Gove Online Community News recently caught up with Tim Flynn, who’s currently working in Nhulunbuy as an accountant. However, not many people know that he’s also a best-selling author of historical fiction. He writes as T.S.Flynn and his novel, Part an Irishman, reached number 2 on the Amazon Best Seller List for Australian Historical Fiction last year.
The paperback currently retails in Australia for $26.50 but Tim is happy to sign copies for Gove locals in exchange for a $15 contribution to help cover freight costs for shipping the book in from America.
He’s also happy to talk to any community groups who might be looking for a guest speaker and who might be interested in our convict past.
The book has a lot of sex and violence in it, as you’d expect from a book set in a prison colony; but if you’re looking for something suitable for younger, or more sensitive readers, there’s an abridged version that Tim is also happy to supply.
Give Tim a call on 0418 479 829 or check out his Facebook page
We asked Tim a few obvious questions;
What’s the story behind your latest book?
Part an Irishman represents the first installment of a planned trilogy and my hero, ‘John Turner Flinn’ dropped into my lap one blistering Christmas holiday in Alice Springs. The heat precluded doing anything but watching videos and my partner and I became engrossed by a TV gangster series set in 1920’s Sydney. My girlfriend at the time had mentioned before that her granddad was a notorious gangster in roaring twenties Melbourne and a quick Trove search confirmed this as fact.
We decided to dig further into earlier generations and rapidly uncovered a colorful array of London thieves, swing rioters, ships’ captains, a Chinese gold miner and many wayward women in her family tree. I then turned my attention, to my son’s family tree and, since his mother is also a sixth generation Australian, a similar array soon emerged.
I became a bit jealous as research into my own tree yielded a faceless collection of Lancashire men and women who were publicans, coal miners, enlisted soldiers, cotton and silk weavers and railway men. The earliest ancestors I could find were economic refugees from the Irish potato famine of 1847. As in many Irish families, I grew up with the belief that I was the heir apparent to dispossessed Celtic royalty but I could find no tangible evidence to support this view. In contrast to the detailed documentation available for both sets of my in-laws, all I could do was relay family legends of a High Court Judge, a French Marchioness, George Formby, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Kate Beckinsale who were supposed to be eagerly waiting to claim kinship with me. After Christmas, we returned to Darwin and the oppressive humidity of a ‘build-up’ that didn’t end until Easter and the ancestor hunt became a bit of an obsession.
The Top End weather does funny things to people and I recall a drunken ‘phone conversation with my dad in England in which I lamented the lack of substance to our family tree. Jealousy led to a series of jokes based on the theme of ‘checking my change’ and ‘watching my pockets,’ that weren’t funny, to begin with, and rapidly became less so, as that humid Darwin summer dragged on. The response went from polite smiles to a statement that ‘probably a lot of my relatives were also sent here in chains’ and the candid advice that ‘for the good of my health,’ I stop ‘acting superior and taking the piss.’ I conceded the wisdom of this advice and decided to have a look at the long list of ‘Flynn’s’ who had been transported and see if any might be relatives and the first ‘Flynn’ I had a look at on a convict history website, became the hero of this novel, John Turner Flinn.
Flinn’s convict conduct record was unusual as it revealed a ‘lifer’ who had been a commissioned officer in the Royal Navy and was, therefore, a ‘gentleman.’ There was an enigmatic reference to the ‘Regiment’, which is an army rather than naval term, so I ‘Googled’ further. My search showed that his case was included in the ‘Newgate Calendar’, which indicated that it was big news in the 1840’s, so I followed the link and found that Flinn had given evidence for the defense at the trial of Queen Caroline for adultery in 1820. I was a bit sketchy in my recollection of Caroline’s trial, but upon refreshing my memory of Regency history via Wikipedia, was struck by the parallels to the British Establishment’s attempted crucifixion by media of a more recent ‘People’s Princess’.
A perusal of Flinn’s testimony at Caroline’s trial revealed that Flinn admitted that he had operated as a ‘spook’ in 1814 and Google provided references to his employment as an Admiralty Board Agent in Edinburgh. This was a euphemism for British intelligence gatherers at the time, so I’m sure that people would have looked at John Flinn in the same manner that they look at me when I tell people that I used to work for AusAID. There were also articles about his receiving a commission for gallantry from Lord Nelson, saving Launceston from burning to the ground and participation, with Sir Sydney Smith, in a fake funeral for a Neapolitan bandit. Sir Sydney was the equivalent of James Bond’s ‘M’ at the time. Then, the coup de grace, Google revealed that there were rumors that Flinn’s wife, Edwardina Kent was the daughter of Queen Caroline and the Prince Regent, which after the Regent’s death would make our hero’s wife the legitimate Queen of England.
In short, a story you couldn’t make up.
What motivated you to become an author?
I have often been advised to ‘write a book’ when describing my work travels to ‘sandy places’ to suburbanites, but I had always interpreted this as ‘change the subject Flynny; you’re becoming boring’. I read Bernard Cornwell’s advice to authors that one should attempt to produce a book that people would want to read after a hard day at work rather than create ‘great literature’ and I began to consider that even with my accountant’s imagination, I couldn’t mess up the delivery of material like this too much. An economic downturn in the Northern Territory gave me sufficient ‘leisure time’ to produce a first execrable draft and I sent a copy to an old mate from school, Brian Fillis who is a great screenwriter, for comment. I anticipated tactful advice from Brian that ‘I shouldn’t give up my day job’ but he was actually enthusiastic about the project and encouraged me to continue.
The villain also selected himself, John Giles Price might be the Australian version of the ‘Sheriff of Nottingham’ and the basis of Marcus Clarke’s Maurice Frere, but I have a personal score to settle with the blighter. Shortly after the end of this first novel’s time span, John Giles Price’s command of Norfolk Island began. Norfolk Island was established to punish convicts who had committed further transgressions in the colony and my partner’s ancestor, Tommy Brewster was sent there in 1850 for committing a petty theft in Hobart, after being given a seven-year sentence at the Old Bailey for pinching a cannonball from Woolwich Arsenal. Poor Tommy endured brutal torture there because John Giles Price had, like Adolph Hitler, an irrational hatred of smokers and it appears that poor Tommy could not give up the ‘baccy’. Giles Price had the poor bugger flogged and confined in solitary repeatedly for possession of tobacco. Persecution from Tommy’s great granddaughter about my similar addiction led me to ponder the intergenerational consequences of John Giles-Price’s bastardry. I also reckon that in Marcus Clarke’s time, censorship would have prevented a full description of Giles-Price’s depravity, which was clearly psychosexual in nature, so I hope that my story helps to kick his memory to pieces.
What are you working on next?
I’m thinking of a trilogy and the first novel that you’ve just read, covers the period 1843 to 1845 and coincides with Flinn getting his ticket of leave with the back story (told by letters to his son) explaining why he was transported. I envisage a second novel involving Flinn and the ‘Young Ireland’ activists transported for sedition because their stories are incredible and a back-story of Flinn chasing Napoleon’s brother in law all over Europe after Waterloo. This period coincides with Flinn getting his conditional pardon.
The final part of the trilogy will cover the period after Flinn received a conditional pardon and moved to Melbourne. John Turner Flinn also had a wayward daughter Edda, who married a US Navy officer from a family of Boston blue bloods; dumped him and appears to have slept her way through half of New York and that has to be worth a few thousand words.
The blighter Giles-Price’s ugly head will re-emerge in each of the novels so you’ll have to excuse me while I try to work out how I can extract from his seemingly hopeless position at the end of this story and into the commandant’s job at Norfolk Island.