For five days only: get your free eBook download of Peter Maughan’s quirky British comedy The Cuckoos of Batch Magna, the first of the Batch Magna novels now currently under option as a TV series by London independent production company Breakneck Films.
“The Cuckoos of Batch Magna is going to become one of the most beloved books of the decade … I guarantee that once you have visited Batch Magna you will never want to leave. This is a story that will restore your weary soul.” Amazon review.
The novel is set in the mid-1970s against the backdrop of a rural idyll, a river valley sitting out the centuries in the forgotten country of the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. It is the story of Humphrey, an amiable, overweight short-order cook from the Bronx, whose life is touched as if with a wand by the ancient law of entailment, turning him overnight into a baronet and squire of a village called Batch Magna, a village where nothing ever happens – until it does, until the death of the old squire and the arrival of the new in an Hawaiian shirt, with plans turn Batch Hall into an hotel and the estate’s stretch of river into a theme park.
But while the village pub and shop, with dollar signs in their eyes, put out the Stars and Stripes in welcome, the tenants of the estate’s dilapidated houseboats on the river tear up their notices to quit, and led by pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and the one-eyed Lt-Commander James Cunningham (RN, rtd) run up the Union Jack and prepare to engage.
“It was born,” Peter Maughan has said, “out of nostalgia, the memory of an idyllic time in the mid-1970s spent gloriously free living in a small colony of houseboats, a bohemian outpost in a village on the River Medway in deepest rural Kent. The summers of that time when life was moved outside – particularly in the long, torrid one of ’76, when it seemed that there was only summer, summer and youth and the river. Boating or swimming in it, or coming together for another jolly, for the weekend lunches that ended up somehow in the evenings, and the parties that saw in another summer dawn. And the winters when the lamps were lit and the smell of log fires scented the air, snug around the stove below when there was rain on the deck, or the owls in the wood across the river called in the frosty dark.
“The houseboats from those days on the Medway were converted Thames sailing barges; for my houseboats, on Batch Magna’s river the Cluny, I used converted paddle steamers (once part of an equally fictional Victorian trading company, the Cluny Steamboat Company) because they too speak of fun and another time. And it seemed entirely right somehow that they should have ended up in quite dotty, amiable decline in a place called Batch Magna.
Peter Maughan is a former actor, fringe theartre director and scriptwriter. He currently lives in Pembrokeshire but is shortly returning to a place he regards as his spiritual home, the Somerset of the Brendon Hills and Exmoor. His novel can be downloaded here: The Cuckoos of Batch Magna