Updated: Dec 8, 2020
My first novel The Uganda Sails Wednesday is scheduled for publication by Red Door Press in September 2020; an earlier version was short listed for the Retreat West First Novel Prize in 2018.
Heather Fontwell and her young son set sail to Kenya in 1960 to preserve a secret. As the Uganda and her ex-pat passengers steam through the fag end of Britain’s colonial past, the burden of Heather’s secret becomes ever more onerous. Whilst at his Kenyan tea plantation, husband William discovers corruption and ponders an uncertain future post-independence.
The genesis of the novel was a short story featuring theUganda in a wreckers’ yard in Taiwan. It won the Sentinel Quarterly Short Story Competition where judge Alex Keegan said that the story ‘smelled of writing in a way all judges want all stories to smell. This was the only story to move me and to resonate and linger . . . it has weight, depth, some fine detail, and . . . genuinely created an atmosphere and made me think.’
The story also won a Brighton competition judged by author Lizzie Enfield.
The novel is the first of a planned trilogy charting both the story of the fictional Fontwell family and that of the real ss Uganda from colonial passenger cargo liner, schools’ cruise ship (on which I worked in 1975), to floating hospital during the Falklands conflict.
The Uganda conveyed around half a million passengers plus crew and military from her maiden voyage in 1952 until her final journey in 1986. In any audience I always find one or two who sailed on her, usually as school students, all with a keen interest in knowing more about the ship, suggesting a potential market for this book.