Ken, who in his youth used to fly a Tiger Moth in the skies over Durham, gave up the idea of a career in aeronautics when he was awarded a scholarship to take a Fine Arts degree at Kings College Newcastle which launched him on a career as an artist, writer and academic.
This novel, Edge of Arcadia, grew from Ken’s lifelong devotion to classical landscape , especially the work of the 17th Century French master, Nicholas Poussin, whose paintings embody exquisitely those qualities of tranquillity, order and harmony said to characterise the fabled land of Arcadia.
Arriving in Sheffield for the first time in the 70s he was captivated by the trees, parks and rivers, especially Endcliffe Park, which so vividly for him evoked the classical landscape he so admired.
This provoked a spell of creativity whose outcome was his one-man show, Parkscapes, at the Sheffield University gallery in 1991. But it took decades before this interest coalesced with his writing to produce, at 84, the novel, Edge of Arcadia.
Edge of Arcadia is about Aidan, a lecturer in a college of education, who seems to have everything he could wish for: a career that allows him to pursue his painting, a wife and two daughters he loves. But Arcadian landscapes are liable to harbour serpents, and the serpent at the heart of Aidan’s life is the poisonous relationship between his wife Cathy and their elder daughter Roberta, Bobbie.
He seems hopelessly unable to change his wife’s attitude and comes to feel that he no longer owes her the fidelity he once pledged. He allows himself to fall in love with a talented and beautiful student.
Witty, wise and sexy, Edge of Arcadia explores the complexities of life with the depth and understanding that perhaps only 84 years of living it can bring.
And does publishing your first novel beat looping the loop in a Tiger Moth? ‘Nothing can beat that,’ says Ken. ‘But it comes a close second.’