Dartmouth writer Simon Gilmore has penned a great adventure story about a character who has been known to his family for decades.
Mr Hawkins the seagull, and the title character in Simon’s book ‘The Adventures of Mr Hawkins - ‘The Golden Secret’’, began life on the balcony of the house where he now lives in Dartmouth.
He said, ‘My mother lived in this house since 1977 and one day when I staying with mum I came downstairs and heard her talking to someone out of the window. I was amazed to see she was feeding bits of bacon to a seagull that was taking it really gently, while she was stroking the back of its neck.
‘She said to me ‘would you like to meet Mr Hawkins – my friend. He comes here every morning.’ Over the years I created stories for my kids at bedtime about Mr Hawkins, the magical seagull. After mum passed away and I was down here on my own I looked out of the window one day and a seagull, which was sat in the tree by the balcony, looked over at me. I said ‘hello Mr Hawkins’ and decided then to put this story on paper.’
Mr Hawkins is an adventure story about a 13-year-old boy called Tom Parker and a very special seagull, who meet in a seaside town not dissimilar to Dartmouth.
At Mr Hawkins’ request they set off on a global race against time to retrieve the fabled ‘Sword of Isis’, return it to its rightful owner and free the seagull’s friends from an evil tyrant.
Throughout this gripping page-turner there are some fantastic themes of heroism, courage, honour and respect, and many messages to remind us of the difference between good and evil.
Simon said, ‘I totally admire courage, which comes in many different ways. It’s not just about going under a wire with a bayonet – it’s also the art of being the only one who knows that you’re scared to death.’
‘I also wanted my characters to come to life and the story to have a strong message but be good fun too – there’s so much misery in the world that we all need a great adventure story in which to disappear.’
His readers – children, teenagers and adults alike - certainly agree and have loved the book. There has also been interest from head teachers for library copies, local book clubs and a BBC producer who sees potential for future filming of the story.
Simon’s inspiration comes from the history and adventure stories he has read since childhood. He has had many real adventures of his own to add to his creativity.
‘My childhood hero was the South Pole explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. I love reading about people who have done great things – intrepid people. Both my mother and father were intrepid people and I used to love sitting and listening to them with great admiration at what happened to them in the war.’
Simon was born in England and brought up in Benghazi, Libya and Singapore. His father was an officer in the Special Forces and his mother worked for the Foreign Office. It is clear that Simon has inherited his love of adventure from his father and his creativity from his mother.
Simon’s mother, Eileen Gilmore, lived in Dartmouth for 17 years and directed plays for the Dartmouth Players. Her grandparents started the National Benevolence Society for Performing Artists – now the Royal Variety charity.
Both his parents were highly accomplished sailors and his father was a Commodore.
He said: ‘My father taught me to sail when I was seven. He was an expert skipper and won the Admiral’s Cup twice. Sailing is in my blood.’
After his father discouraged him from acting Simon had a brief stint as a drummer, playing with artists such as Elkie Brooks and Noel Redding in the 1970s, before being disillusioned by the music industry. He still plays drums now and recently gigged in Kingswear.
Simon has been working on ‘Mr Hawkins’ for ten years, alongside running his yacht charter business, Deep Blue International, in the Mediterranean and Caribbean from his Dartmouth home.
He started the charter business in 1998 after moving away from corporate life. He said, ‘Before that I spent too much time flying around Europe attending board meetings and thought what the hell am I doing with my life? Seven years ago I moved to Dartmouth to live here permanently and have never, ever looked back. This town is the best place on earth to live.’
He completed ‘Mr Hawkins’ in an apartment in Athens. He said: ‘I spent hours and hours with my laptop in the Greek islands conjuring up ideas for the chapters. There is quite a significant Greek theme in ‘Mr Hawkins’ as I did a lot of research into ancient Greece and also ancient Egypt’
Now that his first book is published Simon is planning the next one.
He writes upstairs in his Dartmouth home study and on the balcony where he first met ‘Mr Hawkins’.
Simon is very structured with his writing. ‘Every day I set myself a task – where the story’s going to go next – and I write until I get to that point. It’s probably not the right way but it works for me. When I’m busy skippering on the yachts in Greece I write notes and when I’m back in Dartmouth during the winter months I write loads.
‘I like everything just so. I have an orderly mind and the minute ideas start getting out of order I need to write them down. I create an idea for a story and structurally put it together – with a beginning, lots of middle and a wow ending.
‘I have read up on other writers and know the only way to write a story with a plot is to keep the pace up, keep it exciting and write it as though you’re the reader. With ‘Mr Hawkins’ I wanted the story to go from ground level and take off right from the beginning.’
Simon is determined that his next book is going to take no longer than 12 months to write and plans to treat it more like a nine to five job. This next book is set to be an adult thriller, based on espionage, and no doubt encompassing some of the amazing stories his father has told him. If ‘Mr Hawkins’ is anything to go by it will be well worth looking out for.
The Adventures of Mr Hawkins “The Golden Secret’ is out now and available from www.ypdbooks.com and The Dartmouth Community Book shop. Soon the book will also be available from the usual retailers at Amazon, Waterstones, W H Smith etc.•
interview by Kate Cotton
First Published July 2013 By The Dart