Gibsons writer Ron Hemmings has taken on a lot in his first novel, The Crooked Timbers, about a young Canadian journalist working in London in 1940 who delves into a sinister plot.
As the story goes, German bombs are falling almost nightly on the besieged city, creating more than enough stories of misery and courage for protagonist Jeremy Wilde to report on for his Montreal newspaper. But Wilde then learns from his girlfriend that Jewish refugees who had fled to England from Nazi-occupied Europe are going missing.
Who is responsible? Is their disappearance connected to their escape from the Continent, and could British crooks, corrupt officials, and even the esteemed Royal Air Force all somehow be involved?
The themes and cast of a dozen characters made for a formidable writing project for author Hemmings, who is not a writer by trade, or even by hobby. Until his retirement in 2016, Hemmings taught mathematics for decades.
“I don’t come from a family of writers,” Hemmings said in an interview. “But I’ve always read a lot in that [Second Word War] genre just because the topic interests me.”
With retirement, he also found sufficient time for such a task. “Some people will take up painting and some people will do other things. I thought I’d take up a writing project.”
Hemmings hasn’t joined any Coast writing groups but has relied on how-to books about composing fiction, and on his wife and first reader, Coleen Creamer. “She was a fantastic editor,” Hemmings said. “She would read and say, ‘This has got to go’, or ‘This is too slow, cut that out.’”
The editor at the self-publishing company FriesenPress also lent a hand, Hemmings added, catching a few mistakes and inspiring him to rewrite the book’s ending.
The novel is hefty at just over 500 pages, but moves along at a good pace in a clear and readable style with brief chapters rarely longer than three or four pages. Hemmings also has included an epilogue, which neatly ties up the fate of all the story’s major players.
The Crooked Timbers is available at Talewind Books in Sechelt, Indigo Granville in Vancouver, and digitally on all major e-reader platforms.