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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Jonathan Hopkins


Jonathan Hopkins

Jonathan Hopkins

Jonathan Hopkins has had a chequered career, working variously as a delivery boy, riding instructor, relief postman, Butlins cashier, shipping-container cleaner, tobacconist's assistant, bulk tanker loader, wallpaper salesman and fitted kitchen designer. Eventually he settled down to run a small saddlery business with wife Elsa while mucking-out stables and working in an office for good measure.
But the lure of writing, which saw him labour over two unfinished books as a young man, proved too strong. Walls of Jericho, a novel set in the early 1800's, took three years to complete. Jonathan blames the choice of subject on his late father for willing him a boxful of historical swashbucklers, and Bernard Cornwell for writing 'Sharpe.' Of course, a lifetime's association with horses might have had something to do with it.
Born and brought up in the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales, he still lives there.
Oh - and he's currently working on a sequel to Walls of Jericho.ls of Jericho.
See more about Jonathan and his writing at: http://www.cavalrytales.co.uk/index.html

Walls of Jericho – Back Cover Blurb

1808. As Napoleon’s conscript armies smash their way across Europe, a small British expeditionary force lands on the coast of Portugal. Its mission: to support Portuguese efforts to eject the French from their country.
Young cavalrymen Corporal Joshua Lock and Lieutenant the Honourable John Killen disembark with the 20th Light Dragoons. But their unlikely three-year friendship, forged in the aftermath of a near-fatal accident, ends tragically when Lock is killed in a French ambush.
So when his regiment marches to meet the French in battle, will Killen live to honour his father’s memory?
And is Lock really dead?
Chapter 1
Joshua Lock stabbed a grubby forefinger at the book’s yellowed pages. His mouth worked, fish-like, over the text, which bled badly from one gauzy page to the next. Crossly, he pushed unruly brown hair up from his forehead. He was fourteen, now. He could manage the other words, so why not this one? Moving the table nearer the window did not help, either. Lifting the heavy oak was easy; hammering iron had muscled his arms and chest; but there was no moon that night to add to the feeble halo of light cast by his sputtering oil-lamp. He tried again
“Supp…” he began, his lips making an involuntary popping sound at the end. “Supp-or…”
BANG!
Lock’s crashing fist made the old table leap a good inch off the stone floor. Motes of dust rose up from between its thick planks, and the oil lamp teetered precariously. Instinctively he grabbed at it, scorching his fingers on the glass.
“One…”
He fumbled with the lamp, at last righting it on its base. Between stifled oaths he blew furiously on smarting fingers.
“Two…”
His anger was subsiding. His grandfather had taught him the trick soon after his parents died; how to count up to ten before the emotion consumed him and he lost control. Then, he had been angry all the time. Now, he rarely got past
“Three!”
Lock sighed. He felt stupid, for what had angered him was merely a word. He looked at it again, squinting in the lamplight, and ran his finger under it on the page. Supp – something.
The lamp flickered as the door behind him opened and a draught caught the flame. He knew it was his grandfather; Lock could hear the old man’s rasping breath and the slow shuffle of boots over the flags. He straightened on his stool.
“What is it, boy?”
Lock pointed at the damned word. “I can’t read that, Abraham.”
His grandfather picked up the old book with reverence. Its end boards and title page had been lost long ago. Abraham raised it so that it was just a couple of inches from his face, his eyebrows working comically as he strained to read the words in the meagre lamplight.
“Suppurate,” he enunciated the word, a subtle note of pedantry in his tone.
“What’s that mean?” Lock had never heard it before.
Abraham paused, as if in thought. “When a wound fills with pus: means it needs a poultice.” He placed the book down carefully and put his finger under the word. “Look; sup-you-rate,” he said, jabbing each syllable for emphasis. “It’s not difficult.”
Lock snorted. “That’s easy for you to say.”
“You shouldn’t be reading in this light, anyway,” his grandfather scolded. “Do you want to end up with eyes like mine? God made the daylight for reading and the dark for the devil’s work.”
Lock shrugged. He could not see himself ever being as old as his grandfather. But he obediently picked up the book and crossed to the shelf where it was stored, alongside the only other book in the smithy. That was a heavy, leather-bound Bible with faded gold lettering across its wide spine.The word of God. Once, Lock enjoyed its stories, but he never read them now. God had taken his parents, he had been told, so why should God’s word matter to him?  He could go to hell, he thought, feeling no guilt at the blasphemy. There was a piece of oilcloth on the shelf.  He carefully wrapped it around the book he had been reading and placed it alongside the Bible. He still had chores to finish.
