Write on in Hastings – Andy Clancy
Local author and retired police officer Andy Clancy has always been a fan of historical fiction. His first novel Sullivan’s War became an amazon best-seller with a raft of 5-star reviews. Now he has a second novel published by Pegasus. A Smuggler’s Tale is set in an imagined post-napoleonic wars hastings overrun by a smuggling gang. HIP literary editor Pete Donohue cornered Andy in an underground sandstone interview room to get his confession.
Like so many other people I came to Hastings over 20 years ago and decided this was the place I wanted to live. The sea of course, the old town, where do I finish with everything the place has to offer? I liked it then and I love it now, for me there’s nowhere else I want to live.
I took up writing several years ago and became a published author. Once on this path I’ve never had a problem finding ideas for new novels but I always wanted to write a story about the town that has become my home. Sometimes in life the best ideas are straight in front of you and this is what happened with A Smuggler’s Tale.
I was visiting the Smugglers Adventure tourist attraction on the West Hill with my wife and our young daughter who loved it; ghosts of smugglers, hidden contraband and the fun of finding her way through the hidden tunnels and caves that were dug out by the hands of our forefathers so many years ago.
I thought of the people who were once living there, perhaps working as smugglers, or simply trying to survive. These were real people with hard lives, feelings, experiences and their own stories; maybe it was time for me to tell a story about them?
With these thoughts in mind I sneaked back to the caves on my own and spent several hours there, making notes, taking photos of the various displays and building the structure of a story in my mind. My genre in writing is historical fiction so I determined the novel would centre around several main characters with the subject based on the real experience of smugglers in Hastings. However, while I would pay attention to history, I decided it would be a work of historical fiction not a detailed historical study of smuggling in Hastings.
The story is based on two men both from Hastings who have served in the British Army for a number of years fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. In my research I found that there was a Sussex Regiment that fought at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and this is where the story begins. Despite one of them being severely wounded they survive the carnage of Waterloo and yearn to come back to their home town of Hastings and rebuild their lives again. The reality of their return to England and Hastings is a welcome that does not exist. As is historical fact, the veterans of Wellington’s army came back to find that they were shunned, ignored and endured a life of poverty. Our two veterans in the story are so desperate they attempt to pawn their war medals in a shop in Hastings town and meet a fellow veteran who suggests a way that their skills from the war can make them a living in the main industry the town has – smuggling!
The question of how war veterans are treated and brought back into society and a life without conflict remains relevant today.
The paperback is available to order from Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers, Amazon, Waterstones and to buy direct in store from Waterstones in Priory Meadow, Hastings.
• There will also be a reading of A Smuggler’s Tale at the Printed Matter Bookshop, 185 Queens Road, Hastings on Tuesday 10th April at 6pm.
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