Troubador Stepping into the Sun

Released: 28/08/2021

ISBN: 9781800463516

eISBN: 9781800466098

Format: Paperback/eBook

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Stepping into the Sun


Philip Hart, a fortysomething Norfolk school teacher, has sought solace in drink as he sees his life start to unravel. He suspects, with good reason, he is about to lose out on a promotion to a younger colleague who is assumed to be sleeping with his wife. And one night, driving home drunk from a village pub, he knocks down and kills an old man fleeing from a nearby mental hospital. To avoid blame Hart hides the body in a roadside culvert, but guilt forces him to learn the identity and background of his victim, so he can make some kind of amends. On a visit to the mental hospital he discovers clues to a decades-old mystery somehow involving the inmate, prompting him to sever all ties with his previously cloistered existence. 

Adopting the role of Percival, the holy fool of legend charged with finding a redeeming relic, Hart’s journey takes him very far from Norfolk, into Sweden’s sub-arctic wilderness and to one of the continent’s forbidden places. And also back to that darkest of times, when the world was at war and aflame. 

But if the man he killed had been driven mad by his part in creating this mystery, so Hart is in danger of becoming just as deranged. He has gone beyond needing simply to atone for a single death. He is now on a mission to rekindle what in his increasing obsession he believes is nothing less than the light of the world.

For a first novel, “Stepping into the Sun” is quite remarkable. Like all the best books it draws you in to a beautifully created world packed with a great storyline. There are finely drawn characters and a powerful central mystery that holds you to the very end. It begins with the central figure, Phillip Hart, driving home drunk. He kills an old man and buries him in a makeshift grave deep in a roadside ditch. That’s the trigger for a mystery taking Hart on an intriguing journey of discovery.

The language is thoughtful, the style sophisticated and, underpinning all of this, there’s deep and genuine research giving it the kiss of rich authenticity. This is a book that quietly inhabits your imagination.

What first drew me to the book was the great title and the even better website:

There you will find a treasure trove of information brilliantly laid out. This is one of the best websites I have ever looked at. Most important, it’s simple and very easy to navigate, and packed with information, giving you an excellent insight into the author and the development, history and story at the heart of his novel.

If I have any criticism, it would be that perhaps a few characters are rather too finely drawn. For some of them I simply didn’t need that level of detail and just occasionally it got a bit irritating. I wanted to get on with the main characters and the plot, which are more than strong enough to keep the momentum going. But that’s a minor quibble.

I test a book by reading the first few paragraphs and ask myself “Do you want to carry on?” At least nine times out of ten, even with famous authors, the answer is no because a book requires an investment of time. With “Stepping into the Sun” I got to the second sentence and thought: “Oh, yes…..this is worth the effort”. This is a powerful book, a great story and it’s wonderfully told.

by Best Read

Mark Heidenstam

I was born in Grimsby, my mother's home town, but grew up in Norfolk, initially in a village with the archetypally English name of Saxlingham Nethergate, and then Norwich. The city, as the adage has it, of a pub for every day of the year, a church for every week, and a brothel for every month. Although I may have imagined the last one. And a modern version in any event would probably be prize-winning authors for January to December, given the alumni of the UEA's school of creative writing.

Following school I went into journalism in King's Lynn, with the idea of becoming a sports writer, but somehow that never took off, although I covered football very occasionally and even speedway, despite being clueless as to its finer points. It was very noisy. That I certainly understood.

Later I worked in the East Midlands, when it still had a shoe industry, with unions with great acronymic initials - Nubso, which became Nuflat. I sometimes covered drag racing at the Santa Pod strip, which I found to be even noisier than speedway. And then editing some local papers in the Bedford area.

Finally I settled down on the night news desk of the Financial Times, which might appear to be the polar opposite of sports journalism, except that football particularly seems nowadays as much about money as the game itself.

Stepping into the Sun, my first and quite possibly likely to be my only novel, was written in the mid- to late-1980s, which is why it is set then, although I heavily rewrote it a year or two back. One of its themes is the significance of European culture, and its loss, but I stoically resisted the temptation, post the Brexit referendum, to add emphasis to that aspect.

I retired from the FT after working through two Argentine peso crises, for fear of a third erupting, and decamped to Euroland. No currencies crises there...

I now have a website up and running, and anyone interested in my novel, which is now due to be published on August 28 2021, is very welcome to contact me by email:

[email protected]

The website can be found at:

I will be delighted to hear from anyone with comments, good and bad! The ebook is now available, as is the book, but there apparently have been delays in the distribution of books (presumably mainly covid-related, although Brexit has also caused a shortage of drivers) so that version may take a little while to arrive.

One thing to mention is that the ebook was originally categorised as 'crime/thriller/mystery' and unfortunately was reviewed as a crime novel on Amazon. There is certainly a mystery central to the story, but it is very much not a crime novel or a thriller. Apart from being literary fiction, truthfully I am not sure what genre it fits into!

But another Amazon reviewer gave what I think is a good summary of elements of the plot and as such a sense of what to expect: ''It is a subtle study of several very different worlds and lives, ranging from the dying days of the Third Reich, to a complacent English cathedral town, to an old woman living near the Arctic circle, to a sea voyage into the Soviet Union. And a subtle study of character and insanity.''

Above: a writer's life as it should be! From the 1980s when my novel was written.

Above; a slightly more recent picture.
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