generations of one family feature in the three books published by Wunjo
Press; daughter, father and grandfather. The stories are about how
people cope when tested to the limit by life’s vicissitudes – in my family’s
case we seemed to have reacted with humour, persistence, irreverence and, if it
isn’t too politically incorrect, a fair degree of ‘Englishness’!
An Evil Boy
I finally persuaded my ageing father to write his memoirs; he was a Spitfire pilot in Burma, subsequently a test pilot and a bit of an aviation pioneer. He found a suitable small publisher but unfortunately a year down the line and at point of publication the gentleman disappeared with the original MS, photos and £6,000.
Dad was philosophical but I was angry on his behalf, and wondered how many other war veterans had been duped in this manner. Luckily I was able to recreate the photos and text and there was nothing for it but to start my own publishing company so I could do justice to a brave man. An Evil Boy is a testament to him and people like him, those unsung heroes of our time. Our world is richer and safer because of them.
An Evil Boy rolled off the press in 2004 to great reviews. And I was rewarded by the look on my father’s face. A modest man, he had found it hard to believe that his story would appeal to a wider audience.
Curiously, I had just finished writing my own autobiographical book Shoestring Warrior documenting our fight to save a centuries-old ruined farmhouse in Devon and for which I had just landed a publishing contract. However, after about 10 months and at final proof stage, the publisher decided to concentrate on his bread-and-butter, academic books. So, in 2005, Wunjo Press acquired its second title.
Soft Words Butter No Parsnips
I wrote Soft Words Butter No Parsnips for my grandfather not just because he had left me with all his papers, but also he was an ordinary person who inspired many tens of thousands of people. His life was theoretically ruined by having cancer of the larynx but he turned it to advantage by becoming a figurehead for people similarly afflicted - 55 years a neck-breather was a Guinness world record!
My mother grew up in a tiny cottage that 70,000 service-people proudly called “a home from home” in the Second World War years and it was there that she met my father convalescing after a near-fatal aeroplane crash in 1946. Soft Words was published in late 2008. A blue plaque honouring both John Iliffe Poole and Glen Cottage was unveiled in 2009.
See Sayings if you’re curious about the title and the other little sayings that appear on every other page of the book.