Childhood provides a starting point for life, forming character, influences, beliefs and prejudices… my journey started in Hong Kong where I was born to British parents and had my primary schooling and formative years. A patchwork quilt of cultural influences on the far side of the world hardly prepared me for the shock of secondary school in Liverpool, England. Why Liverpool? It’s my mum’s home town. After taking a beating or two, I soon learned to adapt to my new surroundings, and grew to love the city, its people and football club (the red one).
At Cardinal Allen Grammar School I developed a love of learning and reading fiction, including writing the odd reflective poem. Upon leaving school with a couple of ‘A’ levels, I knew I wanted to write and jumped at the chance, when offered by a careers adviser, to become a trainee reporter for a local newspaper in Liverpool, The Woolton Mercury. Here I learned lithographic printing, layout, news reporting and feature writing, soon progressing to film reviewing and writing a music column. I researched and wrote a feature series, The History of Woolton Hall. Amongst my interview subjects were Pink Panther film actor, Bert Kwok, and The Stranglers’ bass player, Jean Jacques Burnel.
After a couple of years I went to Pontypridd in South Wales to study at the Polytechnic/University of Wales where I was elected editor of the student news magazine, LEEK, before graduating with a BA Honours degree in Communication Studies (that included practical in scriptwriting and film production). For my film practical, I wrote, cast and directed a short film, Sam Shovel and the Case of the Missing Taxidermist, receiving an ‘A’ grade. I was selected to direct and co-script the Polytechnic’s entry in the 1985 Fuji Student Film Competition. Based on a Susan Hill short story, Only the Natives came fourth out of a field of 12 national film courses.
After this, I gravitated to London and got a job as Assistant Circulation and Promotions Manager with the South London Press Group, based in Streatham. This was the start of a ten-year stint in the newspaper publishing industry, broken only by nine months at Bristol Business School where I attained a post-graduate diploma in Marketing. The diploma won me an upgrade to Marketing Executive in the Group Marketing Department of United Provincial Newspapers Limited (later United News and Media) and a desk overlooking the River Thames in the shiny black tower, Ludgate House, next to Blackfriars Bridge. Here, my creative skills were adapted to meet commercial objectives in market research, advertising sales support and product development for regional newspaper titles.
Faced with the sell-off of group titles, I jumped before I was pushed and resigned in the mid-90s to do voluntary work with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) in Zambia, working in educational book publishing development. This involved organising and delivering training and support to local publishers, setting up and running the Zambia Book Fair.
Soon after, I set up and managed my own publishing, marketing and management company based in Lusaka, Zambia. I ‘lived the dream’ by launching, publishing and editing a magazine (Construction News) and newspaper (Business & Leisure News) in Zambia between 1999-2005. I also did company newsletters and helped run team building courses. My daughter, Cathy, was born in Lusaka in 2003, to mother Karen. They now live in Bordeaux, France, and I maintain a good, if distant, relationship with them.
In 2005 I took up the position of General Manager for a mineral exploration company, GeoQuest Limited based in Lusaka. After three years (that included a 3 month stint in the Democratic Republic of Congo), I joined Atlas Copco, as Lusaka Branch Manager. This was unexpectedly cut short after barely a year by the calamitous effect of the global recession on the company and the Zambian economy. As Chairman of Lusaka Rugby Club, I helped steer the club to a national league and cup double in 2008, also hosting a Rugby World Cup qualifier between Zambia and Morocco.
I returned to the UK in 2009 and now live a less hectic life near Windsor in Berkshire where I write creative fiction and help out with a local charity, Men’s Matters. I think you’ll agree, I’ve led a varied life, living on three continents, with enough material to write a memoir. I’m writing up short memories as they come to me and thinking about how to join them together.
Prompted by health setbacks in 2015, I did an online creative writing course and started to write short stories, then longer historical fiction. By the end of 2021, I’d written and self-published a five-book historical fiction history-meets-legend series, A Light in the Dark Ages; two books of short stories (Thames Valley Tales, Postcards from London); a dual timeline historical novel, Guardians at the Wall; a three-book children’s series co-written with my daughter, Cathy (The Adventures of Charly Holmes, Charly & the Superheroes, Charly in Space); a dystopian thriller novel (Devil Gate Dawn) and a collection of poems and short fiction (Perverse). I recently published A Light in the Dark Ages series in two hardback volumes, bringing my total number of titles to 15. Early 2022 finds me writing the sequel to Devil Gate Dawn, Devil Gate Day.
Now aged 60, I’m a chronically ill home-based author and charity volunteer, managing my medication-fuelled days at a steady pace. How many more books do I have in me? Who knows… I’m taking it one at a time.