FIRST-TIME novelist Ken Reay is aiming for a best seller – with a little help from The Gazette.
Ken, 63, used back copies of the paper to research life in South Shields during the First World War for his book, Hot and Godless Days.
The grandfather-of-four, of Horsley Hill Road, South Shields, has had his story, which follows the interconnected lives of three men and women living in the town published on Amazon Kindle.
Ken said: “I’m very proud. A lot of hard work has gone into it, anyone who’s written a book will tell you it’s quite hard work.
“I’m really delighted and feel very proud.”
Hot and Godless Days follows miner Matty and his sister Bella, fisherman Stan and his wife Flora, and rich man Henry and his lover Sarah.
Ken said: “The three men go off to fight in the war for different reasons and the three women are left behind on the home front and each have their own adventures.
“Sarah volunteers to be a nurse on the Western Front in an attempt to find Henry, so there’s a bit of a love story there too and people who have read it say it’s quite erotic.
“There’s also a bit of suspense because you don’t know who is going to survive the war and come home.”
Ken, a playwright whose show The Butcher’s Bill appeared at the Customs House in 2005, began working on the book in the 1990s.
He said: “I had interest from some top agents when I sent them some words, but by the time I sent them the finished book, Sebastian Faulks had published Birdsong, which was storming up the charts and was set in the same time.
“He’d got in there before me unfortunately, so I stuck it in a drawer and just recently got it back out and a colleague helped me edit it.
“I got the idea for it because one of my great uncles fought in the First World War and he told me lots of stories and gave me some books with stories about that time, and I became fascinated with it.”
Ken, who also co-wrote musical The Machinegunners with Tom Kelly and John Miles, added: “I wanted to research what life was like in South Shields at that time.
“I went to South Shields Central Library and looked through old copies of the Gazette on microfilm.
“It was a really useful source. I read a lot of books about the war as well but all the stuff about living in that time I learned from the Gazette.
“It was a brilliant resource for learning about how much things cost and what was available then.
“There’s a scene in the book where the characters are watching horse racing on the beach in South Shields, and I learned about that by reading the Gazette.
“If the sales go well and I get enough publicity, I’d love to see hard copies of my book published, and if it is, I’ll definitely be giving an acknowledgement to the Gazette.”
Hot and Godless Days can be downloaded on Amazon Kindle for £3.95. Those without a Kindle can download an app for free on their phone, tablet or computer.