||Jan 1 2003
Where children enjoy being children. They get involved in what they shouldn't and their very safety is threatened ...
Book to be Published 01.12.2003
The Six Bikers Website
The Duke's Last Wish Home Page
"With the long, summer holidays stretching before them, the intrepid Six Bikers prepare for weeks of playing, cycling, swimming and sunbathing in the beautiful north Devon resort of Ferncombe. But their fun, lazy days come to an abrupt end when they find themselves in the middle of an extraordinary mystery – one that will test their wit and courage.
How will Ben, Becky, Paul, Holly, Jade and Gary cope with the struggles that lie ahead? Will the two gangs – boys and girls – pull together to help each other out, and to fulfil the Duke’s last wish?"
A stillness hung over this group. They had been on a tempestuous journey, and failure at this late stage couldn’t even be contemplated. But which way to turn? As much as they agreed with Ben’s desire to free Matt, their safety had to be considered too. It seemed that whatever plan they came up with, and there were some excellent ones, it would involve too much personal risk. Ben, staring silently at the three candles in front of him, eventually drew the others’ attention.
“Come on, Ben, we all know how you feel,” said Becky soothingly, assuming, wrongly, that he was feeling disappointed. “Maybe we’ve got to accept the hard fact that there’s nothing we can do.”
“Just watch the candles,” he said, his gaze unbroken.
“Okay. But what is it I’m looking for?”
“The direction the flames are being blown in.”
“They are going towards the entrance – so what? You said it yourself at the flats, the wind was getting up.”
“If the entrance was the only opening in this shelter, you would expect the flames to bend towards the back, wouldn’t you?”
“I guess so, but I still don’t see your point.”
“The increase in wind strength is creating a draft from the back not the front. That means that, in the rooms beyond this one, somewhere is open to the wind; open to the outside. I’m going to find out where.”
“I think he’s lost it!” said Gary, only half joking, as Ben passed him and disappeared. “Clutching at one straw too many, I think. The flame moving that way is probably caused by swirling air, that’s all.”
A minute later, a muffled shout had them all running in the direction of where Ben had gone. The breeze grew stronger the further they went underground – was he right after all? Could this be some kind of secret way? Where would it lead? They saw the light of his torch swinging back and forth, and walked towards it. Ben was so engrossed in what he’d found that the sudden arrival of the others made him jump and his torch crashed to the floor.
“What have you found, Ben?” Jade asked.
“This,” he said, turning his torch back on and pointing to an opening in the wall, the height of a man. The tunnel appeared to be quite steep to start with, but levelled off and turned left after about 20 metres or so. “I said to Holly that the shelter in the grounds of the hotel was similar to ours. I’m now convinced of it. If, as I suspect, ours was used as a gun position to protect the harbour, during a war, why not that one too? Remove the buildings that now surround it, and it has an excellent position overlooking the harbour.”
“And you think this tunnel provides a link between them?” Gary asked wide-eyed with excitement.
“It must be!” said Holly, before Ben could reply. “If one came under attack, the linking tunnels could be used to either reinforce or evacuate each shelter.”
“Well, after all our misfortune, it’s good to get some good luck for a change,” Ben said, cuddling Holly in his joy at this unexpected discovery.
Was this the way into the Sea View they so desperately wanted? The journey to find the answer would soon begin.
It's Like Blyton Without Lashings of Ginger Beer
You've heard of the Famous Five - now it's time for them to move over for the Westcountry's own Six Bikers. The Duke's Last Wish is the first book in a series of 12 to centre around the same characters - six children who come to the Westcountry on holiday and roam at large on their bicycles.
In this debut novel by Neil Williams, the six children go to stay with one of their grandparents in the fictional town of Ferncombe, based on the Devon seaside resort Ilfracombe.
Ben, Becky, Paul, Holly, Jade and Gary arrive in Ferncombe and, despite their promises to their respective mothers, are immediately up to their ears in trouble. They meet the son of the late Duke of Ferncombe, returned to take his "rightful inheritance" by fair means or foul.
While the three boys and three girls carry on with simple games of fun and one-upmanship, events become deadly serious when the Duke's son carries out a daring bank robbery and the children become embroiled in his plans.
After discovering one of his hideouts, being captured and freed, and then almost allowing the jewels to be smuggled abroad, Ben leads the Six Bikers on a frantic journey to solve the riddle of the Sea View, the criminal gang's base and the prison of their young friend.
Neil Williams said: "I really wanted to capture the sense of childhood innocence and fun. I remember coming to Ilfracombe very fondly from my own youth and this is a tribute to those days.
"The books are in the same tradition as Enid Blyton's Famous Five, but there are differences. Even as a child I used to find their perpetual chuminess irritating.
"The Six Bikers are more like real children: they get annoyed with each other, they have fights and then make up. They have contests of boys against girls. I think children will really enjoy them."
The target age for Neil's books is 9-12 years.
The Duke's Last Wish is the first in a series which Neil said he had been working on for the past 20 years.
"They are mostly based in the Westcountry," he said. "One will be set in an old Cornish mine, one on Lundy Island and one in the Isles of Scilly; most are set in North Devon."
Neil's next book, called Second Hand, is awaiting publication next Easter.
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