Retired former owner of Rugby's Gray Opticians publishes debut novel - and the idea appeared to him after an operation

Phil is a familiar face in the town, having been at Gray Opticians for 40 years

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 2:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 2:20 pm
Phil Gregg.

The retired former owner of Gray Opticians in Rugby has written an intriguing history-inspired novel - after coming up with an idea when he woke up from an operation.

Phil Gregg, who worked at the opticians for 40 years, said he had never thought of himself as very creative, with his scientific training and background making his view of the world deductive and evidence-based.

But he said a plot for murder mystery set in Anglo-Saxon times suddenly came to him when he woke up after having a back operation.

He wrote-up that first novel on his computer and asked his son to have a look.

He said: "My son is very erudite so I wanted him to see what he thought of it.

"He read it and said, 'I like it, but publish your second story'.

"At the time I didn't have a second story."

Phil then set to work penning another novel, set in the same era and this time an historical romance centred on Denua, the fictional sister of a real king.

The novel blends history and fiction, but Phil's extensive research on the period means that even the fictional characters' names and behaviour is accurate to the time.

Both the glossary and the appendix also contain clarification on which characters and events are historical and which are fictional.

The novel is set in a little-understood but hugely important time in the history of Britain, with the decline of the Roman Empire beckoning in the Dark Ages, the descent of Britain into tribal rivalry and the arrival of the Angles and the Saxons, whose culture began to dominate England.

"It's called the Dark Ages because very few records were kept of the time," Phil explained.

Phil said the Romans kept extensive records, but with their decline came a lack of information.

The few written records that exist of this crucial time in British history were kept by Roman Catholics - with historians now relying on a mixture of these, archaeological records and oral tradition - the latter not being written down properly until hundreds of years afterwards and thus being of mixed reliability.

Among the issues explored in the book are the foundations of Celtic Christianity, a cultural force which helped to give birth to many of the values which still permeate our society today.

To that end, St Patrick also appears in the book.

Phil said the book is already proving popular.

He said: "It takes about five-and-a-half hours to read in one sitting - I know that because I've people get in touch to say they picked it up and looked at the first chapter to see what it was like, and they couldn't put it down."

The book is written under the pen name of 'Philip Gregge', and there is a specific reason for this.

Phil explained: "A lot of people know me because of my work, and many were asking if someone with a similar name to me had written the book.

"I added an 'e' onto the end of my surname when I realised that if you searched 'Gregg' online you would get thousands of results - thanks to a certain baker.

"But searching 'Gregge' leaves me at the top of the results."

Phil said the additional 'e' is still true to his surname.

"My great-grandfather was born as a 'Gregge', but he died as a 'Gregg' - I'm not sure if that was a lack of literacy in him or the person who recorded his death."

The book, named 'Denua - Warrior Queen' is available to buy at Hunt's Bookshop and the Christian Bookshop on Castle Street.