Philip Spires has published
three novels, all available as ebooks, A Search For Donald Cottee, Mission and A Fool's Knot, and a
set of travel stories, Voyagers.
Mission and A Fool's Knot are African novels set in Migwani, Kenya. They
address themes of culture and change in a small town in Kitui province.
The place is real, the events are largely fictitious. A Search For Donald
Cottee is a parody of Don Quixote set in a Benidorm caravan park. The
modern Don seeks to do good in a world of vice, back-biting, spite and
dubious parentage. His Yorkshire mining village origins pursue him.
Voyagers is a set of travel stories where the travelers find out much
Search For Donald Cottee is a comic tragedy about individualism.
Donald, nicknamed Donkey, is an internet Quixote, bent on doing good
works. Donkey Cottee and his wife, Poncho Suzie, have retired to
Benidorm on Spain’s Costa Blanca from their Yorkshire mining village.
Don has left behind his incessant self-education and Suzie has turned
the corner of her illness. Their new life is parked on the La Manca
campsite from where they pursue their ambition of eternal holiday. To
record the precious experience and make its potential paradise
available to all, they blog.
But they can never
escape their Yorkshire origins. Episodes from the past reappear.
Meanwhile, Don’s environmental campaigning and Suzie’s quest for
business success fill their time. However, they discover that friends
are transacting the businesses of their own lives. There is money in
vice, more in property, even more in trading people. In a world where
competition is the norm, where a dog’s only possible diet is another
dog, Don and Suzie are determined to do good works, be honest and
loyal to all, to support what is right. But then, in the final
analysis, when the jigsaw of lives is broken apart, it appears that
perhaps the pieces never did fit. So finally, still trying to do good,
Donkey Cottee and
Poncho Suzie leave us with an enigma. Or is it a riddle?
Voyagers is a set of short stories
loosely based on a theme of travel. Stories such as Strangers,
Protesters and Initiates have been available for some time from article
sites. Now the full set is published in book form. In Brunei, a teacher
discovers his future, while an Australian couple are initiated into a
new culture. Memories of Vietnam come all the way home, while an aid
worker in Sri Lanka seeks advice.
A cultural tour of Italy turns on aesthetics and a dream
journey to Turkey becomes less than wondrous. In the old Yugoslavia, a
group of explorers find that a quiet bar may contain a threat. In
England, an idyllic Devon village reveals lives less than perfect, while
in London an aged writer meets a revolutionary leader with a score to
settle. And in a distant future, but nowhere special, a traveller finds
that not only luggage can go missing.
Michael, a missionary priest in Kenya, has just killed Munyasya, a
retired army officer. It might have been an accident, but Mulonzya, a
politician resentful of the power of foreigners, tries to exploit the
tragedy for his own ends.
Boniface, a young church worker, and his wife, Josephine, have just
lost their child. They did not make it to the hospital in time,
possibly because Michael made a detour to retrieve a letter from the
It was a letter from Janet, a former volunteer teacher who was
the priest's neighbour for two years. It is
the old and now dying man Munyasya who has the last laugh, however,
when he reveals that he was probably in control of events all along.
Thirty years on, the same characters find their lives still influenced
by his memory. Mission charts the lives of people who find themselves
involved in a momentous event. It discovers how they arrived in that
place together and where the event leads them thereafter. Throughout,
the culture of people in eastern Kenya, by virtue their own strength
of identity, transforms the characters, despite the speed at which the
culture is itself changing.
John Mwangangi is an idealist. He turns his back on a
successful legal career in London to return to his home in Migwani, a
small, poor town in eastern Kenya. His ambition is to assist his
country’s development, to create a model that others might emulate.
But in trying to rediscover his roots and his very identity, old
tensions resurface and new battles have to be fought. John gradually
finds himself isolated by irreconcilable demands, excluded from his
own culture, never fully admitted to the one he adopts.
His father seeks proof of his son’s integrity and
insists that John’s daughter be initiated into adulthood, an act that
John’s wife would never sanction. And when the tensions force the
family apart, John finds solace in the company of Janet Rowlandson, a young British volunteer
teacher, who becomes more than a friend. It becomes clear that someone
will try to force the issue.
A Fool’s Knot is
a sensitive portrait of a man’s attempt to reclaim his cultural
identity and, at the same time, stimulate change. The contradictions
he must confront in his campaign against the grinding poverty of his
people lead almost inevitably to conflict.
Martin Offiah's 50 Of The Best is
now available. I have ghosted this rugby league book with Martin for
publication on 1 October 2009. It's a personal selection of 50 of the best
ever tries in the game. Visit the
50 Of The Best page for more details.
I have been a follower of
Wakefield Trinity, aka Wildcats for many years. And I have wanted to write a
book about rugby league ever since I took a small part in the film of This
Sporting Life, Lindsay Anderson's presentation of David Storey's novel. In
one of the crowd sequences filmed in Belle Vue, Wakefield, if you squint
hard enough for the one second of the shot, you can see a ten-year-old lad
in short trousers behind the sticks at the scoreboard end. The game was
Wakefield versus Wigan in the third round of the rugby league cup in 1962,
and Richard Harris and the rest were the curtain raiser, as they tried to
film action sequences in front of that 28,000 crowd. Wakefield won 5-4, try
Smith, goal Fox, against two Griffiths penalties for Wigan. The ten-year-old
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