RETIRED English teacher Peter Cooper has published his first novel, centred around a character ‘stolen’ from Charles Dickens.
Peter, 61, who taught at Fartown High School and Shelley College, based his novel on Insp Bucket from Dickens’ Bleak House.
Bucket is widely regarded as one of the first detectives to appear in English literature, though Peter’s book is more historical thriller than detective story.
Dad-of-two Peter, who was head of English at Fartown for 13 years before ending his career at Shelley in August 2010, had always wanted to write.
Retirement meant he could concentrate on his previously rejected novel, Inspector Bucket and the Beast.
Peter, of Thurstonland, devoted his time to re-working the novel – and landed a deal with a small independent publisher.
The novel is out now and Peter will be signing copies at the official launch at Waterstones in Huddersfield’s Kingsgate Centre tomorrow from 11am to 1pm.
Peter said: “I’ve always wanted to write and even at school students would say ‘you should be a writer, sir’.
“Well now I’ve done it and I hope people enjoy it.”
It’s not unusual for authors to ‘pinch’ characters from other novels and make them their own.
Famously, George MacDonald Fraser borrowed the bully Flashman from Tom Brown’s School Days and built a career out of it, publishing a whole series of books.
Peter said: “If you’re going to pinch a character you might as well borrow one from the best in Charles Dickens.
“Bucket has a significant but relatively minor role in Bleak House and I thought I could develop him further.
“Dickens described Bucket as wearing a ‘mourning ring’ but didn’t explain why. I decided to develop a back story that Bucket lost a child and now tends to seek out waifs and strays.”
The novel, set in Victorian London of 1851 – the year of the Great Exhibition – is about the hunt for a murderer who mutilates and kills children.
The killer is dubbed ‘The Beast’ by the Press.
“It sounds gory but it’s not really like that,” said Peter.
“That’s the background event but the story is about the relationship between the narrator, a budding journalist called Will Jakesbere, and the enigmatic Bucket.”
The subject matter may sound dark but Peter promises humour as well.
Peter, who is married to Vivienne, 60, and has a daughter Beckie, 30, and a son James, 29, has also written a short story based on his recycled hero called Bucket Takes the Train, which will be published in an anthology next month.
Peter, also a member of Huddersfield Thespians, hopes to meet former students at the book-signing.
“It’s quite nerve-wracking because you are putting yourself out there to be shot down,” said Peter. “I just hope people turn up.”
Copies will be available for a discounted £9.99 at the signing. Otherwise they are £12.99 and can be ordered from Waterstones.com or Dahliapublishing.co.uk.