Ipswich author draws on Coastwatch experiences to pen two thrillers
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Thanks to the pandemic, the past 18 months have given many people the spare time needed to finally knuckle down and work on projects they’ve been putting off for some time - or perhaps even pick up new hobbies along the way.
However, in the case of one Suffolk man, he has spent his time so wisely that he’s managed to pen three full-length novels over the last year and a half – with two of them set in Felixstowe.
Ipswich resident Alan Peck first moved to the town in 2006 to be with his second wife Olly. It was around this time that he wrote his first piece of fiction – The Shotley Incident.
“When I first left school, I joined the Navy and trained at HMS Ganges in Shotley back in 1963.”
Also known as Shotley Training Establishment, HMS Ganges was a Royal Navy training establishment that was based in the Suffolk coastal village between 1905 and 1976.
“Years later, I had this idea to write a story that was based on the old Ganges site. I reflected back on my navy days, and that’s how I eventually ended up publishing my first novel, The Shotley Incident.”
Released in 2007, The Shotley Incident follows protagonist Simon Lake, a former boy seaman aboard the historic training ship. When he decides to revisit the now-derelict site four decades later, he stumbles upon the dead body of a young girl. However, Simon soon finds himself at the centre of a high-profile murder enquiry and takes it upon himself to find the killer in order to clear his name.
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Prior to penning The Shotley Incident, Alan had written a number of IT books and also contributed to a handful of IT magazines and newspapers.
But with a taste for novels, Alan soon realised his new calling was in the world of fiction writing.
And while his days in the Navy were long behind him, Alan’s seafaring adventures weren’t to stop just yet.
Shortly after moving to Ipswich, he joined Felixstowe Coastwatch, becoming a senior watchkeeper – and it was this tenure that provided him with the inspiration for his first Felixstowe book, The Watchers.
“We’re a volunteer organisation based from a lookout station at the top of the Martello Tower on the southern end of the seafront. Essentially, we’re looking out for anyone in the sea or on the coastline of the Felixstowe and Harwich area that may be in trouble. It’s really a varied role – it’s not just looking out of the windows. We monitor computer systems, radar screens and CCTV cameras, and listen to all the major marine radio channels.”
His most recent role, paired with the lengthy lockdowns, provided Alan with the perfect recipe that allowed him to embark upon a new literary project.
“I’d say before Covid, I didn’t have much inspiration for another book. But when the lockdown first came into effect last spring, I thought to myself I’d better have something to keep me busy. And that’s how The Watchers came about.”
Loosely based on Felixstowe Coastwatch, The Watchers follows two volunteer watchkeepers who are on shift together when they witness a container ship collide with a yacht.
“Someone gets killed and the two watchkeepers disagree on what exactly happened. Throughout the book there are themes of death, blackmail, and a tangled web of deceit and infidelity.”
His gripping thriller was such a success that Alan’s fans were left wanting more – inspiring him to write sequel, The Watcher’s Vengeance.
“While I wrote the first book during the first lockdown, I then managed to write the sequel during the second lockdown. The Watchers sold quite well, and readers wanted a follow up, which ultimately sees one of the main characters get their comeuppance.
“It’s essentially a tale that picks up where the first book left off, delving into dodgy property deals, international money laundering and use of the Dark Web. One of the characters gets raided by the Serious Fraud Office and so I had to do an awful lot of research to find out how all of these things work.”
Not content with writing just two books during the ongoing pandemic though, Alan has just released The Wilful Florist - his ninth book in total.
“Lockdown gave me the time and concentration needed to write, so I thought why not write a third novel? The conditions were perfect – there was plenty of peace and quiet, and my wife Olly is very supportive. She’s my chief reviewer and first proofreader, and she’s been a huge help throughout.”
A standalone novel, The Wilful Florist is based in Cambridge and centres around Bella, a young florist who devises a plan to steal her boss’ life – including her business, home and husband. “It’s a story of what can be achieved through sheer ruthlessness, but also the perils of riding roughshod over everyone who gets in the way,” Alan explains.
Alan once again drew on his previous life experiences when penning his latest read, as he and his late wife Liz used to run a floristry business in Cambridge many years ago. He has also written two business books for florists – one in conjunction with Saxmundham-based florist and Chelsea gold medallist Jenny Sheppard.
With an impressive nine books under his belt - what are Alan’s plans for the future?
“I’ve been asked to continue The Watchers series, but I think at this stage I’d only consider a third book if we went into another lockdown this winter. But who knows?”
Whatever Alan decides to pen next, we can’t wait to see where this independently published author’s literary adventures will take him.
Who knows – maybe your Suffolk town or village could be the setting for his next book?
The Watchers, The Watcher’s Vengeance and The Wilful Florist are all available from Amazon for £8.99 as a paperback, or £3.99 as an eBook.