Lovedean writer with ‘innate gift’ for weaving ‘fascinating yarns’ talks literary life and growing up in Portsmouth during the Second World War
A PROLIFIC novel writer who lived in Portsmouth throughout the Second World War is reflecting over a life spent immersed in books.
Lovedean resident Tony King, 87, has penned stories ever since he was a little boy, and now has more than two dozen titles to his name.
The author, who writes under the moniker ‘A.B. King’, was born in 1934 as the middle child of three.
Tony said: ‘The runt of the litter, I was the one my parents were assured would never make it into adult life. Perversely I am now the only survivor.
‘I was a very sickly child and hardly ever went to school and when I did there were only a few retired teachers (things were so stretched that my older brother sometimes had to run classes) and beyond learning how to read and write I really didn't learn anything at all.’
Spending much of his time in bed, Tony channelled his over-active imagination into storywriting and would read the tales to his sister’s dolls.
He penned his first full length story in 1945: ‘Probably the original inspiration came from a very rare visit to my grandparents who lived in the countryside and, during my all-too-brief stay, rambling through some local woods where I saw my very first squirrel.
‘Having read The Wind in the Willows the hero of my tale naturally became a squirrel.’
Tony comes from a family which highly valued reading and writing - his brother A.K. King was a published poet, and his father A.G. King wrote for the Royal Marines magazine The Globe and Laurel.
Tony said: ‘He won a competition organised between many schools in the Brighton area during the First World War and was offered an apprenticeship with the local Brighton paper as a result but my grandfather rejected this offer and as a consequence my father spent 34 years in the Royal Marines.’
For Tony, life as a youngster in Portsmouth during the Second World War was ‘a mixture of air raids, bombed buildings, food rationing and general austerity’.
He added: ‘I was old enough to remember much of it but also young enough not to be frightened by it all.
‘The true horror of war never reached me until at the end when I saw the newsreel shots of the liberation of Belsen horror camp.’
Tony had to leave school to become an office boy in a brush factory, and was not able to catch up on his education until later in life when he was called to do his National Service.
Upon his return to civilian life, Tony tried his hand at a number of different careers before becoming a qualified therapeutic hypnotherapist, eventually publishing a book on Self-Hypnosis in 1986.
However, Tony has always been passionate about words and story-telling, writing articles and short stories for magazines.
He was formerly the editor of The Illustrated Lovedean News, a small local magazine, and has written many novels - more than 20 of which are available on Kindle via Amazon.
With imaginative stories ranging from mystery, fantasy, and supernatural tales as well as science fiction and even children’s books, Tony draws on a wide range of inspirations and experiences to create his works.
Tony said: ‘My early efforts were all science fiction which remained something I was avidly interested in for much of my life although I admit that it has tailed off now because what passes for material of this genre today bears little relationship to what I enjoyed as a child and as a young adult.
‘My writing now covers this subject, the supernatural, crime, disaster and sometimes even light humour.’
Tony has three children - two sons and one daughter - as well as six grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.
His daughter, Terry Bridger, said: ‘My father has always been a hugely positive influence in my life and I’m incredibly proud of what he has achieved.
‘The way he has refused to let the deprivations of his childhood become obstacles but instead channelled these experiences into something so creative is, and always has been, inspirational.
‘He has an innate gift for weaving both a captivating, fictional story as well as turning dull factual accounts into fascinating yarns.
‘This infectious passion instilled in me a lifelong love of the written word from a very early age.’
When not reading or writing, Tony cares for his family and spends much time volunteering at Lovedean Village Hall.