Saturday, 27 January 2018

#3 Someone to #Lean on -#Mr. Sykes

NOTE: My apologies for this post being a day late. This is part of my Friday theme but I must have had a 'senior moment' when scheduling it since it didn't post yesterday. 

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight!

Today, I'm joined by my Crooked Cat author friend, Sue Barnard, who has chosen a really interesting character from her contemporary novel Nice Girls Don't. It's a while since I read the novel, so it's been great to get reacquainted with him and to enjoy the ancestry aspect again, which is something I love to dabble in.

Welcome to my Friday series, Sue. I'll let you explain a bit about Mr. Sykes and thank you for bringing an except with you so that my readers can get to know him better!


Mr Sykes is a widower in his mid-sixties.  He had been devoted to his wife, and had taken early retirement to take care of her after an accident had left her seriously disabled.  During the two years since she died, he has gradually begun to rebuild his own life.

One of his favourite activities is a daily visit to his local library, where he spends the morning in the reference section completing the cryptic crossword from The Times.  It is because of his visits to the library that he meets the main characters in the story: Emily (who works there) and Carl (who is a library customer).

Although Mr Sykes is technically a secondary character in Nice Girls Don’t, his role in the story is pivotal.  One of his areas of expertise is genealogy, and when he learns that Carl is seeking to research his own family history, he offers to help.  Without Mr Sykes’ invaluable assistance, it is very likely that the whole project would never have got off the ground.

Here, he tells Emily and Carl about what his own research has revealed:

Emily smiled. “You seem to know a lot about this, Mr Sykes.”

The old man’s eyes twinkled. “Well, I have been doing it for years, on and off!”

“How far back have you managed to trace?” Carl asked.

“Quite a long way – so far, at least. I’ve got back to around 1800 with one branch of the family, and a little further back than that with another.”

Carl whistled under his breath. “That’s pretty impressive! Have you found any skeletons in the closet?”

Mr Sykes grinned. “One or two.”

“Oooh! What sort of skeletons?” Emily asked, intrigued.

“I found one ancestor who ended up in prison for assaulting a policeman. And another who I think might have been a bigamist, but I haven’t so far been able to prove that for certain. Though it seems that bigamy was much more common than most people realise.”

“Why would that have been, do you think?”

“Probably because it was very difficult to get a divorce in those days.”

Emily nodded. “That would figure, I suppose.”

“But one of the biggest shocks I had,” Mr Sykes went on, “was when I discovered my grandparents’ guilty secret.”

“What was that?” Carl and Emily asked, in perfect chorus. They looked at each other and laughed.

Mr Sykes chuckled. “Well,” he went on, “my grandparents celebrated their Golden Wedding when I was fourteen. I remember it particularly because I’d just left school a couple of months earlier. And it was quite a party – they’d had nine children altogether! But years later, when I started researching the family history and looked for a record of their marriage, I couldn’t find it.”

Emily raised her eyebrows. “How intriguing!”

“It was indeed. But then, quite by chance, I found it – and that was when I realised that I’d been looking in the wrong place.”

“What do you mean?” Carl asked, equally intrigued.

“I’d based my calculations on the date of their Golden Wedding party, so I’d subtracted fifty years from that and searched the marriage records for that year. But it seems that they hadn’t got married when I thought they had. The day and the month were right, but the actual date of their marriage was a whole year later. It seemed that they’d celebrated their Golden Wedding a year early.”

 “How strange!” Carl remarked. “Have you any idea why they might have done that?”

“Oh yes!” Mr Sykes grinned conspiratorially. “It all became clear when I started to check the birth records. My Uncle Sam was their first child, and their Golden Wedding party was a very respectable sixteen months before his fiftieth birthday. But if they’d celebrated in the correct year, it would have become obvious to the whole family that they’d only taken four months to produce him!”

Sue continues: 
I based the character of Mr Sykes on two real people:  my father-in-law (whose abiding passion was family history and who taught me most of what I know of the subject) and a friend’s father (who was kind, knowledgeable and helpful and who had a wonderful sense of humour).  I am reminded of both of them every time I think of him.

As the story developed I found I was growing more and more fond of Mr Sykes, and realised that he needed a happy ever after of his own.  But you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is…

Nice Girls Don’t is published by Crooked Cat Books, and is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook format.

You can find out more about Sue and her books  on her BlogFacebook,  G+ and Twitter

Thank you so much for coming today, Sue, and being a part of my mini series. As always, best wishes with your writing.


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