A selection of waterways related books for your interest, information and entertainment. Where possible we have included book reviews, and have a special feature on a particularly popular author each season.
If you have a favourite waterways book or author, please let us know by writing to the editor.
Highlighted Author - Michael Nye
michael nye talks about his new (and older) books
When I began writing my first book, “Mayfly” I thought it was the one book that we’re all supposed to have in us. Having just published my 6th book “The Reed Cutter” I am just about getting used to the fact that the old maxim is slightly less than accurate! I prefer to call the books a family rather than a series because, whilst loosely chronological they were written to be readable singly or, more or less, in any order.
This latest book is a step into a new generation, with my original two characters, Jim Stratton and Amanda Donaldson appearing by their influence rather than their names. The book follows the adventures of Lois Turner (who first appears in the fifth book “The Ballad of Masie and Linda”) as she makes discoveries about wrongdoings that have affected hers and the life of other people. As she sets about righting some of these (in her own unique way) she discovers more about herself than the ever thought she would.
Writing of each new book gets a little bit more complex as they interact with established characters whose actions have to be both in character and in keeping with the history of the (unrelated) clan of folk that I appear to have created over the past seven years. Where I started out with two main characters (plus a handful of supporting ones) in Mayfly, over seven years, this number has now gone over fifty (with even more supporting roles) and a timeline that spans over 90 years.
When I was sufficiently into the writing of Mayfly, I decided that I was going to do pretty much all of the work myself (apart from some proofreading and final printing). I chose watercolour as a medium and all covers are done larger than life (usually A2) using old Reeves and Winsor & Newton paints. Yet again each cover tells its own story by taking references that can be found in the text of the book. Once finished I stick the paintings to the side wall of the house on a day when the light is just right, and then photograph them with a halfway decent digital camera. Originally this was just to see if the images would be suitable when I sent them to the printers, it being my intention to have them professionally copied somewhere. When the word came back that they were absolutely fine as they were, I set about adding titles etc. and enjoying each part of the cottage industry feel that had come about.
Then, once Mayfly was out, I did wonder, “What happened to Jim and Amanda next?” Cue “Here we Go!” which was supposed to tie up the loose ends. It did but produced a load of its own which I addressed in “Emily’s Journey.” Which again it did but there were a few more loose ends to deal with for Jim and Amanda as well as the new characters of Emily and Deborah that first appear in “Here we Go!” In short, I have a whole clan of friends stomping around my brain and I’d miss them if they weren’t there. I do sometimes think I should charge them rent but they are mostly quite tidy people and they do pay me back with their stories. I sometimes do feel that my characters are actually dictating the tales to me, which is just a tad worrying (on account of the fact that they don’t exist). I remember one episode of Mayfly which unravelled itself in a far different way that I’d got planned because Jim and Amanda had other ideas. After six books (with another in preparation for publication next year) I should be used to this but when Lois, on the spur of a moment, made what amounted to a major decision in “The Reed Cutter,” I was pretty much completely blind sided by it. Each time I read through during the edit process I thought “Did I actually write that?” but was put off changing it by Lois (who, let’s remember is a fictional character) peering menacingly over my shoulder. But it’s OK, Lois, it’s still there as you dictated it to me and as, no doubt, it really happened in the space that you occupy in your world!
The “Mayfly” family of books so far are; Mayfly, Here we Go! Emily’s Journey, Nearwater, The Ballad of Masie and Linda and The Reed Cutter. All of the books have river, canal and even a little bit of seawater flowing through the thread of the story, but I do hope that their appeal goes beyond their being books for waterways enthusiasts. They are available from my website (which links to Amazon and Kindle)
WHY NOT READ MICHAEL'S LATEST ARTICLE FOR OUR MAGAZINE - CLICK HERE
Highlighted Author - David Robertson
David Robertson lives close to the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal at Hinksford. He is a regular contributor for CanalsOnline Magazine, and writes with a great sense of humour, making his articles highly enjoyable. Dave has also written plays for Radio, short stories and some poetry - quite apart from being an ardent blogger.
Dave is most famous, however, for his series of books for children. The Misty books are about the adventures of Dave's border collie Misty and her doggie friends. At the moment there are three Misty books published.
The first in the set is called 'Dognapped', and is based on a canal boat adventure. Misty and her friends board a narrowboat after hearing a mournful cry from within. No sooner do they find the source of the cry than they realise that the boat is moving...
