South Shields author aims to bring past to life with latest novel

John Orton has published his third book
John Orton has published his third book

A South-Shields-born author has recreated the lives of ordinary working folk in the area from a century ago.

John Orton, who has been dubbed the Catherine Cookson of our time, has just published his third book.

Studley Stairs

Studley Stairs

‘A Chill Wind off the Tyne’ is set in Shields in the early 1900s - a time of hardship through the Great Depression, of the pit lockouts of 1921 and 1926, and the race riots of 1919 and 1930 when Arab and white sailors fought in the streets.

John said: “I felt there were a few stories left untold from The Five Stone Steps.

“So many people have enjoyed reading the tales of old South Shields, that I decided to mix some familiar characters and introduce some new ones.”

He added: “I particularly wanted to focus on the lives of ordinary working folk, how they survived hardship by sticking together, and tell the tales of life and love, of boozers, and pitch and toss schools, of bare knuckle fights in the back lanes; the days when there were no five a day fruit and vegetable but when you ate bread and dripping, tripe, brawn and cow heel pie.”

The book includes photographs from South Tyneside's archives

The book includes photographs from South Tyneside's archives

The book features characters from his first book, The Five Stone Steps, which was based on the memoirs of Thomas ‘Jock’ Gordon, a Shields bobby who went on to become Station Sergeant.

Like John’s previous two books includes photographs from South Tyneside’s archives.

The book has also won praise from a former school friend from their days at the South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys.

Professor Robert Colls, professor of cultural history at De Montfort University, said:”Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction but in A Chill Wind Off the Tyne John Orton manages to mix them in ways that dramatise working-class lives during the 1930s.

Thomas 'Jock' Gordon

Thomas 'Jock' Gordon

“He is Catherine Cookson for our times – and far better on the social history.”

•A Chill Wind off the Tyne, which is published by Tyneside-based UK Book Publishing, is now on sale.

The book includes photographs from South Tyneside's archives

The book includes photographs from South Tyneside's archives