Joseph Canning

Author Joseph Canning was brought up in Goldhanger and attended the village school

and to date he has published eleven novels:

2006 Once upon an island

2006 Olive's Boys

2010 The other side of England, Part 1 - The homecoming

2010 The other side of England, Part 2 - No bread, no work, no hope

2010 The other side of England, Part 3 - Law and lawlessness

2010 Troubled Country

2011 Love and hate in a small town

2013 The Vicar of Steadshall

2014 Never so innocent again ; one summer in Paris

2015 Down The Years With Sorrow

2018 My Good Friend Henry

His books all have an East Anglia theme and most have autobiographical content.

from the former website:

 "I am a retired journalist, having spent thirty-five years in the business, working on morning daily and evening newspapers in Britain and Canada. I still write more or less full-time. Once Upon An Island was my first novel. It is written about places that exist and characters I knew. I grew up along the estuary and in the village I describe. I also paint in oils. I am married, live in a leafy part of Stockport".

The introduction in Chapter One of his most recent book: Never so innocent again; one summer in Paris makes it clear that the book is largely autobiographical as the background described fit in well with what we know of his early career. Here are some extracts...

...Even at the age of twenty, back in '58, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do - working as a bicycle-riding reporter on the local weekly newspaper in the small hilltop market town of Maydun at the head of the Langwater estuary in the middle of the county.

...I had joined the Maydun Standard, which served the town and twenty or so villages north, south and west of the estuary, after leaving the local grammar school at eighteen in the summer of '56, thinking it the best place to learn to write properly, to begin to fulfil my literary yearnings. Then, after a few years spent learning the word trade at the newspaper's offices halfway down the High Street, I reckoned that I would be ready to go on to a bigger and better paper.

...In the meantime, I was happy enough covering fetes and funerals, parish councils and town councils, magistrate's courts, coroner's courts, quarter sessions and assizes over at the county town of Melchborough

...I had gone to evening classes at the local Friary evening institute to learn Pitman's shorthand and had got my own version of it up to a hundred and twenty words a minute, which was quite sufficient for courts and councils, I had been on the Standard for coming up to two years and I was doing what I wanted to do and had no thoughts of doing anything else for the time being when, unexpectedly, I was fired! I had just returned from enjoying a 'liquid lunch' in the Rose and Crown public house next door when I was called into the Editor's office and given one month's notice.

...The mad thing I did later was to toss a coin to decide my future while sitting on the upstairs front seat of an empty double-decker bus trundling through the flat, estuary-side fields of that region to my home village of Gledlang - but I did. The choice I gave myself was quite straightforward - to 'run away' to Paris and become the writer I wanted to be, or to stay where I was and try to get another reporting job on another newspaper.

...As I flicked up the two-shilling piece, I had to vow to myself that, no matter what, I would stick by the decision which the Fates decided for me: if I bad been asked, I would have admitted that I was more than a little apprehensive of the outcome as the coin dropped into my palm. But 'Heads for Paris' it was!

...The decision to disappear entirely from the lives of those whom I knew - from my widowed mother, from my eight-year-old sister Joan, from the other youths in Gledlang with whom I played football and cricket, from the girls with whom I square-danced at the youth club, from all the people I had ever known - that decision was taken from me by the spin of the coin and I found myself vowing not to return till ... well, till I was better than I was at that time.

...One reason I could go to Paris was because I was now not only free from the strictures of work and able to do so but I was free also from the threat of having to waste two valuable years of my life doing my National Service for Queen and Country. At eighteen, on leaving the grammar school sixth form and unable to afford the cost of going on to university, as most of my contemporaries had done, I had been obliged to register at the local branch of the Ministry of Labour and National Service on Maydun High Street and nervously await my call-up into the Armed Forces.

Once Upon an Island   was Joe`s first novel and has a very large local content. . .

Once Upon an Island

canning bookA rural tale of love and tragedy set on a remote estuary island in the 1940s. Teenager Joe Coe in 1947 is leading a lonely life working as a labourer for his stepfather on a remote estuary island until his long-lost stepbrother Richard returns after 19 missing years. Richard, who is physically scarred, is apprehensively awaiting the arrival of the woman he loves and from whom he was separated in a Japanese civilian internment camp. The island is their only link. Against the odds, Richard and Joe form a friendship, which ultimately leads to disaster and tragedy. A host of rural characters are introduced, including a young farmer in love with his cousin, a Polish soldier seeking the girl who has borne his child and who has married another man, two female artists seeking to escape a Blitzed London, an eccentric archaeologist exiled by his family and a young Jewish refugee. (477 pages)

a website review of Once Upon an Island. . .

