective, the country will end up being run by someone like….errr….David Cameron!