Stunningly illustrated by Ian R Ward, 'Dognapped' reached the final of the 2017 People's Book Prize, thus making it one of the very best children's books in the country.
YOU CAN READ DAVID'S ARTICLES PUBLISHED FOR THIS MAGAZINE BY CLICKING HERE
Highlighted author - Kitty Irvine
I was born and grew up in the north of England. From an early age, my parents were heavily involved in Scouting, so I spent many weekends and school holidays camping and sailing. My family holidays were spent in the north west of Scotland. I suppose this is where I get my love of wildlife and countryside.
Luckily, I meet an amazing man who loved the countryside as much as I do and in the early 1990’s we sold our house and moved to the Isle of Mull. We didn’t have anywhere to live, just an address of someone who had a spare annex to his house! We lived there for approximately ten extremely happy years. Life was fabulous. We lived basically on the side of a hill, collected our wood to burn and our water supply came from the closest ‘burn’. We both learnt many life skills and discovered that we could achieve many things.
We were both offered work as custodians of a castle on the island. Our skills came in very handy and we found we enjoyed caring for the owners and visitors and the castle itself.
I studied and gained diplomas in hospitality, housekeeping, tourism etc. I was asked to join the UK’s Housekeepers Association.
The owners of a local country house asked me to join their staff as Housekeeper. From then, the country house was awarded 10 stars with the Scottish Tourist Board for Housekeeping and Front of House Management. I was asked to become a Hotel Inspector for the Scottish Tourist Board – but I declined. A few years later the owners of the country house unfortunately decided to retire but my husband and I were approached by a local landowner of a 1440 acre shooting estate just off the island to run the estate for him.
So started our amazing life ‘in service’. We were lucky enough to live a very privileged lifestyle and travelled with our employment. We have met and worked for famous and very wealthy people but after 20 years we decided to take early retirement. So, it was out with the Louboutin’s and in with the Gummies!
Our widebeam barge is the first canal boat we had been on. We travelled around Europe looking for the ‘perfect’ boat to be our home and then found her by accident at Reading!
Luckily, I have loved every minute of it. Living on the water brings you so close to nature and you can see such wonderful and amazing things that nature shows us. Our ‘community’ of fellow boats all have their own history and reasons for living on the water. I think we all have a healthy respect for each other. The sense of community is wonderful. This is something I feel, has been sadly lost in ‘normal’ life.
We continuously cruise on the canals and are still finding new villages to explore. We are always ready to move within the 14 days, neither my husband nor myself could now imagine going back to living in a house again!
I become a writer...
My writing started one day as we walked along the canal towpath with our dog. The idea came to me of a very small magical canal boat that was huge on the inside, taking children on adventures along the canals started to work into a story.
In the ‘Mouse’ books I have tried to describe the thrill of seeing your first Kingfisher as it flies along the canal as straight as an arrow or the beautiful sight of a mother duck and her brood of ducklings following behind her as they make their way along the canal. The stories help children use their imaginations as they encounter life on the canals. The first time I saw a Kingfisher is something I will never forget. In the books I have tried to include many of the boats that we see. Whitwell 695, Isamard and the only ‘baddie’ in the collection of stories is called ‘Black Bart’ and that is after a boat called Black Bartholomew!
I had never written a book before so when the manuscript was accepted by a publishing house, no one was more surprised than me! Unfortunately, the publishers took over a year to get the book ready and their ideas of marketing, advertising etc were not what I had hoped for. Their web site was not exactly truthful either, so I fought to have my contract cancelled.
Thankfully, my books are now my own again and self funded. I write and send them to a wonderful editor who can make sense of it all and put everything together for me.
The fourth ‘Mouse’ book in the collection was released in November 2019. The books have received fabulous five-star reviews on Amazon and other selling sites. People we meet on our travels tell us how their children have read their copies several times. The books are written in plain easy to understand English and have been likened to the style of Enid Blyton.
I have been busy writing other children’s books. Some of the characters from one of the Mouse books, Tippy and Tilly now have their own book called ‘Willowwood Snug’.
This is the most sun-shiniest, happiest place to be. Everyone is happy and they live in little houses in the trees. All the girls dress the same in green jumpers, brown skirts and brown leather shoes that turn up at the front. The girls all have their hair plaited with a coloured ribbon. The ribbon colour changes as the girls grow up. The boys all wear brown trousers, green jumper and brown leather shoes that turn up at the front. Once a boy is old enough, he can smoke a small clay pipe!
