Brierley Hill author Frank Chamberlain has always wanted to be a writer. As a teenager growing up in Walsall, he would often start crafting a story, but his creative juices would dry up and the writing stop.
It was only when he began to draw upon the places and characters of the Black Country that inspiration struck – resulting in a new locally-based novel that will resonate with locals.
His new book, ‘Misconception’, was inspired by a lifetime of living in the Midlands. The 49-year-old writer first fell in love with the character and history of the area as a nine-year-old schoolboy on a trip to the Black Country Living Museum.
“I remember the school trip really well,” he said, “Back in the 1970s The Black Country Living Museum was only just starting off, but even then it was quite an incredible place.
“Over the years, as it has grown and grown and I have been on lots of visits there, I guess this story had started to grow with it – it inspired a lot of the settings and places.”
The 1941 thriller is set in a fictional town made up from the DNA of the Black Country as a whole, with influences stretching from Aldridge Transport Museum to the Rock Caves and houses of Staffordshire. The action is set around a town similar to Brierley Hill, as it would have been during the war.
But while the story is set during the war years, Frank was determined that it would be more than just a tale about soldiers and conflict.
“I wanted a strong female lead,” he explained, “and I also didn’t want people to pick it up and think ‘oh, this is a blokey war book’. So, this isn’t a book about the war as such, but more about people living during the war in the West Midlands.”
The plot follows Justine Page; a young woman who sets out on a quest, when she wakes up after an air raid to discover that her friends and her lover Harry have vanished. She is helped along the way by a passing company of Australian soldiers and their colourful Aboriginal scout, Jarli.
“The book has something for everyone,” Frank explained. “There is local history, humour and at its heart It’s a good adventure story.
“Everyone who knows the Black Country and surrounding areas will recognise the humour and the places and people that it’s based on. I was determined not to write a boring old history-based war story – it’s intriguing and colourful.”
The story places memorable characters in local locations that Frank researched in great detail, to ensure that the book accurately reflected wartime life in the Black Country.
“I felt that it was vital that I did some serious research to give the book real grounding in local history,” he said. “All the locations are based on real buildings, tunnels and hidden spaces that I have either visited or studied diagrams and archives of.
“If I haven’t been able to visit a place because it is inaccessible, I have looked at old blueprints, or spoken to people that have been there. It’s all based on the real streets of Brierley Hill and Stourbridge.
“All the vehicles featured in the book are vehicles that exist at the Aldridge Transport Museum, too.”
With ‘Misconception’ now published, Frank has plans to expand the wartime world he has created in the Black Country, turning the book into a series with prequels and sequels.
The book forms the middle part of a series of novels following the lives of key characters Justine, Harry and Jarli, along with their families over 11-year cycles, beginning in 1919 and ending in 1963.
When finished, the ambitious series will follow their lives over the years through the changing landscape of the Black Country and beyond.
And Frank hopes that the characters who populate his story will resonate with readers, just as they have inspired him.
“To be honest, this book wrote itself when the characters came to life and made decisions of their own,” he said.
‘Misconception’ is available as a paperback or download from Amazon. You can discover more at www.FrankPages.Net or follow him onwww.facebook.com/FranksPages.