The Soldier and The Orphan
Twins Separated by Church and War
The Soldier and the Orphan is a blend of historical fiction, romance and suspense, set in early twentieth century England that shows how the social aspects of the times impacted a working-class family. Identical twins, Billy and Tommy Jones, are born out of wedlock in Blackmoor, a cotton mill town in Lancashire, England in 1921. at a time when such a thing was regarded as a disgrace -the sins of the father being visited on the sons. Mary, their mother, is pressured by the Catholic Church to give up one of her babies to a Christian-operated orphanage. Neither boy knows he has a twin brother until thirty-two years later – it is a dark family secret between the Catholic church and Mary.
Written in four parts, one for each protagonist – Mary, Billy and Tommy - plus a final chapter when the brothers are united, and set in different time frames and geographic locations, the format lends itself to being made into a TV series or movie.
Book Excerpt or Article
When the Red Cross arrived forty-five minutes later, they found Billy in a catatonic state, kneeling beside his best mate, Bobby Taylor, and staring at him with cold, fisheyes. The right side of Bobby’s face was missing, and the left side was scorched and crispy.
The Red Cross stretchered Billy and Jack West to a waiting ambulance and rushed them to the Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu in Paris where a doctor hooked Billy up to an IV drip, removed the shrapnel, and gave him a blood transfusion and a shot of morphine. Jack passed away in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Another ambulance took Bobby straight to the mortuary.
For the next twenty-four hours, Billy drifted in and out of consciousness. His body shivered and shook violently, and cold sweat beaded on his brow. He woke up once, flailed his arms about wildly, shouted, and then, just as abruptly, closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Claire, his nurse, stopped by his bed every couple of hours to take his blood pressure and pulse to ensure he had not expired.
For the next two days, Claire came by with his breakfast, dinner, and tea, wiped the sweat from his brow, and bathed and bandaged his wounds, but Billy never woke up enough to know what was happening. Claire took an extra blanket from the storage room, though they were in scarce supply, and snuggled it up around his neck to help him stop shivering, and when her shift ended, she came by his bed and sat with him for five minutes before going home. She held and warmed his hands in hers and anxiously watched his face for any sign of recovery.
On the third morning, Billy woke up, gazed around at the room, and, not recognizing anything, went straight back to sleep.
When Claire came by at noon with his dinner, she startled him. He partially opened his eyes, stared blankly at the woman in the cornflower blue uniform standing in front of him, her angelic face framed by a white starched cap, and wondered who she was.
Claire squeezed his hand, smiled, and wiped his brow.
Am I dead? Are you an angel come to take me to heaven? Reading her smile as an invitation to go with her, Billy closed his eyes and imagined he was floating up through white puffy clouds to heaven. When she lifted his left arm to bathe it, he sensed she was helping him climb over the pearly white gates. A huge smile spread across his face – he had arrived in heaven.
Besides concern for his mental health, Claire was also worried about his physical health because he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything since being admitted to the hospital three days earlier. She decided to force him to eat something in the morning
Alastair immigrated to Canada from England by himself when he was 19. He was a typical yuppie - family, house in the suburbs, and a big job in the corporate sector - and following London Life's Freedom 55 plan - he retired at 57 and went to live in the country.
A year later, disillusioned with the passivity of retirement, he shed his material possessions and went to live with a small First Nations band in a remote fly-in location in the N.W.T.
Cultural differences and a challenging environment ignited in him fresh perspectives, inspired a new way of being and fueled his soul searching. The experience changed the direction of his life, and he wrote about it in his memoir: “Awakening in the Northwest Territories”, which became the first book in the Boomers’ Adventures series.
Two years later, motivated, and passionate about helping others, he left the north and went to Bangladesh and Nigeria as an International Development volunteer. He then met Candas Whitlock, fell in love, and together they went to Jamaica and Guyana as volunteers on one-year placements. They co-wrote about their experiences in “Go For It – Volunteering Adventures on Roads Less Traveled”. This was to become book two in the Boomers’ Adventures series.
In between volunteering assignments, they backpacked Central America and Southeast Asia for four months each and wrote “Budget Backpacking for Boomers” – book three in the series.
In 2016, they went to Alert Bay, B.C. on a four-month volunteer placement with the Namgis First Nation people as part of a Reconciliation Canada project with Cuso International. The experience was so profound they felt compelled to write about it in “Tides of Change “ – the final book in the Boomers’ Adventures series.
Between 2015 and 2019 Candas and Alastair were story tellers and entertainers. They created audio/visual shows based on their memoirs and travelled extensively throughout S. W. Ontario putting on shows for audiences in retirement residences, community centers etc.
In 2020 Alastair had a double lung transplant and with this Gift of Life he was able to finish writing and publish his historical fiction novel: The Soldier and The Orphan, which he started in 2016. He has also narrated it to create an audiobook
Alastair and Candas live in London, Ontario, and have five children and seven grandchildren.