Promo: London Tales by Tim Walker
I'm thrilled to welcome my author friend, Tim Walker, to Ruins & Reading, with his new release, London Tales. This collection of short stories gives us glimpses into the history of the famous city. Do check it out!
I've started to read London Tales (and really enjoying the stories), but haven't managed to finish reading all of them yet, so I can't give a balanced review. I hope to finish it at the weekend, and my review will be linked to this post then. Watch this space! In the meantime, find a fascinating Excerpt together with an Author's note below...
London Tales is currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club. Check out the other fascinating posts here!
This collection of eleven tales offers dramatic pinpricks in the rich tapestry of London’s timeline, a city with two thousand years of history. They are glimpses of imagined lives at key moments, starting with a prologue in verse from the point of view of a native Briton tribeswoman absorbing the shock of Roman invasion. The first story is a tense historical adventure set in Roman Londinium in 60 CE from the perspective of terrified legionaries and townsfolk facing the vengeful Iceni queen, Boudica, whose army burnt the fledgling city to the ground.
Further historical dramas take place in 1381 during the Peasant’s Revolt, the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the last ice fair on the frozen Thames in 1814. These are followed by a romance set during the Blitz in 1941, then the swinging Sixties and wide-flared seventies are remembered in the life story of fictional policeman, Brian Smith. Moving on, an East End family get a fright from copycat killings that are a throwback to the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders.
There’s a series of contemporary stories that reference recent events, including the London terrorist bombings of 2005, a literary pub crawl and a daring prison break, building to the imagined death throes of London in a chilling, dystopian vision. These stories are loosely inspired by the author’s personal experiences and reflections on his time living and working in London in the 1980s and 90s.
Adaptability, resilience, conformity and resolve are recurring themes.
London Tales evokes the city’s rich history and the qualities that were needed by Londoners at various times to survive and prosper – from the base and brutal, devious and inspired, to the refined and civilized.
Available from Amazon in e-book, paperback, Kindle Unlimited and audiobook formats, London Tales is a companion volume to Thames Valley Tales.
Buy Link: Universal Buy Link
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Excerpt & Guest Post
In a near-future London, marketing manager Val Hanwell assembles his team for a briefing on how best to approach the delicate matter of reporting on the findings of a new survey of citizen attitudes towards the government and the ongoing evacuation of the submerging city. Shortly after, Val receives a visitor from Norway…
“How was your journey?” Val asked.
Magnus grinned. “We flew over a North Sea littered with icebergs moving south, now empty of rigs and ships. It’s become too dangerous to navigate.”
Such visuals weren’t shown on Britannia news as the extent of disruptions to sea trade was carefully managed information. The effects of the closure of the east coast container ports on the struggling economy was kept quiet. Of the corporation’s five flagship freeports, only Southampton and Avonmouth were still functioning.
Val smiled and moved swiftly on to his prepared speech. “Thank you for coming to brief us on Norway’s experiences of dealing with relocation away from the coastal areas. I’m sure there’s much we can learn from each other. I’ve been cleared by our board of directors to show you the new video of our plans and projections. As your host, I’ll go first.” Val tapped his tablet and a large, flat screen lit up on the wall. He tapped again and the lights dimmed, then excused himself to fetch some coffees from the canteen whilst his visitor watched the half-hour presentation.
Val sipped his coffee until the presentation had ended, then raised the lights. “Well? What are your first impressions?”
His visitor beamed through a neatly trimmed beard and shifted in his seat to try and find some comfort before speaking. “Nice drone camera shots. But the description of your ongoing evacuation lacks detail. For example, how many were living in the Thames flood plain when the first tidal surge breached the Thames Barrier? How many were successfully relocated and how many lives were lost? Also, I’d like to know more on the engineering solutions to contain the tidal peaks whilst the relocation was taking place. This is merely a PR video, Mr Hanwell.”
Val blushed and tapped a note on his tablet. “Well, shall we watch your video presentation first, and then answer each other’s questions?”
“But Valentine, mine is a detailed analysis of tidal flow and a stepped relocation plan over a number of years, produced by engineers and scientists, with plenty of tables of data as appendices. Furthermore, and I’m referring to the rumours of your losses, we lost no one to drowning events. They’re not the same thing.”
A detailed plan was precisely what Val had hoped for, and what he’d been briefed to collect, whilst disclosing as little as possible of their own feeble response to a natural catastrophe whose consequences were lied about and covered up by the Britannia Corporation.
“We had minimal deaths during the early stages of evacuation, contrary to the false social media reports. I’ve got some tables of data to give you, Magnus. Let’s proceed with your presentation, then we can discuss the details and exchange data.” A vexing memory of the rows of body bags on the dock wall at low tide suddenly floated into his mind.
Magnus nodded and twinned his tablet with the wall screen. The two men sat back and watched. Val smiled in the darkened room at the detail and animated models showing ingenious methods of moving entire buildings onto floating pontoons, something that had been tried in London a few years ago with disastrous results.
When the presentation was over, Val answered Magnus’s questions in a vague way, adding that the detail was in the data sets that he’d exchange with him. Magnus answered Val’s questions with references to technical aspects that went over Val’s head.
