Harthill author Chris Brookes, has chosen the true story of a fascinating Sheffield character, named Walter but dubbed ‘The Street Arab’, for the plot of his new novel, Entanglement of Fate.
Rotherham-born Brookes, originally wrote his story, about a man who became a First World War spy, as a TV screenplay, but contemplated putting it on the back burner when it was rejected by the BBC, who felt it would cost too much to make.
But continued encouragement from his wife saw him turn his screenplay into a novel.
“I always wanted to write a locally-based story,” he explained.
“However, I didn’t anticipate it would evolve into an epic tale of intrigue, mystery, love and lust in Edwardian Sheffield, through to espionage and revenge in the Mesopotamian conflict of the Great War.”
The events of Walter, a deaf, mute criminal, gripped Brookes from the moment his father-in-law recounted a wartime tale to him.
“I started to do some research into the enigma of the man and finally discovered the writing of a police court missionary, Robert Holmes, who befriended Walter,” Brookes recalled.
“His account of Walter’s odd behaviour and fascinating journey through life was all consuming and I wondered why very little was known about him?”
“Then I found out he was given a false name to protect his identity”.
When Brookes sent his screenplay for submission to the BBC, it was ultimately declined for being too cost prohibitive for TV.
“However, the feedback was so positive that I couldn’t just leave it in a drawer to gather dust,” he continued.
“My wife was constantly telling me it would make a great novel and she was right.”
“I began work with development editor, Michelle Goode, to explore adding a love interest set within the old Firvale Hospital, now the Northern General Hospital, and to develop some links to the paranormal.”
That was all two years ago and this month sees the release of Entanglement of Fate, published through Schnauzer Publications.
And the reaction to his work has already been very positive.
“Chris Brookes cleverly keeps you in 1912 and then the Great War with subtle, yet gritty details of early 20th century daily life in his narrative,” said one reviewer.
“He keeps you reading by cunningly intertwining three plots that come together towards the end – this is the entanglement.
“The pace of the story accelerates for the final third of the book that keeps you turning page after page.”
“There are clues to carry you along but I wasn’t prepared for the twist. A gripping and satisfying read.”
“I’m delighted with the early reviews and they really capture the appeal of the novel I hoped to achieve,” noted Brookes.
Brookes will be promoting Entanglement of Fate, and signing copies of it, at WH Smith’s in Sheffield’s Meadowhall Shopping Centre on Saturday, 9th November from 12-2pm and anyone who wishes to come along and have a chat is welcome.