The Big Interview: Author Colin Bacon talks about his book, based in wartime Grantham

Colin Bacon, author of Spibey.
Colin Bacon, author of Spibey.
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When novelist Colin Bacon was sorting through his late mother’s effects he came across something which inspired him to write a book based around the First World War.

He discovered a ‘Dead Man’s Penny’, a bronze memorial plaque presented to the family of service personnel killed fighting in the Great War.

Spibey, written by Colin Bacon.

Spibey, written by Colin Bacon.

The plaque turned out to be in honour of Lt Jesse Francis Montague Hind, who was killed on The Somme in September 1916. Jesse turned out to be Colin’s grandfather, whom he knew nothing about.

The discovery gave 62-year-old Colin the motivation to write a novel called Spibey, which is based around the 1914-1918 conflict, reflecting how three members of a family dealt with aspects of the war during the summer of 1916.

Some of the opening chapters are based in Grantham where two of the siblings meet up.

** How did you go about painting an authentic picture of Grantham during the Great War?

I live in Cornwall but I am from nearby Hickling so I know the area very well. The Grantham Canal always fascinated me as a child. I knew the town but I wanted to research what it was like during the war years so I went to the library. The staff were very helpful, as were the people at Belton Park, where some of the story is set.

** What was Grantham like during the years of the First World War?

The town was heavily affected by the presence of the Army, which was present in big numbers.

The shops and the pubs were very busy and business was good with the servicemen in town. The soldiers being there also led to many prostitutes coming in to Grantham from Nottingham which was a strain on the police force.

** How does Grantham feature in your new book?

One of the characters does not want to join up and he goes to Grantham to see his brother, who is training as a machine gunner at Belton Park. The early months of the war had shown that the cavalry was no longer effective and the Army required more machine guns. They were trained at Belton Park and were known as the ‘Suicide Squad’. The place was a huge muddy area with loads of soldiers living there and visiting Grantham regularly.

** How did you get into writing and have you written many other books?

I was originally a teacher but gave it up to concentrate on my writing. Spibey is my fourth novel. The best known one before this was Vivian and I, a biography of Vivian Mackerrell, a British actor who was the inspiration for the main character in cult 1987 movie Withnail and I.