“I’m not convinced that we’ll learn much from your experiences, Mr Hanwell, except maybe how not to do it!” Magnus said, followed by a deep, rumbling laugh.
“There’s plenty of detail of ten years of innovation in our full report, I can assure you, Magnus, and Britannia engineering remains a world leader,” Val oozed, feeling decidedly uncomfortable at his reluctant role in spinning a line for the corporation. But he and Magnus were being listened to, and Val felt he had no choice but to act out his part. It seemed to him that much of their marketing output was merely papering over the cracks or helping to shore up the falsehoods. He felt a tad foolish before the derisory smirk of his confident visitor.
“Well, I must fulfil our promise, so now I’ll transfer my files to you. Please give me the codes,” Magnus said. Codes were exchanged, they uploaded each other’s files, rose, and shook hands.
Val followed Magnus outside, sniffing at the cooling air. “Will you be staying overnight? I can recommend a good restaurant that’s just opened.”
Magnus signalled to an attendant to ready his drone, then turned to Val. “Moonbeams? When you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. No thanks.” He paused and studied the slim Briton. “You know, Valentine, you people are so submissive. You work in collapsing buildings, too scared to complain. No, I'm not staying any longer than is necessary. Goodbye, and good luck.”
The two men shook hands again and Val was left with his own thoughts as he watched the Norwegian’s heli-drone lift up into the darkening sky. The draft blew Val’s hair into a wild, uncombed mess. Normally, he would immediately comb it back into shape, but instead, he turned to walk towards the riverside edge of the platform. He gazed over the lagoon of drowned structures and the river lane running through it, demarked by yellow buoys, as a bank of fog wrapped its grey tentacles around the tops of the twin towers of the submerged Tower Bridge. The metal spar between the towers and the drawbridge flaps had long since been removed, and now the tower tops were surrounded by orange floats that rose and fell with the tide, warning off the rivercraft. “Monuments to a drowned world,” he muttered, turning away.
Valentine’s Day was conceived as a vehicle to exorcise the ghost of my passing from the London corporate world to the freedom of becoming a voluntary worker in a developing country. The year was 1994 and I had recently been promoted to Marketing Manager in the group marketing department of one of the UK’s largest newspaper publishing groups. I enjoyed my work and this was my second promotion in eight years - providing market research and marketing support for over 100 newspaper titles.
By the mid-90s, the heady days of corporate takeovers had waned and groups were streamlining, tightening their belts and downsizing by selling off fringe assets. And so, my company decided to downsize and get rid of group functions and attendant staff in advance of a sale. They opted for penny pinching and unsentimental expediency and appointed a troubleshooting Marketing Director whose sole remit was to harass and intimidate, until we got the message we were no longer wanted and resigned. The two senior managers were the first to go, one by early retirement, the other, relocation, and I was left exposed as the last one who actually knew what we were supposed to be doing and how to organise it.
Fortunately, I had three very capable executives and we battened down the hatches to provide a fire-fighting service to our publishing centres whilst being harassed with warning memos by the unblinking bully who was our new boss. I completed a major market research project and delivered the presentations to the board’s satisfaction, then resigned. Leaving on a high was cathartic, and I felt cleansed. This was quite normal in the nineties, a feature of corporate London’s re-adjustment after the borrowing-to-buy spree of the late eighties had righted itself. There were many casualties at the coalface of capitalism, and I was one. My beautiful career in tatters, I re-set myself on a publishing development project in Zambia, going on to launch my own publishing and marketing business out there.
My stressful ordeal at the hands of a bullying Marketing Director is at the heart of this story. Much of the rest is pure fiction. In this revised version of the original story, I decided to set it during the death throes of an imagined future London, flooded and planning a final evacuation to a new town on higher ground.
In April 2023, a BBC News report announced that a group of scientists who work with satellite data said the acceleration in the melting of Earth's ice sheets is unmistakable and undeniable. They calculate the planet's frozen poles lost 7,560 billion tonnes in mass between 1992 and 2022. Seven of the worst melting years have occurred in the past decade. This ice loss is five times what it was 30 years prior to the report.
NASA have been measuring rises in sea level since 1993 and recently announced that the world’s sea levels are rising at an average of 0.13 inches (3.3ml) a year over a 30-year period, but this is accelerating due to warming air and sea temperatures. Coastal settlements are increasingly at risk of flooding and already some countries are taking steps to move populations inland, abandoning low lying coastal settlements. It’s real. It’s happening. London, after 2,000 years of history, is likely to disappear beneath the waves before the end of this century, joining an Atlantis class of submerged cities. As the rate of polar ice melt quickens, the shadow of an uncertain future hangs ominously over coastal communities.
About the Author:
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. Although born in Hong Kong in the sixties, 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 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, inspired by a visit to the part-excavated site of former Roman town Calleva Atrebatum at Silchester in Hampshire. The series connects the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend and is inspired by historical source material, presenting an imagined historical fiction of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
The last book in the series, Arthur, Rex Brittonum, was published in June 2020. This is a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur and follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum. Both titles are Coffee Pot Book Club Recommended Reads. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018).
Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker.
Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (second edition 2023), London Tales (2023); a book of verse, 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).
Tim took early retirement on medical grounds and now divides his time between writing and helping out at a Berkshire-based charity, Men’s Matters.
Connect with Tim: