Retired Shropshire engineer celebrates publication of his first novel at 81
A former engineer is celebrating the publication of his first ever novel at the age of 81.
Gordon Howdle, from Newport, saw his novel, Heathcliff's Fortune, published last month – with the book now available at all good booksellers, including Smiths and Amazon.
Mr Howdle, who has lived in Newport since 1975, said he had been working on the book for "ages" and was delighted to see it finally in print.
The story fills in Mr Howdle's own take on a mystery section of Emily Bronte's classic novel Wuthering Heights.
Mr Howdle, who is married to his wife Jannice, and has three children, said he had first read the 1847 book when studying for his GCEs at school.
He said that while many consider the classic as a tale of romance, he had always noted the theme of revenge.
Mr Howdle said that he had been fascinated by the three-year departure of the book's central male character, Heathcliff, who leaves as a lowly farm hand, and returns as a wealthy man.
He said that his book examines how Heathcliff made the fortune – drawing on the influence of a notorious Shropshire historical figure – Robert Clive, Lord Clive of India.
Mr Howdle said: "Ever since I became acquainted with Emily Bronte's novel Wuthering Heights all those years ago when I was studying for my GCE 'O' Level in English Literature, I have been fascinated by one aspect of the story.
"How was it that Heathcliff, the central male character of the book, who left Wuthering Heights as a poor farm boy returned just three years later as a wealthy gentleman?
"Over the years I have been interested in the British involvement with India, in particular the activities of the Honourable East India Company, and in the life of Robert Clive, Lord Clive of India. An interest heightened by the fact that Clive himself was a Shropshire man who many see as being the founder of the British Empire.
"At some stage it occurred to me that perhaps I could possibly pull the two things together – was it possible?
"The central problem seemed to be that Heathcliff was away from Wuthering Heights for just three years, which at first seemed a very short time for him to journey to India, make a fortune and return. Especially in the late eighteenth century when the journey could only be by sailing ship.
"However, the more I looked into it the more I realised it was indeed possible, just possible, for Heathcliff to make the journey and return in a period of three years."
Heathcliff's Fortune has been published by The Book Guild, and Mr Howdle said he was hugely gratified that a publisher had been willing to take it on.
But, he has issued a warning about the tale, saying it is written to reflect the attitudes of the time, and uses references that "rightly, are not acceptable in today's society".