WE ARE SHEFFIELD: City boat race setting for ex-pat author's latest story

An author born and bred in Sheffield has written a collection of short stories partly based on his experiences of growing up in the city.

Mike Johnson with his latest book, Sheffield and other short stories.
Mike Johnson with his latest book, Sheffield and other short stories.

Mike Johnson has written eight books in total – but until now has always concentrated on the same mix of adventure and excitement he has always liked to read.

But his latest is a much more personal piece of writing, which draws on his own life growing up in Sheffield and – he says – is as close to an autobiography as he will ever get.

“My previous books are very much like Jeffrey Archer, fun and all about adventure – I think his books are great,” he says.

“This one is a bit of a diversion – it is a fun story but it is about real life. And it has a lot of my personal history woven into it.”

The main story centres on three University of Sheffield students, who attempt to recreate a famous tradition of the past – the Sheffield Boat Race.

The race used to take place every October, when the city’s students built rafts to sail them down the River Don.

By the time the vessels reached Lady’s Bridge, however, they were always total wrecks.

For the last 18 years, Mike has lived in Malaga with his wife and their six Chihuahuas, but returned to the city to give copies of his book to the places that are featured in the story.

These include The Star, where the students find information about the races of the past, the University of Sheffield, the Lyceum Theatre and Uncle Sam’s Chuck Wagon on Ecclesall Road.

Mike says he used to go to the American diner with his wife when it first opened and has been taking his children and grandchildren for the last 40 years.

The 67-year-old says he started writing after a chance encounter with an author in a bar in Fuengirola.

“She told me she had gone away to write as you can’t do it when you have distractions,” said Mike.

“After that I met a few other people who had also written books and I thought if they can all do it, why can’t I?

“When I start a book I never know what is going to happen in the storyline. It feels like jumping off a cliff but it is a hell of a thing to do.

“If you think it is going to upset somebody or that what you write is ridiculous you will never write a word – I just do it for myself.”

Since then, he has written eight books in just five years, five of which are part of his David Fallon detective series, with another adventure title and two collections of short stories.

Six have been self-published with the other two being produced by small publishing companies.

“I really caught the writing bug – it just poured out of me,” said Mike.

To find out more or to buy Mike’s books, visit www.amazon.com/author/johnsonmik.