No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
I was born in the middle of an air-raid with my first yells competing with the sound of air-raid sirens and anti-aircraft fire. The fact that this occurred in Kent, in the strategically unimportant Garden of England, whose very name implied a certain bucolic gentleness, seemed lost on the Luftwaffe, who regularly deposited bombs, doodlebugs and burning aircraft onto it, when they were not enjoying themselves, machinegunning cows, sheep, empty fields and the odd hop-picker.
Somehow my father survived the war, despite both Allies and Axis laying considerable odds against that happening and so I had the good fortune of having been brought up by both of my parents but also with a brother, which of course, unfortunately, meant sharing.
I spent a great deal of my childhood reading, which of course made Christmas and birthdays easy for my family. They simply had to get together and remember which book they hadn’t already bought me. I also spent my time listening to a radio (there was no television to begin with until Mrs A just up the road got one on Hire Purchase and the entire street queued patiently to have a look). The advantage of radio was that it both stimulated the imagination and allowed you to tune into a whole host of exotic places around the world, so developing a sense of adventure and curiosity (and geography).
At the tender age of eleven plus, I passed what turned out to be a life changing exam and found myself complete with school cap, uniform, hymn book and a shiny new satchel in a 1950s grammar school where I was assaulted daily with lashings of schoolwork, discipline and rugger. The teachers wore gowns, carried canes (which they used whenever the mood took them) and the boys doffed their caps in the presence of their elders and betters. It was stultifying narrow, socially exclusive, but gave the few boys lucky enough to be there, an entrée into the academic world of the university and the professions. I had however discovered English Literature and the beauty of the English language. So, thank you for that school.
So, accordingly, I left, post sixth form, academically successful, and began work with a gang of Irish labourers on a building site… and there my education really began. I was curious to join in with the real world (as the blisters on my hands soon indicated) and rapidly discovered that there, my ability to decline Latin verbs was of little value. But social skills, hard work and determination were. This was a world where you were regarded for who you were and not what you knew.
It may have been that radio and all those exotic place names or the fact that my father had been something of a hero (amongst heroes) in WW2 (he had been one of the first Allied soldiers to crash-land behind enemy lines in a flimsy glider on the eve of D-Day, 1944) that convinced me to make my next move. By now, I had promoted myself from labourer to the role of gardener and junior gravedigger (as well as seasonal fruit and hop picker) and one lunchtime, found myself volunteering to join the Parachute Regiment of the British Army. I won’t bore you with the selection process, except to say that of my intake, sixty per cent failed to make it. So, I became a fully-fledged paratrooper, serving my country for a year in the mystical deserts of the Middle East and later in a rather bloody civil war in Cyprus. And, not only did I keep a diary, but I began to write. Write home… about a strange, mysterious and at times potentially life-threatening world, whether from thirst or bullets. About the spiritual beauty and isolation of the desert and mountains, of the people and later of abject fear and hatred and terror. And my mother kept all my letters. Of course she did.
Three years later, I found myself in England again, a civilian, with the strange urge to settle down. I applied to a college, became an art student and then a graphic designer based in London. (Very exciting in the 1970s). Later, I took those skills and became a Course Leader and Principal Lecturer at the University for the Creative Arts, giving me the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and experiences to young people. (Also, more travelling, this time to exhort the advantages of the English University system in Europe, Africa, Far East). It was now, that I also first became involved in the professional process of writing by having research papers published. A very specialist form of writing but I can still remember the thrill. Then, I took early retirement. Retrieved the bucket list I had made out when I was eighteen, ticked them off - OK I wasn’t going to play football for England now – bought a saxophone and decided to become a writer.
Initially I attended evening writing classes, which I found hugely useful. It’s one thing writing home to your Mum, another entering the world of the professional writer and it was there that I settled on the theme of my first novel. I decided to write about my family, in particular my mother, Florrie, a very feisty, eccentric, rather bonkers woman and my father, Ted, the D-Day hero. Theirs was, I knew, a fascinating life, within which, war had had a terrible impact.
Pegasus to Paradise. Published by Acorn Press. June 6th 2013.
I also set up a writers group with two writers I met at the class. This turned out to be invaluable. We were all at the same stage in our writing careers and capable of giving each other honest appraisals. We also acted as a common catalyst (useful when the will to write lags a bit). We also became friends. And, I bought a saxophone with history. Handmade in New York in about 1950 and displaying all the requisite wear and tear of many gigs or maybe big bands. Opening the carrying case meant an obligatory intake of age, cigarettes, booze, blues and weed.) Wonderful.
