The Man Who Found Treasure.
Three countries. Three forgotten armies. Three Kingdoms in turmoil.
For farm wagoner Bert Kingdom life is sweet – a pretty wife, a new family, and prospects on the up beneath the intense glow of a perfect English summer.
And then the war came.
Instead of domestic bliss, he arms himself with the promise longed-for reunions with Alice and his baby son. This is the ammunition he knows he must carry if he has any chance of surviving the murderous futility of Gallipoli.
Twenty-five years later – and under the lingering shadow of his father – Walter Kingdom is experiencing a doubt-ridden and grisly foreign war of his own. In the steamy forests of Burma, a startling coincidence provides an unexpected chance to discover the missing pieces of the jigsaw relating to his family’s past. Little does he know that it is the dawn of a journey that will last the remainder of his life, on the elusive trail of Johnson, the only man who knows the truth.
Alice Kingdom is also fighting on the frontline. Her war in Nottingham is just as brutal and bloody as anything her husband and son will experience, but she is battling more personal demons too. It must fall to Walter, and the answers he seeks, to exorcise the ghosts that haunt her and to attempt to bring the three Kingdoms back together once again.
The Man Who Found Treasure, now available to purchase from Amazon (also in Kindle format), is historical fiction with a literary edge. It is a heart-in-your-mouth story of loss and lost time, of re-discovery and the survival instinct. It is a diorama cut across decades, revealing the tumultuous impact of war on one family – a war that leaves no peace behind.
Listen to Alan Williams read from the book:
So why The Man Who Found Treasure?
Well, in terms of the story, the seed was planted whilst researching the life of a relative, Jack Oscroft, who was killed in the horrorfest that was Gallipoli. I discovered that his son, Wilfred, served in Burma during the world war that followed thirty years later. As a result, I started to ask myself all sorts of questions:
What was it like for families and communities on the home front… especially if they had family involved in both wars (which after all were relatively close together within the span of the 20th Century)? Equally what was it like for soldiers who served in both conflicts? This must have been the experience for many families, perhaps the majority, and not just my own. Furthermore, how long do the scars of such conflicts last – both for those who did the fighting and those who stayed back home?
It was never my intention to write a novel, but the more I asked myself these questions, the more the story developed in my mind. It also offered the opportunity to resurrect and explore three ‘forgotten’ armies. That epithet had already been attached to those who fought in the Burma campaign, but it could also be applied to the British, French and dominion forces who fought in Gallipoli and to those, particularly women, who battled on the home front. The chance was also presented to shine a brief spotlight on Nottingham during the wars, something close to my heart.
In The Man Who Found Treasure, despite Walter being the main narrator, Alice is perhaps the central character. As well as fighting her own battles in both wars, she serves to link together all of the narratives. She also opens our eyes to the community around her, through her interactions with Edie, Florrie and her other neighbours in The Meadows, postmen/telegraph boys, the pub landlord, shopkeepers and her co-workers at Chilwell. In that respect she represents an ‘everywoman’ figure. Both Alice and Walter carry the past with them throughout their lives. This they have in common with Johnson and, although only hinted at briefly, Walter’s surviving comrades from the jungle in Burma. However, the spectrum of the impact of both wars on the characters of the novel is wide and complex. Whereas some can’t escape it, tortuously so, others – like Bariş – are keen to unearth it. Indeed, for him, it is a means to earning a living.
I won’t give too much more away for obvious reasons – but I hope that you enjoy a story which covers ground that must have affected every family and every community in some way during the years 1914 to 1945 and beyond. Like much that happens during war, such stories are both commonplace and exceptional.
The title of the novel reflects a number of aspects of the plot – I’ll let you pick those out. NB: Despite some clear synergies between the texts, any similarities with the bible parable of the same name do not warrant any further interpretation.
Click here for goodreads page.
Cover photograph/featured image: ‘Shadow of Hand on Beach’ by Örjan Lindén, 2009.