From Language School Principal to historical author

Chris Thorndyke

Chris Thorndyke - Credit: Supplied

In 2011, as Principal of the Saint Hilary School of English in Paignton, Chris Thorndyke decided it was time to retire and close the doors to the long running language school that had been started by his mother Sheila in the early 1970s.  
It was time to seek out new pastures and having friends in Sweden, Chris left his native Devon for the snowy climes of Scandinavia.  
Chris takes up the story that led to the publication of his superb novel ‘Ebenezer Dunn: Charlatan, Traitor, Spy’ 
“As a boy, I was an avid reader, getting through a couple of library books a month,” he said. “It was then that I began to develop the skill of putting my imagination into words. History was my other favourite subject and I’d spend hours reading historical novels written for my age group by authors such as Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff.  
“I headed back to Devon for a holiday to pick up with family and friends in my old hometown of Paignton. It was one hot summer’s day at the end of June that a few friends and I happened to stop at a country Inn outside Paignton called the Bickley Mill.  
Ordering beer and sandwiches, we sat outside where a group of ramblers were having lunch at a table next to ours. An elderly gentleman was addressing them about a fact of local history.  
“My ears pricked up when I heard the word Vikings. I listened in awe to his story of a skirmish between a party of marauding Vikings and local Saxons that had taken place not far from where we were enjoying lunch.  
“The outcome of the story was that the Saxons had chased the band of Vikings back to their longships anchored off Goodrington Beach. In their rush to get away, one of the Vikings had dropped a gold amulet which then lay buried in the sand for centuries.  
“It was eventually discovered by a treasure seeker and is now exhibited in one of Britain’s museums. I was hooked and wanted to discover more about the local history of where I had lived for most of my life. 
“With internet access to unlimited facts, I began looking into the past events that had mapped out Devon and my area of Torbay. I was planning to write a fictional novel set in Devon in the eighteenth century.  
“It was then that I realised it would take more than just internet research to put together a good story. I had to spend time researching and bringing my ideas to life in the settings I was going to choose for my tale. 
“I had already written a novel which is still on the shelves of Amazon Books (Danny Adams and the Notebook of Fortune), so structuring my ideas for a new novel would not be difficult.  
“I had married again in Sweden, so in the summer of 2017, my wife Anki and I went back to Devon. It was one Sunday that Anki and I visited the Sharpham Estate in the village of Ashprington.  
“Looking down on the River Dart snaking its way through the lush Devonshire countryside a story of infamy and smuggling set in this location suddenly came to me. My novel, Ebenezer Dunn, was born.”  
Devon 1775.  A temporary rector arrives in the Devon village of Ashprington, but he’s certainly not what he seems to his parishioners to be. 
The church of St. David in the village of Ashprington sees the arrival of the Reverend Ebenezer Dunn who has instructions from the French to spy on the bustling harbour of Dartmouth and to create instability amongst the inhabitants in the villages and hamlets along the River Dart.   
From here, a stunning tale of intrigue, treachery and excitement ensues, featuring familiar locations throughout South Devon.  
Ebenezer Dunn is available from www.waterstones.com  

Front cover of Ebenezer Dunn

Front cover of Ebenezer Dunn - Credit: Supplied