Book Title: London Tales
Series: Short Stories, Book Two
Author: Tim Walker
Publication Date: 8th November 2023
Publisher: Independently published
Page Length: 203
Genres: short stories;
historical fiction; contemporary fiction; dystopian
by Tim Walker
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 1980’s and 90’s. 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.
Book cover designed by Sean McClean, shows elements from stories.
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Universal link: http://mybook.to/LondonTales
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.
Find out more about the author at his website: www.timwalker1666.wixsite.com/website
Goodreads Author Page: https://goodreads.com/author/show/678710.Tim_Walker
Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/TimWalkerWrites
Facebook Pages: https://facebook.com/TimWalkerWrites
In the winter of 1813-14 the River Thames froze over for the last time, allowing an ice fair to attract revellers onto the frozen river. At her father’s suggestion, 14-year-old Holly attempts to erase a recurring nightmare of a face under the ice by telling the story of the unfortunate victim, Mabel…
The moon disappears behind the clouds, but the street is lit by gas lanterns on high poles. I’ve rarely walked around after midnight, so I find these new gas lamps to be the most wondrous things, and I glance up at the flickering flames. We head east, past Westminster Abbey, following the line of the river. Night watchmen hunch over their brazier, warming their hands. One turns to stare at us as we hurry past, but says nothing. After a while, I turn at the sound of horse hooves on the cobbles, and gasp at the sight of Master Albright’s footman on his Hanson carriage, swishing his whip over the horse’s rump.
“Quick, this way!” I hiss, in a loud whisper, grabbing Mabel’s hand and running down a narrow passageway between two warehouses towards the river.
We run along the embankment and onto Old London Bridge, its leaning houses lit up by gaslight. There are lights from the windows, as some foolhardy folk still stubbornly dwell in the structures condemned for demolition. To cheer us up, I start singing in puffs of cloudy breath:
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady.
Mabel smiles and sings the next bit, as we swing our arms:
Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair lady.
“It’ll take much more than wood and clay to fix this bridge,” I say, stopping to look back. The bridge approach is shrouded in darkness, and all is still.
I lead Mabel between houses to the railings to catch our breath and I look down on the river. The edges are still solid ice with people on. Ice flows to my left are like an army of snow dwarves bobbing down the dark central channel. I study the pinpoints of light where coals glow red in braziers as groups huddle around, warming their hands or toasting bits of meat on skewers. I’m transfixed in that moment and feel myself frozen to the spot. A squeeze on my hand brings me to my senses.
“They should be careful,” Mabel says in cloudy puffs, “that ice will be thinning.” There is fear in her eyes at a returning memory, and I hug her.
A girl screams, and a shudder runs through me, but it’s only a redcoat soldier, grabbing a girl who struggles playfully. She breaks away from his grasp and shuffles across the ice in shoes wrapped in rags, glancing back, hoping he will follow. He does and grabs her arm by the steps that go to the embankment walk.
The Authors Note:
Between 1609 and 1814, the surface of the river Thames froze over twenty-four times. Londoners marked some of these occasions with Frost Fairs, erecting market stalls, playing games and cooking meat on the icy surface of the river. Holly’s Dream is set in 1814, the year of the last frost fair, during the reign of ‘mad’ King George III. It was the year before the Battle of Waterloo, where the Duke of Wellington and his allies finally put an end to Napoleon’s dream of a European empire ruled by France and cemented Britain’s rise as a major military power.
The story centres on the abduction or purchase of poor children to work under strict supervision in return for board and lodgings, a common practice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Children would be trained to make household goods or be forced to work at a range of jobs from house maids to chimney sweeps. The most unfortunate would have been the victims of sexual abuse or forced into prostitution.