Snugers spend their days going to school, looking after their cluckens (chickens) and playing the in the sunshine.’
This book helps children with their first day at school and how exciting it can be.
I have also written a book for young girls about the struggles of an average girl and how, when you ‘do the right thing’ something magical can happen to you.
‘The Trials of Eddi Dutch’
This is a tale of a clumsy teenage girl who is plain, flat chested and wears glasses but her best friend is gorgeous. Poor Eddi is extremely clumsy and gets herself into some terrible situations. Not what you would expect for princess material.
Eddi lives in Bugbrook, a small village with an old tale. It states that a girl who is the third daughter of a third daughter of a third daughter will marry a prince, but she must complete a set of trials to prove herself. Poor Eddi is the one!’
I have a web site for people to visit www.kittyirvine.com
So that is Kitty Irvine!
Basingstoke Canal inspires new children’s book
A science-writer-turned-author is creating a new children’s book inspired by the true story of the Basingstoke Canal.
It is called Skip’s Waterway and it’s written and illustrated by Jenny Pateman, who lives near the canal and volunteers with the Basingstoke Canal Society. Ms Pateman originally wrote the book for her two children.
“My children love cycling, canoeing and exploring along the canal – it’s such a beautiful green space where they can experience the kind of freedom that is sadly all too scarce for children of today. I wanted to write a book for them that captured that spirit of adventure, while teaching them something of the fascinating history and engineering of their canal too.” Ms Pateman said. “They really enjoyed it and that made me wonder if other kids would like it too.”
The book is aimed at children aged 5 and up.
Jenny shared a synopsis of the story with us.
When the dilapidated but beautiful Basingstoke Canal is threatened with closure, young Emma and her crew embark on an audacious expedition to save it.
The adventurers must navigate Baisey the talking narrowboat to the end of the canal at Basingstoke, but time is running out.
Along the way they uncover fascinating engineering, find an untamed wilderness and Emma even earns herself a new nickname – “Skipper”, or Skip for short.
Just a mile from Basingstoke the canal runs dry, leaving the expedition well and truly stuck in the mud. With time almost up, will Skip and her crew find a way out of their sticky situation? How can they save the canal now?
order your copy now
Jenny is now taking advance orders for the book via her Kickstarter page. This will raise the funds to get the first edition printed and published, before it goes on sale more widely in shops and online (backers pay nothing until the book goes to print). A donation will go the Basingstoke Canal Society.
“My hope is to encourage more families to visit and enjoy the Canal as mine does, and to raise money to help preserve this beautiful green space for future generations.”
Ms Pateman says she hopes the book will be the first in a series she writes based on true stories from the Basingstoke and other canals.
About the Canal:
The Basingstoke Canal is a beautiful waterway that runs for 32 miles across Surrey and Hampshire. The canal is both a popular recreational amenity for the community and an important wildlife habitat. It was restored from a derelict state in the 1970s and 80s by hundreds of volunteers. Most of the waterway has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) since 1995. The Canal originally continued to Basingstoke (a total distance of 37 miles), but is not been passable beyond Greywell (Hampshire) since the Greywell Tunnel collapsed in 1932.
About the author:
Jenny Pateman lives in Odiham, Hampshire. She volunteers with the Basingstoke Canal Society as Editor of the Canal Bulletin and social media administrator.
The Skip’s Waterway Kickstarter crowdfunding page is live until Wed, October 16 2019:
Some popular waterways books...
In the beginning there was the Plan. And like all good plans it was thoroughly researched and meticulously, erm, planned, and with various alternative back-up plans in place.Then The Plan meets The Canal - eventually you come to realise that plans mean nothing! They pale into insignificance and wither away like an ethereal dream. Plans and "Living the Dream" on a narrowboat are polar opposites, the Ying and Yang of existence. You encounter Canal Time - that special dimension where the Spanish phrase Mañana would be appropriate, except Canal Time does not countenance such a sense of urgency! Take the title of this book, for example. How to describe the circumstances where a canal journey of 149 miles and 51 locks in around 2 weeks, actually took four months, 650 miles (including a tidal river) and 441 locks. (oh, and losing 2 waist sizes in the process)? An essential read for anyone who is contemplating buying and living on a narrowboat - to learn how *not* to do it. Stop Press: - I have just had a serious telling off! Book cover design and artwork by the lovely Lesley Pearson
(Picture & blurb taken from Amazon, although written by Rob Pearson...)