Hackney author publishes book and play 30 years in the making
- Credit: Archant
An 87-year-old Hackney author has released a new book which was 30 years in the making.
Brian Troath’s book Unreal Shapes includes a play for television and two short stories about a family coping with grief with underlying themes of imagination and reality.
The story follows a widowed father and his two children in the aftermath of their mother’s death as they become slowly transformed by the events.
Brian has lived in Graham road with his wife Mary for over 50 years, after moving from his home city of Leicester to devote himself to writing. “It was a tough business to get into,” he said.
He wrote short stories for children, which were sold in newsagents. Then-publishers Top Sellers would send him illustrations which he would build stories around.
READ MORE: Stoke Newington author calls for diversity in publishing industryHe also wrote a series for the children’s comic Sparky in the late 60s called Granny Cupp and her Flying Saucer, which he describes as “quite a success.” Over the years, Brian took on odd jobs to get by and even spent time as a practising magician, the youngest member of Leicester Magic Circle.
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Brian said: “I never really had any great success. Writing was competitive then and so it remains.
“My play doesn’t have the contents of most television these days – it has no violence, drugs or swearing. It’s really quite a polite play.
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“I first started writing it 30 years ago. It has gone through many rewrites.
“This is my first substantial book. It really represents a fulfilment for me.”
Brian said how he has always found writing stressful as it takes a lot of effort and concentration: “I take it very seriously. I write in bouts to give myself recovery time.
“I haven’t pushed myself too much in recent years – I’ve got to enjoy my retirement too, well what’s left of it,” he adds with a glint of humour.
Brian wanted to be a writer from an early age. He began by running a second-hand bookshop in an old regency house in Leicester.
He recounts the pleasure he had chatting to interesting customers who enjoyed its Dickensian coal fire and cosy chairs.
As a bookseller, he met writers in the shop who inspired him to start writing. He recounts his slow progress in learning to write well and how it developed over the years beyond its “pretentious” beginnings.
After moving to London, he opened another bookshop next to Euston Station in the 70s.
“I ran the shop for two to three years, but the rent went up and it wasn’t a viable proposition. I brought the books home and ran a book business here, whilst working as an author.
“The money wasn’t great. I got £5 per Sparky comic script. Scottish publishers DC Thompson were quite tough and frequently turned them down. We had thin times on the financial front but managed to get by.”
Having lived in Hackney for over 50 years, Brian has seen its transformation over the last half century.
He said: “It was quite tough when we first came here. It has changed hugely over the years.
“I really enjoy living here now. We have London Fields behind us, then Regent’s Canal.
“There are lots of restaurants and wine bars which Mary and I enjoy. When we came here there was just one – a Chinese restaurant where you could only get ham and chips.
“Hackney has improved. It was rather more dilapidated than it is now.”
Brian has enjoyed his retirement, sitting in his small colourful garden, his willow tree overlooking his Victorian house.
He added: “We bought the house many years ago for a very reasonable sum, it’s worth the earth now. But we’ll never move, my son will inherit it.”
Mary and Brian have had a comfortable lockdown, but look forward to the prospect of a vaccine.
“We’re hanging in here. Once the vaccine’s here we’ll be able to go out and have a bottle of wine,” he added.
Unreal Shapes is available on Amazon as a Kindle or paperback edition.
Its description reads: “When Oliver Ashmole’s wife dies unexpectedly, he and his world are irretrievably changed.
“Unreal shapes and ghostly shadows begin to haunt his days when a series of mysterious happenings occur.
“Although the language of the play is straightforward, nonetheless it resonates with myth and magic. This is a drama about the power of imagination and its potential to transform lives.”