"An elegiac tale of a defiant friendship and a doomed love affair. When runaway Richard Wigboe returns to his island home after 19 missing years, it is to await the woman he loves from whom he was separated in a Japanese civilian internment camp. Turned away by his embittered father, Ben, he finds a friend in his lonely teenage step-brother Joe Coe. Set in the wilds of Eastern England in 1947, the cast of characters includes two female artists, a half-mad eccentric landowner, a shy bachelor in want of a wife and a displaced Polish soldier seeking the girl who has borne his baby".

Despite the disclaimer on the title page: "all characters and events are entirely fictitious", Joe wrote on the web: "Anyone who has lived in the village for some time will recognise much about Goldhanger in the book".

Here is a translation list of many of the places named in the book...

In the Book

Real World

In the Book

Real World


Osea Island

Shoe St

Fish St



Tithe St

Church St



Hedge St

Head St



Tottle Rd

Lt Totham Rd



St Peters

St Peters



The Chessman

The Chequers





Boundary Farm

Bounds Farm

Curlews Hall

Falcons Hall



Foliot Magna

Tolleshunt Major



Bowlers Rest

The Cricketers

Many of the characters portrayed in the book also seem to be based on real-life local people from the period, and at least 40 have been recognize. Perhaps it would be best for readers to indentify these themselves. However there is one main character in the book that stands out to anyone who lived in the village in the 1940s and 50s, and to othose who has studied recent village history. "Horatio Crockshay Volwycke-Hoar" cannot fail to be identified. From the various descriptions and the lifestyle portrayed of him in the book, it has to be the one and only Horace Crawshay Frost. There is no doubt that Mr Frost continues to fascinate all who knew him, and those who researched village history and have chosen to put pen to paper.

Here are summaries of Joe's other novels, with the summaries taken from several internet sites that market the books...

Olive’s Boys

Olives boys.jpgOlive's Boys is also semi-autobiographical and uses the same pseudonyms for local place names as Once Upon an Island. It is initially set in London in 1940 when the Blitz is at its height. Bombing is daily as well as nightly and amid it all, young mother Olive fights against the odds, defying the bombs and the authorities, to hang on to her seven children, even as her fickle husband deserts her and goes on the run from the police and the army. Made homeless by the bombing, Olive returns to the village where she was born (Gledland = Goldhanger) only to be turned away by her father and her two bullying brothers. She finds refuge for herself and her children in an abandoned hovel and from there begins the fight to restore her dignity and her pride. (308 pages)

The other side of England, Part 1 - The homecoming

Other Side of England, pt I.jpgInfantryman Jem Stebbings return to his East Anglian home from the Battle of Waterloo after twelve years fighting the French, determined to set himself up as a husbandman and to forget the horrors of war. He then has to fight to keep his land from being enclosed by greedy gentry. This is an historical novel based on fact. It describes life in an English village in East Anglia during the early Nineteenth Century when the open-field system of agriculture was still prevalent and husbandmen farmed as they had done for centuries ... before enclosure changed everything and brought about the end of old England. (444 Pages)

The other side of England, Part 2 - No bread, no work, no hope

part II.jpgEngland's last revolution...when thousands of agricultural labourers, near to starving, living in abject poverty, without work, without bread and without hope, subject to the most draconian laws in Europe and ruled by an unsympathetic Parliament of land-owning gentry, hoisted the black flag of anarchy and the 'Tricolour' of revolution and marched across the southern counties of England, destroying threshing machines, burning barns and straw stacks and terrorising the rich. 'Bread or blood!' they chanted and the Government of the day feared a Revolution had broken out. The Government's response was swift and brutal...mass arrests, mass trials at special assize courts, hangings, gaolings and wholesale transportation to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land.

The other side of England, Part 3 - Law and lawlessness

part III.jpgIt is 1844...and a vicious gang of robbers and thugs is terrorising a remote region of East Anglia. Rapacious, bloodthirsty and depraved, they have fled the London 'peelers' via the new railway to hide out in the small market town of Hamwyte, where there is no effective law and the pickings are easy ... isolated mansions and lonely farmhouses are burgled with impunity, their owners brutally tortured, their womenfolk viciously assaulted. The gang laugh at authority ... no act is too savage for them, no evil too great ... not even murder. The county constabulary - less than four years old - is looking for a man to bring them to justice and the county's chief constable turns to one of its first inspectors, Joseph Harrington, a former able seaman and battler against smugglers ... backed up by a new constable, Tom Tedder, a corn miller's son. (376 pages)


Troubled Country.jpgTroubled Country

The last months of peace before the outbreak of the Great War and reluctant suffragette Grace Deddington flees London to escape arrest. But when she arrives in the remote Essex village of Foliot Magna, she finds the countryside in turmoil - the farmworkers have all been locked out by the farmers for joining a union. They are led in their fight by young labourer Jack Goodall. The author lived in Essex up to the age of nineteen. (296 pages) ["Foliot Magna" is real-world Tolleshunt Major]


