A review of my novel from a critic I fear most…. A fellow police officer!

13 December 2016

[As posted on the Amazon UK website]  “A brilliantly written book set in a time where coppers were coppers. A time when they lived as well as worked in the community they served, knew everyone and everyone knew them and as a result there was a mutual respect for each other. Set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country It gives a great insight into the life of a policeman in the Lake District in the 1970s. Having been born and bred in the area, and having been a policeman in the area for thirty years I had great fun trying to put names to both the places and the characters in the book.
The book is written, and reads, very much along the lines of the James Herriot books, and in my view is equally as well written and laid out.
It is obvious that whilst fiction there is a large element of actual events and experiences used as its basis all of which which adds to its charm.
My only complaint is that I now have to wait for the next in the series to be written and released.
All in all if you only buy one book to read this Christmas make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.” 
              [Mr M.A. Johnston] 

Further reviews are available here (and no poor reviews have been left out).

Westmorland Gazette article about the novel ‘My Cup Runneth Over’

An article from what locals often call the “Wezzy Gezzy” – the Kendal-based Westmorland Gazette – about my new Lakeland police novel:       ‘My Cup Runneth Over’.

The outdoor images in their photo gallery were taken just last week, outside the tiny and extremely humble quarryman’s house in which I was raised and which, I believe, speaks volumes regarding the achievements of my late parents in respect of all three of their sons.

As for my childhood and teenage years spent on Lake District fellsides and beck-edges, could it have been better? …. If so, I really don’t know how. 🙂






Overwhelming reward for the moments of self-doubt while writing my novel: My Cup Runneth Over

10 December 2016

I have already had many delightful and complimentary comments from people who have read my first novel and I have been humbled by their kindness and their faith in me. However, the latest addition to the ranks of these comments has virtually left even my fingers “type-struck” about what to say in reply.

Richard Wallace, whom I hope will not mind me adding the fact that he is the former Senior Lecturer in Classics at Keele University, has written this of my work:

This man can write!

I was half way down the third page when it suddenly came to me –  “This man can write!”  It is a beautifully written book – the narrative carries you effortlessly on – a real “page turner” as they say; the evocation of the landscape and the local people is wonderfully vivid; and the mixture of drama, humour, and the facts of real life makes for a very rich read.

The subject is the experiences of a police constable in Cumbria in the 70s.  The reader does need to keep the time-frame in mind, otherwise some of the policing practices and social attitudes seem very odd indeed (and I am prepared to bet the processes whereby these practices and attitudes change will be a rich source of material in later books in the series). Inevitably it consists of a series of episodes, linked by recurring themes.  The challenge for an author using this format is to fill out the characters in the brief space available.  Shearwater does this well (but leaves the reader eager to find out more about these fascinating individuals in later books).  Some have compared the book to James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” books, which is fair enough, though Shearwater’s novel is, to my mind, a little darker, a little more real, and a little less “feel good”.   I like that.

One of the most attractive features of the novel is the lively and evocative scenes of Cumbria, its people, and its landscape.  I particularly enjoyed a marvellous description of a winter walk over High Street.  You could feel the crunch of the snow under your boots, the cold wind on your face, and the exhilaration of getting to the top and just looking at the views.  I wanted to be there!

In short, this is a great read, and I strongly recommend it.  I am looking forward eagerly to the next episode.  And it would make a superb television series!


Saying a mere “thank you” to Richard for these remarks feels remarkly inadequate.

Who is YOUR key character in ‘My Cup Runneth Over’, and why?

If I may start what I hope might become a ‘ball rolling’ on this topic, let me say that even to my own surprise, the character I found myself wanting to get back to when I was writing was – of all people – ‘Ike Nick’!

Isaac Nicholson was not a real person but was based on a conglomerate of real individuals I encountered during my police years, many of whom had anything but an easy life, but even though they had hard, unforgiving and often offensive manners, I found a lot of these people to be among those we typically refer to as the ‘salt of the earth’.

Farmers certainly presented their own challenges to young police officers and no doubt some of them used to take a special delight in giving us a hard time.  However, show them that you had at least some grasp of their challenges or a small understanding of their livestock and things often changed.  Typically, they were still ‘grumpy old gits’ but at least you weren’t enemies anymore.

So as the title of this blog asks”  Who did YOU most identify with? Or who did you hate most?  Or who made you laugh the most, and why?

In some ways, the story in My Cup Runneth Over took on a life of its own.  I’m not joking when I say that some days I would re-read what I had just written and it was like reading something I had never even seen before!  As a result, your own insights would genuinely be of great interest to me and I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to post them as a comment please.