Later, encouraged by the critical success of Pegasus to Paradise, I embarked on my second novel, ‘A Long Dark Rainbow.’ This time the story of relationships towards the end of your life.
A Long Dark Rainbow. Published by The Book Guild 2019.
I have never written to a genre or formula. For me, the purpose of writing is to explore issues that I think are important. To encourage the reader to join in, to consider, reflect, maybe even be changed.
I have been waiting to read this book for a long time, so long that I almost wrote it myself. Thank you Michael Tappenden for saving me the trouble and thank you A Long Dark Rainbow for being a far better read than I could ever have made of it. This is the story of Samantha and Alex, two septuagenarians, who meet each other again by chance after forty-odd years and realise that things could have been a lot different in their lives. Both very damaged by their previous relationships, they contemplate trying again though with serious concerns about the practicalities and fears surrounding self-image, physical capabilities and emotional adaptability. It follows their journey as they define, explore and finally, with mutual support, openness and honesty, expand their boundaries, building a healing and fulfilling relationship. The writing is explicit without being gratuitous or offensive and displays a genuine understanding of how important and difficult personal interactions are at any age but that, with advancing years, there are added dimensions that younger people might not necessarily appreciate. The author chose a quote from the Talmud to preface his work, which sets the tone completely and is very moving. 'For the unlearned, old age is winter. For the learned, it is the season of the harvest'. Readers of a mature age will find much here that will resonate and maybe inspire, whilst younger generations will hopefully see their elders in a different light. An enthralling read, thoroughly recommended. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
Tappenden’s debut work of historical fiction is based on the real-life, World War II–era story of British soldier Ted “Ham and Jam” Tappenden and his wife, Florrie. While one might expect the soldier’s heroic figure to dominate a war tale, here, it’s the soldier’s wife who steals the show. The novel opens with Florrie’s unorthodox tomboy childhood and then portrays the burgeoning relationship between her and Tappenden (then a soon-to-be soldier). Soon they’re married; he’s called to war, and Florrie’s left to navigate the trauma of repeated bombings and uncertainty at home. Meanwhile, Ted miraculously survives his part in the D-Day assault on the Pegasus and Horsa bridges. The actual events of the war skate by fleetingly in the first third of the book, but they color all the rest of it, which is dedicated to Ted and Florrie’s attempts to reignite their connection. He comes home physically unscathed but emotionally absent, and while she at first appears to be the more sound of the two, that changes as the years go on. Tappenden creates some beautiful descriptions, even in the midst of tragedy, as when he describes what Florrie sees after a German plane crashes just two doors down from her house: “[S]he recognised a large piece of red chimney pot lying like a wound amongst the dark green cauliflowers and, nearby, a sliver of tile, razor sharp, was embedded in the trunk of an apple tree.” Tappenden’s best work, however, sometimes gets lost in a penchant for overwrought descriptions. He also skips a few vital reference points, sometimes leaving the reader wondering what decade it is, and he never provides the source material for the story—or how much might be imagined to fill in the gaps. World War II buffs may enjoy a glimpse into the lives of real people not just during, but after the war—and current veterans or those who love them may find the intergenerational similarities intriguing.
1944. In the early hours of the sixth of June, Ted Tappenden and an elite glider-borne force of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, successfully attack and capture the vital Horsa and Pegasus bridges in the first allied assault of D-Day. Ted returns from the war apparently unscathed and a hero. However, a strange England awaits him. It has been through too much, and so has he. As he tries to ease his way back into mundane suburban life with the sweetheart of his pre-war youth, he is silently haunted by the terrors of battle. Domestic life too is not without its threats…Florrie is relieved to have her Ted back where he belongs, but like many of her neighbours, she sees a distance in her husband where once there was joy and passion. Neither husband nor wife can explain their suffering to anyone, least of all each other, and they soon find themselves inhabiting different worlds under the same roof.Based on the true lives of Ted “Ham and Jam” Tappenden and his wife Florrie and spanning three generations of the Tappenden family, Pegasus to Paradise is an ode to both the extraordinary efforts of ordinary men and women during the Second World War and a moving portrait of trauma, survival and the power of love in post-war Britain.