From Alan’s website:-
Alan was born in East London in 1938. and at the age of eleven won a scholarship to the Sir George Monoux grammar school in Walthamstow. In the summer of 1951 his father took the tenancy of The Victoria, a public house in Braintree, Essex, but after only three years the family returned to London to run another pub, namely The Castle in Kingland High Street, Hackney. Here Alan joined the sixth form of Grocers’ in Hackney Downs, where he published his first literary masterpiece – a report of Founders’ Day for the school magazine using Chaucerian English. This somewhat irreverent approach to such an important event came to the notice of the Headmaster, but such was his regard for the quality of the piece that he agreed to its inclusion.
National Service in the RASC came next. After training in Aldershot as a shorthand writer, Alan was posted to the headquarters of BAOR in Moenchen-Gladbach, Germany, where his disregard of authority ensured he kept the rank of private until demobilisation in November 1958. It was in Germany on the beautiful Balderneysee near Essen that he had his first taste of sailing . Such was the effect of this experience that instead of enroling at university on his return to England, Alan persuaded his Father to fund the purchase of a small boatyard near the River Lee in East London. Here Alan taught himself the craft of boatbuilding, so beginning his career in the marine industry.
Jean was born in July 1944 during a V1 flying bomb raid on North London. Eschewing further education she left school at the age of fifteen to work as an invoice typist, and by the age of eighteen was married, living in Nottingham, and expecting the first of her four children. In the spring of 1972 Jean and her family moved to Poole, in Dorset, where she first met Alan, living just next door but one. A shared appreciation of literature first brought them into contact, but true love blossomed and their union was completed in the spring of 1975 when they started a new life together in the New Forest. It is a remarkable co-incidence that Jean was born and raised only a stone’s throw from the Castle in Kingsland High Street during Alan’s own teenage years, and yet their paths did not cross until they met in Poole two decades later. Better late than never!
In the spring of 1978 Alan landed his first overseas appointment in Northern Cyprus, followed by another in 1979 based on the island of Malta . Some time after the family’s return to England, Alan started to write a record of the family’s time in Cyprus based on Jean’s diary and a mass of shipyard documentation he had kept. The final draft of 66 U.S. Dollars was not finished until August 2003, and after countless rejections by publishers and literary agents the book was finally accepted in April 2014 by Austin Macauley of Canary Wharf in London.
Some would say that by establishing a literary career at the respective ages of seventy seven and seventy Alan and Jean could be accused of undue optimism. But then again, better late than never!
66 U.S. Dollars is based on the true story of an ambitious project started in 1978 to build a new ocean going tug in Famagusta, the main sea port of Northern Cyprus. Following the island’s invasion by the Turkish army in the summer of 1974, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was ostracised by most of the world’s governments, with the exception of mainland Turkey. The resultant trade and diplomatic embargoes made life a struggle for this tiny new nation, and it is against this background that the book’s main protagonist, Jack Durham, arrives from England with his young family to start a new life in the sun.
The story follows not only the progress of the tug building project, but also the varied experiences of Jack, his partner Mary, and her two young daughters as they all adjust to living in surroundings so different from their home back in Hampshire. Another important aspect of the book is Jack’s relationship with his employer, Frank Palmer, whose business methods were unconventional to say the least, and added considerably to the challenges faced by the incipient venture. Most of the events described did actually take place during the family’s twelve month sojourn on the island, but names have been changed (to protect the guilty), and a little fictional zest has been added out of pure literary whimsy.
Shipbuilding is taken more or less for granted in a wealthy, industrialised country like Great Britain, but the project described in 66 U.S. Dollars was almost unthinkable in Northern Cyprus during those troubled times in the early years of Turkish occupation. Armed troop movements were a common occurrence on the roads between Famagusta, Nicosia and Kyrenia in the late seventies, and the long, narrow Karpaz panhandle was in fact still a no-go area for civilians. In all respects, Northern Cyprus was a most improbable environment for a middle-class English family to choose.
Several books have already been written about ‘The Cyprus Problem’, and even to this day the island remains politically divided. 66 U.S. Dollars does not seek to elaborate any further on such weighty matters; the authors’ intention is simply to relate a year in the life of an English ex-patriot family hoping to make a difference in a small nation’s recovery from the ravages of war. It is poignant to reflect that two generations of young Cypriots have grown up both sides of the dividing line since the events described in 66 U.S. Dollars. The infant son of Hasan the welder (page 163) would now be thirty-six years of age.