As regular Linda’s Book Bag readers know, I’m always happy to support less well known authors and publishers so it gives me great pleasure to introduce Derek Hayes today. Derek’s latest book Maid of Turpin’s was published by Bretwalda Books on 16th July 2016. Maid of Turpin’s is available for purchase here.
Maid of Turpins
Young Sybil Turpin is an innkeeper who caters for the unsavoury underworld of 18th Century London. When she gets involved in a fiendish plot about spies and political intrigue her life is suddenly in danger from the most ruthless of men.
The year is 1720 and the government of Prime Minister Robert Walpole is overwhelmed by a criminal scandal which threatens to bankrupt the country. Richard Hamilton secret agent of the crown is sent to investigate. The story centres around the notorious tavern in Honey Lane; a lawless neighbourhood within Cheapside.
Turpin’s is ruled by a feisty young Sybil Turpin; an eccentric character who bathes daily in a hogshead barrel and rides like a highwayman.
She and Richard, himself an unconventional character, start as adversaries but when more brutal criminal activity unfolds, they join forces and their quest leads them around the streets of London, from Tyburn to the Bank of England; through Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens to a prison vault under London Bridge.
Richard Hamilton may have met his match with this bold young woman but the Maid of Turpin’s has a further challenge ahead, far beyond her comprehension or ability.
An Interview with Derek Hayes
Hi Derek. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I’d describe myself as a well-fed bookworm, people-watcher, storyteller and an expert at make believe. They are lifelong attributes and still as useful now as they ever were. I read a lot and have quite diverse tastes. I usually have two or three books on the go at the same time.
I was a child of the fifties, but I hasten to add a very young one. I live in Wiltshire with my wife Jennifer and lots of grandchildren nearby; still able to indulge the story telling. I spent most of my working life in the NHS and that was where the people-watching began. It was always a privilege being present through the critical times of other people’s life experiences; often of the dramatic and terminal kind. But then there was hospital humour; usually itself profoundly unnerving but always a palliative for the distress and sadness. Experience enough for several lifetimes.
And tell us a bit about your Langford series of books.
This is where the people-watching became reality for me. Set in the 1950s Langford Follies are a study of real people. All true to life characters, perhaps just a little exaggerated. Langford Quay is a real place for me.
Life in the 1950s was far less complicated than now. There were only two private telephone lines in the entire village and most residents still had an air raid shelters in their back garden. There were many residents with painful memories of the war and war widows and ration books and a live-for-the-moment mentality.
I have detailed case histories written for the main characters, going right back to their grandparents. Knowing their background so intimately means I know how they will respond in a given situation. After that it’s easy; put them in an unusual situation and they take over. They almost write the script themselves. Then occasionally I can anchor the story to real life character; as when Gordon Drake meets Prime Minister Winston Churchill his hero. (See the December Newsletter on my blog.)
The third book in the series ‘Langford Liberators’ will hopefully be available next year.
What made you decide to write about a different era in your latest book, Maid of Turpin’s?
I was being told that the Langford Follies was not a popular genre. Look on the shelves in bookshops, they said. That simple mischievous lifestyle created by HE Bates in Darling Buds is not fashionable any more. So I chose to do a historic thriller. The story is set in 1720 in a notorious area of London called Cheapside. I loved doing the historic research and was influenced by the Dennis Wheatley’s Roger Brook novels of the 1970’s.
In Maid of Turpin’s Sybil Turpin, the beautiful but feisty tavern keeper, meets the handsome if slightly accident prone Richard Hamilton, secret agent to Prime Minister Walpole; a sort of 18th century James Bond? Weaving it all around a real life event helps the believability. The story is based around the South Sea Bubble event.
How did you go about researching the detail of Cheapside in Maid of Turpin’s?
The single most useful research aid to writing the Maid of Turpin’s is my John Rocque’s 26 inches to the mile map of 1746 London. On a DVD it enables me to plot a route through the streets of Cheapside. From the Thames across the city up as far as Tyburn and beyond; it is possible to walk the streets with Sybil Turpin and imagine life in the poorer, violent areas of the city. I placed the Turpin’s Tavern in Honey Lane and I could tell you how long it takes Sybil to walk down to the docks or out of the city to her secret lake for a swim.
And when did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
I have always been a storyteller. The difference is that now retired there is time to write the stories down and share. And I can write every day. No one complains about me wasting time. Well almost no one.
I know you write short stories as well as longer fiction. Which do you prefer?
The short stories came first; lots of them. For many years I wrote competition pieces for the Writing Magazine and other journals. It taught me the discipline of writing succinctly and there was always the thrill of occasionally getting shortlisted; that meant sometimes getting a free critique – very useful. Both Langford Follies and Maid of Turpin’s started off as short stories and a critic saying to me, there is a full length story there for the writing.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
I am passionate and disciplined about my writing but it is only a hobby; not to be taken too seriously. There are other important interests in my life like the health and wellbeing of the community I help to serve and my charities.
You seem drawn to the past for your writing. Why is this?
Something intriguing about the past and easier to imagine being present at the time.
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
Writing is a joy but I am easily distracted and getting started is difficult sometime. I have a comfortable study where I write every day. Early morning is best for me but I can’t sit still for long, so after an hour I am looking for something important that cannot possibly wait, that must be done immediately. A break and then it means I come back refreshed for another session.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I am presently reading again Patrick O’Brien’s Jack Aubrey novels about Napoleonic warfare on the high seas. O’Brien is the master of clarity when it comes to life aboard ship in the eighteenth century. The rest of us can only marvel at his depth of understanding and knowledge. His narrative is so powerful he might almost have been there.
I’m also reading Andy Martin’s Reacher Said No. The author sat beside Lee Child whilst he was writing Make Me. Terrific insight in to this best-selling author.
My third book is David Walliams Grandpa’s Great Escape. He’s a better children’s writer than he is a comedian.
(I think many would agree with that last comment Derek!)
If you could choose to be a character from Maid of Turpin’s, who would you be and why?
Richard Hamilton of course; he is the James Bond of the eighteenth century. However, gadgets don’t always work for him. Perhaps that’s why Sybil is attracted to him. He has that vulnerability which makes him adorable to the Maid.
If Maid of Turpin’s became a film, who would you like to play Sybil and why would you choose them?
I would choose Eleanor Tomlinson who plays Demelza in Poldark. She is a feisty character who would know how to pull Richard Hamilton’s strings. I can see Eleanor slipping a noose around Hamilton’s neck on the Tyburn Tree whilst he tries in vain to release his hidden weapon.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Maid of Turpin’s should be their next read, what would you say?
Political espionage in eighteenth century London, criminal scandal, fiendish intrigue and romance in equal measure.
(Oo 15 words exactly!)
About Derek Hayes
Derek lives in Wiltshire with his wife Jennifer and, having retired, spends his time reading, writing and entertaining his grand children.
All of Derek’s books are published by Bretwalda Books and available on Amazon.