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It’s a kind of magic for Cambridge author John Phelps

Cambridge author John Phelps has a new book out: a collection of short stories titled A Kind of Magic.

John, a retired journalist who has had four novels published – Agent from Hell, Underbelly of Cambridge, A World Ruled by Mice and The Vulcan Who Got Into Print – as well as another book of short stories, says of his latest work: “It’s a collection of short stories which I’ve written over a period – I suppose most of them since retiring and half of them during the first onset of Covid.

John Phelps. Picture: Keith Heppell
John Phelps. Picture: Keith Heppell

“It’s an eclectic mix and the longest story is just over 10,000 words, and there are some very short ones. They vary in length and also in type. There’s a bit of romance, there’s some crime in there, a bit of satire, a bit of humour... There’s a bit of drama, there’s a ghost story, and I hope there’s something for everyone but it’s not for me to say.”

John, 81, notes that there are 24 stories altogether – “and that actually includes a limerick, which isn’t strictly a story, but it’s a little limerick written during the first onset of Covid. “It was a little bit of a send-up of the politicians and so forth but I’d better not say too much.”

He adds: “The first story is sort of an off-beat romance and the second one is a cricket romance/drama, and the third one is a story to do with a boxer I once had an encounter with...

“Some of the stories are based on experiences and people I’ve known during my lifetime – I have been around a little bit – and others are pure imagination. I don’t think I particularly want to say which comes into which category, I think I’d rather leave the reader to guess that.”

Interestingly, three of the stories were written when John was in his 20s. “They were just put to one side and, when I’d accumulated enough stories to make a book, I resurrected those,” he explains.

“I just went through them and tidied them up a bit and brought them all up to date.”

Does John, a member of the Crime Writers’ Association who also works as a part-time volunteer guide at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, have more stories ‘in the bag’ for a future volume? “Not at the moment,” he replies. “I have another project under way but it’s very much in its early stages.”

[Read more: The Vulcan Who Got into Print: a new whodunnit by Cambridge author John Phelps]

John retired 19 years ago and since then, alongside all his other work, hobbies and projects, he has worked for a community radio station, writing, presenting and conducting interviews.

His first editorial job, following an initial career in insurance, was as a reporter based in the London office of the Sunday Post. He then moved to Cambridge in 1969.

A Kind of Magic: A Collection of Short Stories is available now from Troubador Publishing Ltd (troubador.co.uk) or via bookshops such as Waterstones.

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