Power-station turbine failure, genealogy and the question of whether marriage will survive in the 21st century may seem an odd mix of themes for a debut novel, but they’re all major elements of a book that came about when chartered engineer and first-time author John Parker needed something to occupy him in the run up to an operation.
‘The West Winford Incident’ started life as a life story, but quickly grew into something much more ambitious. “My novel emerged from the framework of my autobiography,” says Parker. “Having time on my hands whilst waiting to have a pacemaker implanted, I decided to write a short autobiography, which quickly developed into something much more.”
The fictional version begins in the late 1960s as Neil Armstrong takes his ‘giant leap’ onto the surface of the Moon and the Harrison family prepare for a move from Birmingham to rural Wiltshire which, for them, is just as significant.
Dave, father and metallurgist, is starting a new job at the Strategic Supplies Authority. While he immerses himself in this, his wife Sue’s loneliness is exacerbated by his single-minded approach to his work and she finds herself led into the emerging hobby of genealogy.
This provides a welcome distraction from her problems, but does little to ease marital tension. Problems escalate as a catastrophic turbine failure at a Hampshire power station results in the death of a worker and leaves Dave not just fighting to defend his job but with his marriage, future and the lives of others on the line.
“The catastrophic failure at Hinkley Point power station still looms large and provided me with inspiration, but essentially this is a work of fiction,” he says. “I’ve attempted to explain the technical aspects of both the methodology of engineering plant failure and the intricacies of genealogical research in the pre-computer age.”
‘The West Winford Incident’ by John Parker is published by Troubador, price £10.99, ISBN 9781784621070. An e-book is available at £3.99, ISBN 9781784627591.