It was quiet and still outside the cottage. Ice had begun to form on the surface of the water barrel. Lock stuck a dirty finger into it, tracing a pattern and breaking the thin skin. His breath steamed in the cold air. He walked away from the smithy and down a short track to the meadow where a horse grazed. Earlier, he had left an armful of hay under the hedge. Now he pulled it out, shaking the new frost from it. The horse looked up as he walked towards her, calling, and eventually she ambled over, whickering in recognition. Lock dumped the hay in a pile on the ground in front of her and watched as she took a mouthful and chewed contentedly. She was old, and her coat grew thick at this time of year to keep the cold at bay. As a small child, Lock had been thrown up on her broad back and led around, up and down green pathways, holding tightly to her long mane. When he was older, he had ridden bareback through the woods and meadows, fancying himself an armour-clad knight of old. In his reverie he would charge into battle, standard fluttering from his lance, beating down enemies with a razor-sharp sword to save the lives of kings and princesses. Lock patted the mare’s sway-back affectionately and traced his steps back to the cottage.
Even though he closed the door behind him, cold air still trickled in where its frame warped. He hooked up a piece of thin leather that served as a curtain across the window. The fire was almost out, he saw; if it died now the cottage would be freezing in the morning, which was bad for his grandfather’s chest. But bringing the coals back to life would mean fetching more from the forge inside the smithy next-door, and he decided that tonight he could not be bothered. He looked into the iron pot by the fire containing leftovers of vegetable stew they had eaten earlier in the day. It was cold and congealed. Lock prodded at it with a spoon, but could not bring himself to eat it. There was bread and some cheese in the larder, but if he ate that there would be no breakfast, so he left it. But there would be meat tomorrow, for, with any luck, he planned to go hunting coneys in the afternoon. Rabbit stew for supper! He could almost taste it, and the thought made his stomach growl. He was used to that feeling.
Lock sighed. He would go to bed hungry. Stepping into the back room, he lay down on the cot that served as his bed, but left his boots on when he pulled the blanket up over his head. At least his feet would be warm in the morning.
The Honourable John William Killen stood on the landing that served all of the rooms on the first storey, right at the summit of the staircase. It was a massive structure, with two wide wings which curved downwards into the hallway of Halcombe House. He laid his head on top of the right-hand banister rail and sighted along it. The polished wood was cool against his cheek. This time, he decided, he would go all the way down.
Killen had practiced for weeks when no one was looking. He started low down, near to where the end of the rail curled to meet its final support, and had gradually moved upwards, one stair at a time, until he reached the half-way point. But today was a special day. It was his father’s birthday, and in honour of the event, dinner was to be served in the main dining room. He would sit at the head of the table, below the huge portrait of his father his grandfather had commissioned. Killen felt unworthy of this honour, and had decided that, to deserve it, he must do something bold and reckless; a dare that would surely have made his father proud.
Killen hitched his right leg up so his calf lay across the rail, and shifted his body so that he was half sitting on it. Years of polishing made the banister slippery as ice; that would be a boon once he was moving. He inched his way slowly along to the point where the rail started to fall. Now he could see the whole staircase curving downwards. It looked an awfully long way! Perhaps he should start lower down? No! He had decided he must brave the entire length. Steeling himself, he flicked away the lock of hair that habitually fell across his forehead. He took a deep breath: it was now or never. He wriggled a bit further, and suddenly he was off! Killen wobbled slightly as he accelerated. Then he was whooshing madly down the rail towards the tiled floor below, exhilaration flowing through his frail body. In his excitement, the short journey seemed to last an eternity. He slid past portraits of relatives and ancestors whose stern faces seemed to glare disapprovingly as he flew by. Then suddenly he was at the end. The banister dropped him towards the floor and he landed feet-first, staggering for a couple of steps until he regained his balance. He smiled broadly, for though his heart was hammering he had done it. He had done it!

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