Certain places in Bristol are very special, particularly the Downs, Christ Church, all round by the bridge. I was born in Clifton in the mid-‘50s, spent most of my life there, and come back very regularly. I grew up when Clifton Village was less trendy, a lot more sedate. I bought a flat in 1978 at 122 Pembroke Road. Later that week I was driving past with my late mother, and she said “Your dad lived there” when it was digs. Quite extraordinary!
When Clara’s Secret was published in 2008 we had the launch at Waterstones. It’s a collection of tales based around Bristol urban myths, such as the Crown Jewels being stored in the Giant’s Cave below Clifton Observatory during the war. Afterwards, there were so many people that remembered aspects of the stories in the book, wanting to know whether they were true or not. Bristol is architecturally beautiful, and fundamentally unchanged. Bits have been spoiled, but in the main – particularly around the docks – it’s improved.
Whenever I’m in Bristol I’ll walk down from Blackboy Hill to Fopp on College Green. My favourite place is The Downs, particularly the Sea Walls side. You’ve got so many great views from there: the bridge, looking across to Abbots Leigh, the Mendips in the background, Cumberland Basin.
A later work of mine, Brunel’s Vision, was conceived as a novel but is now in the hands of a radio producer. It’s a story about Brunel, using all his classic locations: Paddington, GWR, Box tunnel, Temple Meads, his hotel, floating harbour, and SS Great Britain. It’s a route I partly follow when doing one of my favourite Bristol things: coming into Temple Meads, heading to the centre on a bus’s top deck to see things you don’t normally see, getting the Bristol Packet and heading to the Nova Scotia by water. It’s a fantastic joy, sitting outside with friends I’ve known for 40-odd years, watching the world go by, with a perfect view of Cumberland Basin, Clifton and the bridge. It’s the iconic view of Clifton Wood, Royal Crescent and, for me – I lived in Windsor Court in the ’70s – a lot of memories.
Everybody loves a good mystery. Clara’s Secrets are four tall tales about Bristol, each containing an element of truth. An antique bath in a house in Clifton sheds new light on an old tragedy; a wedding in Stoke Bishop is attended by a ghostly apparition; a job applicant is sent on a mission to find a Bristol Blue vase.
And where exactly did the Crown Jewels spend the Second World War?
BRUNEL’S VISION: One Single Ticket
April 1852: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the eminent Victorian engineer engages the services of Harry Brooke. Crucial documents have either been stolen or disturbed at his house in London. Brooke, a renown private investigator travels on the GWR train from Paddington to Bristol to meet Mr Brunel. At the celebrated ‘Swindon Break’ Brooke is attacked by an unknown assailant.
There is a violent scuffle at the station, but Brooke is prepared. The assailant commits suicide rather than risk being caught and questioned. But how does the assailant know Brooke is travelling on that train? And at that time?
Clues are few and the stakes are high. Brooke must uncover the identity of the ‘dark forces’ which lurk to destroy Brunel’s most ambitious.
The story is told through the eyes of the films central protagonist, Jacqueline Flower, Jax. The irony is that the twist of fate which put her into jeopardy in the first place, was her wedding anniversary. Jax believes she has it all: a doting husband, an idyllic lifestyle and a beautiful country home.
All of this changes on one single night when she accidentally discovers the horrendous truth: her husband’s infidelity and his plan to destroy her. For her husband Andrew’s plan, is not only to leave her, but also to take all of their assets with him: their house, business and bank balance. Everything. But he’s too scheming to leave her homeless; no, he plans to have her killed instead – once he has left the country.
Jax firstly discovers part of the plan, his treachery. They row. In a frenzy, he chases after her… but Andrew dies in an horrific industrial accident; an ironical twist of fate is dealt him too. His body disappears after he falls into a pulveriser at the meat processing plant the family
The evidence at the plant is stacked against her. Who will believe her? Jax would be the obvious number one suspect, even though she is innocent. What can she do? She cannot go to the Police, not yet. She must now make the first crucial decision, which will alter her life forever.
She has no choice but to devise a fantastic scheme to outwit all of her rivals. It’s how she does it that is the dramatic core of what drives this story. Ingenuity and illusion. In the realms of a disappearance, there are normally only two options: planned and unplanned.
