By Peter Elson
MANY people struggle to find a vocation in life, but seven-year-old Stephen Done had a very clear vision of his future career path. He made this momentous announcement to his mother one day in the family’s kitchen stating emphatically: “I am going to be a steam train driver.”
Sadly, he was immediately faced with one of those devastating landmark let-downs everyone faces at some point, when his mother revealed the awful truth: “Darling, I’m afraid this is the last day that steam trains run on the railways!”
He had indeed revealed his intentions on August 3, 1968. Born too late to relish the last flourish of steam, he has magnificently overcome this setback in creating his own coal-fired world by writing a series of eight novels and a book of short stories about the life and crimes investigated by Inspector Charles Vignoles (named after George Stephenson’s Liverpool & Manchester Railway assistant) and his fictional ex-LNER Railway Detective Department.
Based at Leicester Central on the former Great Central Railway, the imaginary hero Vignoles’ life is charted with a novel devoted to each consecutive year, starting in 1946, and played by a cast of almost Dickensian proportions swirling round him.
Already two of the stories are available in audio form (issued by ISIS Publishing) and the ninth Vignoles book, Cold Steel Rail (set in 1954) has just been published by Stephen Done’s own imprint, The Vignoles Press. However, a bid for bigger glory on the small screen took place in October.
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