Love and hate in a small town

Love and Hate in a Small Town.jpgThe year is 1936... and nineteen-year-old Robert Hammond is living in lodgings in the small East Anglian town of Levendon, working as a trainee reporter on the local weekly newspaper. To overcome home sickness and loneliness, he joins the local rambling club and befriends a brother and sister, Maurice and Sylvia, who are also strangers to the town. Robert falls in love with Sylvia and all seems idyllic till Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists set up a Blackshirts' branch in the town. Maurice, an avowed leftist, is one of the main disrupters of their first meeting and when he is arrested the family's secret comes out in court and they find themselves targeted. Undaunted, Maurice takes part in the famous Battle of Cable Street, then runs away to fight with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, leaving Robert to be blamed for not preventing him. As a result, he and Sylvia are forbidden to see each other and, as the Second World War looms, they are separated forever... or are they?  (248 pages)

The Vicar of Steadshall

The Vicar of Steadshall.jpgThe year is 1886 and the fifty-year-old Reverend Hugo Scrope rules over the small East Anglian market town of Steadshall like some feudal lord of old, imperious and unforgiving, especially when he learns that his enemies, the Baptists, have built a new chapel and are growing in number. Trouble arises when he sacks the incumbent schoolmaster and inadvertently hires a radical replacement to run his grossly overcrowded parochial school, the only one in town. When the Government threatens to impose a school board on the town and take the education of the children away from the church, the vicar decides to fight them by building an extension. At the same time, widowed by the death of his young wife, his sexual frustrations begin to overpower him. . . till his eyes light on a young nursemaid. (334 pages)

Never so innocent again; one summer in Paris

Never So Innocent Again cover.jpgMemories of a Paris summer. . . Paris in the early summer of 1958. . . and a coup d'etat by the French generals directing the war in Algeria brings the revered General Charles de Gaulle back into power to oppose the rebel FLN fighting for independence. The City of Light itself is a hotbed of factions. . . French against Algerians. . . Algerians against French. . . Algerians against Algerians. . . Murder and mayhem stalk the streets. Into this dangerous mix wanders an innocent twenty-year-old from a small English village, Thomas Cullen, who, having been sacked from his job as a trainee newspaper reporter, heads for Paris, determined to write his first novel there. For safety's sake, he teams up with two kilted Scots and a middle-aged black American professor of literature and over one madcap week they are more intent on enjoying the sights of Paris - both architectural and human - rather than worrying about the danger all around them. Then Tom meets the beautiful half-French, half-Algerian, eighteen-year-old Francine and falls in love, which poses a dilemma: How can he stay in Paris beyond a three months visa to write his novel and to court Francine? (332 pages)

Down the Years with Sorrow

Down The Years With Sorrow cover 2015.jpgThe start of the 1960s… and a stranger arrives in the small Northern town of Thruckstone. Ted Collins is a twenty-year-old newspaper reporter, a rover, prepared to move from town to town to further his ambitions. He is joining the local Herald, having been sacked from his previous job, but is still determined to keep alive his dream of one day joining a national daily in London… at any cost! Love blooms for the lonely Ted when he meets a beautiful eighteen-year-old devout Irish Catholic, Kathleen McCartney, the ‘most gorgeous girl he has ever seen’… He courts her steadily over the months, happy to be in her company, but then things start to get in the way of Ted’s ambitions. (244 pages)

My Good Friend Henry

My Good Friend Henry cover 2018.jpgThe beginning of the turbulent Sixties… a time of dissent as thousands march on the famed CND pilgrimages from Aldermaston to London in protest against Britain’s possession of the Hydrogen Bomb… a time, too, of the last of the pea-souper smogs. In London, an angry left-wing gang, calling themselves the ‘Justice Brigade’, is terrorising the capital – throwing thunderflashes into bank foyers, setting fire to Conservative Association buildings and army recruiting centres, and even attacking a retired policeman’s home… Two young men from a small Essex coastal village go up to London together… one Henry Blaydon, the disgraced public school-educated son of the local vicar who has been sent down from Cambridge University… the other a bemused former grammar school boy, Eric Norton, son of the village’s char lady. Henry has been left a dilapidated house in Chelsea by a great uncle, and there, by chance, he is reunited with his former Cambridge girlfriend, Rebecca, and her best friend, Jean. They are art students at a nearby college and live on a houseboat moored at Cheyne Walk. As Henry spends more and more time with his old girlfriend, Eric is left to his own devices and, becoming bored with just sightseeing, he gets a job as a ‘gofer’ in a revue theatre and then one night, by chance, he overhears a plot which threatens the lives of thousands. (248 pages)


All of Joe’s novels are available on...

(there is another author on Amazon with the same name who publishes non-fiction titles)

last revised in February 2020

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