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Deeping St James musician and former Bourne Grammar School teacher has debut novel published by Austin Macauley

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A musician who began writing a book from a hospital bed during treatment for cancer has had his debut novel published.

Philip Spratley, 79, wrote Stretto: A Story of Two Bostons under the pen name of David P O’Coinn.

It hit the shelves on March 31 after publication by Austin Macauley.

Historical novel Stretto is David P O'Coinn's first - and final - book. Picture: Austin Macauley Publishers
Historical novel Stretto is David P O'Coinn's first - and final - book. Picture: Austin Macauley Publishers

“It is all very exciting,” he said.

“I have got quite a bit of music in print, but writing a book was just a one-off. I didn’t expect it to get anywhere.

“I’d written two stories before but didn’t think they were good enough to send off.

“The first publisher said no, the second didn’t reply and then I thought I would try one more.

“Around Christmas in 2020 a package arrived offering me a contract and the rest is history.”

The journey began four years ago, shortly after Philip, from Deeping St James, began treatment for bladder cancer.

Ten operations have followed, the latest a month ago, but doctors have said he does not need to return for another eight months.

“I was in hospital with nothing much to do in the way of normal work so to keep my mind active, and for a distraction I suppose, I started planning the book,” he said.

“I worked on it for about five months then left it for about a month because I wasn’t sure about it.

“But I decided I wanted to go on and spent another 11 months on it.”

The historical novel tells the story of two families through their time during the English Civil War in Lincolnshire and their uniting together in Boston, Massachusetts, 200 years later.

“The subject is something I have always been interested in, but sometimes you can’t define where inspiration comes from,” he said.

“An idea can just start off without any logic at all.”

The title Stretto refers to a musical instruction and is a nod to his own background.

Starting out as a percussion player in orchestras, Philip became a music teacher and taught at schools in East Anglia and Lincolnshire, including Bourne Grammar School and Robert Manning School, what is now Bourne Academy.

He remains a freelance musician and was also Director of Music at Bourne Abbey for 20 years and a lay clerk at Southwell Minster.

“I don’t see the book as a Mozart symphony, I just wanted to do something that was entertaining.”

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