Although he will shortly turn 86 years of age, Tony Whelpton is still working.
He has been writing books for nearly forty years, but turned to fiction late in life, and has been so successful that he wishes he had started earlier! He is the author of thirty or so school and college text books – mostly in French – as well as two books on cricket, and a history of the Cheltenham Bach Choir, of which he became Vice-President after retiring from singing at the age of 80.
He was born in Nottingham, England, in January 1933, and was educated at High Pavement Grammar School (where he was taught English by the 1974 Booker Prize winner Stanley Middleton), and at the Universities of London and Lille. He taught French for many years, first in secondary schools, then at university level. He is also an experienced journalist and broadcaster.
His first novel, Before the Swallow Dares (2012), concerns two old school friends who get together after a break of nearly fifty years, as a result of a chance meeting. Then one of them discovers that the other is married to a girl whom he loved at school, but who, to his utter devastation, disappeared without trace and never answered his letters.
His second novel, The Heat of the Kitchen (2013),takes us to Saint-Pierre-sur-Loup, a (fictitious) village in France, where the Mayor is wrestling with a common problem in the south of France: too much traffic for the town. His favoured solution succeeds in upsetting most of the inhabitants, and he finds himself in a fight for his political life.
His third, and extremely popular novel Billy’s War (2014), takes us back to Tony’s home town of Nottingham in 1941, a year and a half after World War Two broke out, and begins with an air raid which Tony remembers well: he has such vivid memories of the whistling noise made by falling bombs, followed by explosions, that he felt compelled to use that as his starting-point. But Tony is not Billy (despite the fact that the picture on the cover is one of Tony himself as a little boy!), his mother was not killed and his dad was too old to be in the army, having served in the final stages of World War One and spending World War Two in the Home Guard, sometimes known as Dad’s Army.
Billy’s War was so successful, and the character of Billy so popular that Tony decided at an early stage that a sequel was required: There’s No Pride In Prejudice (2016) was the result. In this book, the now grown-up Billy, apart from becoming an international opera star, finds himself fighting against prejudice of all kinds: anti-semitism, sexism, colour prejudice, anti-gay…
In 2016, Tony also wrote a novella, entitled A Happy Christmas, but always felt that this was a story which was worth spending more time on, and which deserved to be fully developed. Consequently, as soon as he had finished work on A Change of Mind the following year, he turned his attention to reworking A Happy Christmas, and the result was High Time, which was eventually published in its new form in the summer of 2018.
A Change of Mind (2017) is the story of Maurice Summerfield, who had had a very successful career as an academic, a broadcaster and a Member of Parliament; but late in life he was afflicted by an appalling speech impediment – as Tony himself has been – and this is an account of how he and his devoted wife Elaine managed to cope with it. Tony was invited to read from and talk about A Change of Mind at the world-famous Cheltenham Festival of Literature, which he managed to do very successfully, despite his speech problems.
Tony’s attitude to life is that it is there for living and, in particular, getting old is not an excuse for sitting around doing nothing; one of his favourite quotations comes from the French cellist Paul Tortelier: ‘Everybody should die young – but as late in life as possible’. Now you understand why Tony is still writing!