But what about a third option? What about establishing alibis that are so watertight that they go beyond question? A scheme carried out so meticulously that independent witnesses will swear they saw Andrew Flower in Holland, 24 hours after he actually died. Simultaneously, Jax is in London and can prove it.
Lucia Paluzzi is her only ally, but is increasingly wary as events unfold and the risks become greater. D.I. Doyle is the curious policeman to whom she reports that Andrew is missing in Holland. But the key antagonists are lain Bassett, a tax investigator determined to trap her, Beth DeLuc intent on extortion and the unexpected assassin, hired by Andrew to kill her.
A Perfect Place to Die
‘BOYCIE’ a proposed drama series by Robert Wallace
Two estranged brothers – one beautiful woman – a diamond necklace – a tragic accident and an old suitcase full of cash form the compelling ingredients for the pilot of a proposed new drama series.
When Daniella Ravano is tragically drowned, thrown over the side of a speeding powerboat on Gare Loch in the West of Scotland, the scene is set for an unpredictable story of betrayal and revenge. At the wheel is her reckless lover Neil McAllister, a shallow thirty year old advertising executive; successful, selfish, egotistical and married.
At the initial Police interview with DI Andrew Boyce – ‘Boycie’ – Neil reveals that Daniella and his younger brother Patrick are engaged and soon to be married and that he is her next of kin. Patrick has to formally identify her and the experience does more than to break his heart.
Patrick confronts Neil. He temporarily persuades him that theirs was simply an innocent, platonic friendship. Neil denies any knowledge of a Tiffany diamond necklace which we saw him give to Daniella on-board the powerboat. It is a curious gift; lavish, expensive and memorable. Its signiﬁcance grows as the story develops as does its redemption at the end.
Boycie does not believe Neil’s story of a tragic accident, but is unable to physically prove his instinctive suspicions. All of the forensic evidence supports Neil’s statement, but for Boycie it all seems far too convenient. And what about that necklace?
Boycie is the antithesis of Neil: quiet, calm, intuitive and thorough. The Harbourmaster at Rhu Marina on Gare Loch, Ian Anderson, contacts the owner of the powerboat at her home in Holland, the enigmatic Dr. Trudi Van Aelst. Her late Father Tom was a former business associate of Neil’s at BEK Pharmaceuticals in Rotterdam.
They meet at Rhu and simultaneously Boycie and Patrick arrive at the scene so he can personally see the place where Daniella died.
Trudi has an immediate empathy with the grieving Patrick and they head off for a walk on the banks of Gare Loch. Trudi is a very good listener, but does Patrick want to talk?
But Boycie spots something in her eyes the moment she first sees Patrick – a flicker of recognition. It is an observation that will later substantiate his earlier suspicions, when his and Neil’s paths cross again later.
Boycie is a meticulous researcher and it is his obsessive attention to detail that gets him the results. His outside passion is restoring his classic car – a 1971 MGB V8 – a hobby he conducts with the same eye for precision. His renowned workshop is a place of accuracy and high standards.
‘A Perfect Place to Die’ delivers a series of twists and turns that will keep you guessing right up until the final, shocking closing scenes. The characters are gritty and real. The idyllic Scottish scenery belies the dark secrets that Neil has kept hidden from everyone .
The Class and finesse of Bond, the power and pace of Bourne. The mark of a new style of international thriller. After witnessing his brother’s assassination at the hands of Columbian drug baron MARTINEZ, central character CAMERON KING is presented with a unique opportunity to exact revenge.
It comes in the form of KURT WAGNER, CIA go-between and wartime friends of his late father. The plan is to create a billion dollars worth of counterfeit US dollars in the ultimate government/CIA sting: to bankrupt Martinez in a clever double cross. Except that Wagner has other plans for the fake greenbacks, plans which would be catastrophic for both America and the Middle-East if not prevented.
King finds himself trapped in a mystery he desperately needs to unravel. And not least of all because he has been framed by his enemies for a murder he did not commit. Why did Kurt Wagner betray him? What are the dark secrets his father vigilantly chose to conceal for so long?
Digitising Printed Novels
Bristol Docks and Harbourside
Clara’s Secret and Other Bristol Mysteries
Monkeypuzzle, Lucy’s War
There is no place in law for common sense; laws are only there because common sense failed