Andrew finds the plot in family ties

Author Andrew Woodward with some of the young pupils at the Kitale School in Uganda.
Author Andrew Woodward with some of the young pupils at the Kitale School in Uganda.

CHILDHOOD holidays in the East Neuk and tales of its colourful history told at his granny’s knee made a lasting impression on a Hong Kong-based writer.

So much so that the area has become the setting for much of the grisly action in Andrew Woodward’s second crime thriller, ‘The Fire Walker’ (see below), and an image of Pittenweem takes pride of place on the front cover.

Although born and brought up in London, Andrew feels just as much at home among his larger extended family in the East Neuk, jokingly pointing out that he and his brother are the only two in the entire family ‘cursed’ with English accents.

While his parents both hailed from the East Neuk – his dad, Dave, from Cellardyke and his mum, Andreina, from Pittenweem - they actually met in London, where they had both moved to in the 1960s.

“We used to spend every Christmas and summer holiday at my granny’s in Pittenweem and visit various aunts and uncles in Crail, St Andrews and Kilrenny,” Andrew said.

“We loved our time there and it’s a place I feel very close to.”

He added: “It always used to make me laugh walking around Pittenweem when my mum would stop and speak to someone I had never seen before, and she would say that’s your second cousin’s sister-in-law, or some such random part of a sprawling family tree.”

His Pittenweem granny, Jenny Bird, in particular, made a big impact, and Andrew describes her as a very energetic and charismatic woman who would frequently write humorous letters and poems for The Sunday Post.

The first book in Andrew’s crime thriller trilogy was based in Hong Kong, written while he was chief English editor with the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

When he embarked on his second novel - after a period in Uganda (see right) and then taking on a new job as managing editor of Campaign Asia Pacific magazine – his mum, who loved the history of her home area, helped him with background research.

“My mum knew all the stories about the witch trials, the Beggars’ Benison and King James drinking club, plus the Tahitian Princess buried in the cemetery at Anstruther,” he said.

However, when Mrs Woodward died very suddenly last August, he was devastated and put the novel on hold.

“Eventually I decided to quit the job, take some time off to finish the book and come back to spend time with friends and family in Scotland and London,” he said.

Now retired, Andrew’s dad, who worked as a computer engineer, now spends part of the year back at the family home in Pittenweem.

All profits from the book will go to Kitale School in Uganda.

Murder and mayhem in the Neuk

‘THE Fire Walker’ is the second in a trilogy featuring London policeman DI Chambers.

A chance meeting with an old friend convinces Chambers to head north to Scotland – and the offer to leave the city couldn’t come at a better time.

Recently suspended from the Met’ police, pending an inquiry into his unauthorised role in the Hong Kong case of ‘The Water Dragon’, Andrew’s first novel, Chambers takes up the invitation to play golf in St Andrews.

A few rounds on the famous links courses seems like as good a way as any to get his head straight.

But, before he gets his clubs out the bag, he has a small task to attend to – locating a distant family member who has disappeared from near Glasgow.

His trip turns sinister when his search takes him to the normally peaceful East Neuk villages.

When the discovery of several bodies is linked by the local police directly to him, Chambers quickly goes from hunter to hunted.

His investigations tap into the area’s history of smuggling, witch executions and a hedonistic royal drinking club.

Both books are in ebook format for Kindles and ‘The Fire Walker’ is also out in print, all available through Amazon.

Writing helps create happier life stories

ANDREW Woodward’s involvement with the Kitale Community Orphans School in Uganda happened by chance.

“Last year, as a memorable trip to celebrate my 40th, I decided to go to Uganda to track mountain gorillas,” he said.

“I met a group of people who had set up an orphanage that was struggling to cope. At the time I was frustrated in my job so I went back to Hong Kong, quit my job and booked a ticket back to Uganda without really knowing what I was letting myself in for.”

The school, in the Mukono district, was started in 2006 with two classrooms and 70 children and now, thanks to continued support from volunteers and fundraising in the UK, it has six classrooms and a roll of 285 students, all of whom are orphans who would otherwise have no access to education

They also receive a daily meal and a vaccination programme.

Fundraising has also helped the wider community, building eight fresh water wells that supply clean water for the first time to 7000 people, and starting a micro-financing project to help locals help themselves out of poverty.

Initially Andrew spent a month at the school but returned again earlier this year when he was delighted to see the progress being made.

For more details about the school, which welcomes volunteers, go to www.kitaleschooluganda.comm