Thames Valley Tales by Tim Walker is a light-hearted yet thought-provoking collection of nine stories by Tim Walker. These tales are based on the author’s experience of living in Thames Valley towns, and combine contemporary themes with the rich history and legends associated with an area stretching from the heart of rural England to London.
The collection includes The Goldfish Bowl, in which an unlikely friendship is struck between a pop star and an arms dealer in Goring-on-Thames; Maidenhead Thicket, where the ghost of legendary highwayman, Dick Turpin surprises a Council surveyor; The White Horse intrigue surrounding the dating of the famous chalk carving on the Berkshire Downs; Murder at Henley Regatta, a beguiling whodunit, and The Colnbrook Caper, a pacey crime thriller. Thames Valley Tales starts with The Grey Lady, a ghost story from the English Civil War, and features The Merry Women of Windsor in a whimsical updating of Shakespeare’s classic play. The Author’s Note explains the context and reasoning behind each story.
Nigel and Jan stop over at the charming, rustic Rose Revived Inn at Witney on the upper reaches of the river Thames, unaware that it is the anniversary of a bloody skirmish that took place there during the English Civil War…
“Here you go sir, I’ll let you in with my pass key. Will you be alright now?” Bill whispered in a well-practiced hotelier manner.
“Erm, what time is it? How long was I out?”
“Only a couple of minutes, sir. I was there shortly after I heard you fall. ‘Praps I shouldn’t have topped up your brandy. In you go sir.” Bill held the door open and ushed Nigel into his room.
“Thank you, I’ll be fine,” Nigel said as he pushed the door closed and staggered to the bed, seeing the sleeping form of Jan by the light of the bedside lamp. “Go to bed, take two. Brandy and ghost stories are a bad combina-shun,” he mumbled as he kicked off his shoes, wrestled his shirt off, pulled down his trousers and dropped into bed, oblivious to the swirling grey fog outside, shrouding the ancient stone bridge and extending its tentacles to the Rose Revived.
Then my husband is still. I cry out. The two men look up from their evil work and are upon me. I am too terrified to move. They seize me roughly by the arms and drag me past the bloody body of my beloved, onto the bridge. One of the villainous Roundheads, stinking of sour ale, tells me, “You and your husband have harboured Cavaliers in your Inn and plotted against our Master Cromwell. Now you will suffer the same fate as your husband – death to all Papists!”
With that, he draws his knife across my throat and I swoon, feeling my warm blood spill down the front of my night dress. ‘Oh God, dear Jesus, receive me’, I try to say, but a bloody gurgle is my final sound as they push me over the stone wall. Down, down I tumble, through the cold night air, my lifeblood oozing between my fingers; spinning downwards, silently into the rippling embrace of the river.
My last thoughts are for my children. What will happen to my beloved Geoffrey and sweet Annabelle? I must search for them. The cold waters envelope me and a ribbon of silver lights the way to my watery grave. I will not rest until I have found my children, and know they are safe.
“I’m giving it a five-star rating on Trip Adviser, Nigel. It was clean, comfortable and perfectly located. What do you think?”
Nigel groaned and blinked at Jan. She was already dressed.
“Whatever you say, dear. I need a shower. Perhaps wait until after breakfast to post a review? And I want to see if there’s a loose carpet rail at the top of the stairs.”
“Why? What happened to you? Oh dear, you’ve got a nasty bruise on your forehead.” She sat on the bed and moved to touch it. He pulled back and delicately rubbed the bump.
“Well, I either tripped and fell down the stairs, or the Grey Lady pushed me,” he moaned.
Jan laughed. “Who on earth is the Grey Lady?”
“That’s precisely it. She’s not of this earth. She’s the ghost of the old innkeeper’s wife from the time of the civil war.”
Jan gave him her best sympathetic look. “I’m worried by the increase in frequency and… strangeness of your dreams, dear, although I must confess that I also dreamt of a transparent ghostly figure last night. Unusual for me. It must be a combination of drink and the menacing fog as we crossed the bridge. Come on; let’s get you into the shower. You smell like a brewery.”
“More like the wet floor of a cellar lined with oak-casks of brandy, fermented by monks in the Dark Ages with nothing better to do and matured over centuries.”
“You’re right,” Jan smiled, pulling him towards the bathroom, “I’ll hold off from posting on Trip Adviser until after breakfast, and further investigation into the cause of your midnight tumble. Perhaps I could add a line on the resident ghost – the mysterious Grey Lady. An essential stop on the Ghost Tour of Old England.”
From The Grey Lady one of the Thames Valley Tales
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. After graduating, he moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business. He returned to the UK in 2009.
Tim’s creative writing journey began in earnest in 2014, as a therapeutic activity whilst recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, inspired by a visit to the site of a former Roman town. The series connects the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend and is inspired by historical source material, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
Book one is Abandoned (second edition 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017) and Uther’s Destiny (2018). The last two books in the series, Arthur Dux Bellorum (2019) and Arthur Rex Brittonum (2020) cover the life of an imaged historical King Arthur.
He also found the time to write three books of short stories and verse, and a three-book children’s series, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, with his daughter, Cathy.
In 2021 he published a dual timeline historical novel, Guardians at the Wall. This was inspired by visits to Vindolanda and Corbridge at Hadrian’s Wall, and concerns the efforts of archaeologists to uncover evidence and build a narrative of the life of a Roman centurion in second century Britannia… and find his missing payroll chest.
Should Thames Valley Tales audiobook find an audience, he plans to follow up with a second audiobook, London Tales, for 2024 release.
You can find Tim on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads and his own website.
Thames Valley Tales second edition, is available in audiobook, Kindle e-book and paperback from Amazon worldwide, and can also be found on Kindle Unlimited. Audiobook also on Apple i-books. Audiobook narrated and produced by actor, author and playwright Richard James who has been appearing on stage and screen for over thirty years. Most recently, he played a guest role in Miss Scarlet & The Duke for PBS and Alibi Films and was nominated for ‘Best Supporting Performance’ at the Off West End Awards for his roles in A Sherlock Carol at the Marylebone Theatre. Richard is on Twitter as @RichardNJames.
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