SIX NEW NORFOLK BOOKS - from gin to cycling

On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes by Stephen Browning

On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes by Stephen Browning - Credit: Pen and Sword Books

Six spring books with a Norfolk flavour

DETECTIVE NON-FICTION

Follow in the famous fictional footsteps of Sherlock Holmes as Norwich author Stephen Browning tracks detective through London alleyways and across Britain. 

He has hunted down every location visited by Holmes and Watson in the novels by Arthur Conan Doyle and includes a series of fascinating walks through London. 

He also traces the author’s inspirations outside the capital – including a trip to Happisburgh. Staying at the Hill House Hotel, Holmes was fascinated by pictures of dancing men, which the proprietor’s children used as a secret code language. He wrote part of his story The Adventure of the Dancing Men at the hotel. 

During his stays in north Norfolk the author probably came across the tales of terrifying hell hound, and harbinger of death, Black Shuck (possibly the model for The Hound of the Baskervilles.) He also enjoyed playing golf - perhaps at Sheringham Golf Club where there was a member called Moriarty... 

On the Trail of Sherlock Holmes by Stephen Browning is published by Pen and Sword Books 

The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin From the 17th Century to the Present Day by Angela Youngman

The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin From the 17th Century to the Present Day by Angela Youngman - Credit: Pen and Sword Books 

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GINSPIRED

Gin is enjoying a remarkable renaissance – now its story from the 17th century to the present day is told by a Norfolk author. 

The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin explores the history of the drink, ranging from links with poison and murder to 21st century distilleries repurposed to produce hand-gel in the battle against coronavirus. Gin was the original Dutch courage and mothers’ ruin and there is drama, disaster, crime and royal patronage in its story as its fortunes lurch from being hugely popular to deeply unfashionable – and back again. 

It all began with a clear spirit called genever, made from malted grain in the Netherlands and Belgium. Famous names associated with gin include Winston Churchill and Noel Coward as well as Jack the Ripper and the Krays. But the biggest gin drinkers in the world are not Brits – either heroes or villains – but Filipinos.   

The Weird and Wonderful Story of Gin From the 17th Century to the Present Day by Angela Youngman is published by Pen and Sword Books 

My Village in the Valley

My Village in the Valley - Credit: Crumps Barn Studio

A playwright and BBC drama editor who wrote scripts for children’s television series Rainbow and once worked on The Archers is delighted to have made his print debut.  

“After 40 plus years of writing professionally but all my work being ephemeral (radio plays, TV, theatre) it is very exciting to actually see my name in print,” said Michael Bartlett, who lives in a village in the Waveney valley near Harleston.  

His two collections of short stories are Personal Islands, focusing on solitude, and My Village in the Valley, a light-hearted look at village life. He said it is definitely not about his own village or neighbours but added: “I am always alert to a chance remark, a chance action which can be noted and then used as a starting point for a story.”  

There are storylines around rat-running, reclaiming disappearing footpaths and the village fete. “Common enough problems, but nothing in the life of this village is ever quite simple,” said Michael.   

My Village in the Valley and Personal Islands by Michael Bartlett are published by Crumps Barn Studio   

Cycling East Anglia by Huw Hennessy

Cycling East Anglia by Huw Hennessy - Credit: Bradt Guides

CYCLE LANES

A new cycling guide to East Anglia offers 21 rides for beginners and leisure cyclists in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. 

Each ride includes comprehensive directions, plus information on local history, wildlife and culture and is linked to the relevant Ordnance Survey map, National Cycle Network route and a navigation app. 

Most of the rides are a little under 20 miles long and most are loops – and can be linked for cyclists looking for longer routes. They range from leisurely rides through lanes and villages to challenging mountain bike circuits. 

Norfolk locations along the routes include Sandringham, Wells, Holkham, Norwich, the Norfolk Broads, Thetford Forest and Diss. Author Huw Hennessy has loved cycling all his life and cycled around countries from France to Colombia as well as the UK. He has done a lot of cycling in Norfolk on visits to family and particularly loves the north coast between Cromer and Holkham and the southern Broads.   

Cycling East Anglia by Huw Hennessy is published by Bradt Guides  

Big Blue Sky by Barrie Lawrence

Big Blue Sky by Barrie Lawrence - Credit: Barrie l

EXTRACTING HUMOUR

Barrie Lawrence distils his 70-year love affair with Norfolk in his latest book. 

Characters include his own childhood friends as well as ranging from Boudicca to Bernard Matthews and Nelson to the Singing Postman. 

He promises Norfolk facts, figures and stories “and a few silly Norfolk jokes.” Coypus, Scottish drovers and Huguenots are also involved. 

Barrie was born in Norfolk and grew up in the years immediately after the Second World War, with a great love of local wildlife (so much that he carried mice in his pockets and kept leeches in his bedroom). 

After being afraid of going to the dentist he decided he would like to be a (friendly and pain-free) dentist. He eventually had his own surgery in Norwich, and then Aylsham, and also ran a bookshop in Aylsham. His previous books include anecdotes from his dentistry days and ences as a dental surgeon and his Christian faith. 

Big Blue Sky, A Celebration of Norfolk by Barrie Lawrence 

The Summer Fair by Heidi Swain

The Summer Fair by Heidi Swain - Credit: Simon and Schuster

  

HAPPY EVER AFTER

Norwich’s fictional Nightingale Square is the setting for another feelgood novel by Heidi Swain. 

Heidi, who lives in South Norfolk, was working as a teaching assistant in Long Stratton when she entered her first novel in a competition – and won a publishing contract. 

That was eight years ago and she has gone on to write many more novels – one of which became a Sunday Times bestseller. 

Most of her books are set in a fictional version of Norfolk. The latest stars Norwich care home worker Beth who moves from an unhappy house share into lovely Nightingale Square. When she needs help with a fundraiser for the care home her new neighbours rally round – and the event is so successful she is asked to help out with a campaign to save the local music centre. There are old wounds and secrets to resolve before the sunshine and celebrations can return 

The Summer Fair by Heidi Swain is published by Simon and Schuster on May 12