Writers and Poets

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Writers and Poets in West Berkshire and North Hampshire.

Valerie Maskell


Penelope Stokes


Richard Westall

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Valerie MaskellValerie Maskell

Valerie Maskells latest play Next to a Stranger, was successfully tried out at the New Era Players theatre, Newbury, in early 2002. It is a suspense-filled domestic drama involving a youngish couple with twin children, Stella being a career woman while the somewhat older Tom cares for the two -year olds, Chris and Chloe. He earns money by working as a security guard at the week-ends. Influenced by a sensational investigative TV programme, Anne, Stella's snobbish mother begins to suspect Tom of being the local rapist. Admittedly he is invariably away from home when an 'incident'takes place.

The tension iincreases when Stella, getting up in the night to attend to one of her small children, discovers a masked intruder in the living room. The fact that, Tom being at work, her lover is upstairs does not encourage her to call the police. The next morning another rape and subsequent murder, is reported. Rosa, the flamboyant antique dealer from next-door, is supportive of Stella, but does she have her suspicions of her youthful actor boyfriend?

As the tension escalates Stellas own deceit leads her to wonder if she is being deceived in turn. Could her mother be right? Could Tom be the masked man? Could he even be the rapist, now a murderer? Could her kind affectionate husband be other than what he seems.?

As well as providing a gripping entertainment, this play explores the nature of trust in a relationship. There is a very dramatic climax, and an extremely moving and reasonably optimistic final scene. Press reviews were enthusiastic, suggesting that watching television with a partner would never be the same again!

Previous plays by Val Maskell, including the very topical It's all in the game, are available from Samuel French Ltd. Her novels, including Fancy Woman, winner of the Peninsular Prize, Shopkeepers etc are published by LITTLE BROWN.


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Penelope StokesPenelope Stokes

Penelope Stokes has lived in West Berkshire for 40 years. In the early 1980s she wrote and published a booklet on home-made toys, which sold several thousand copies on behalf of the National Childbirth Trust. This was followed by Picture Framing Made Easy which, in two editions (1986 and 1996), has sold over 30,000 copies worldwide.

From 1986 to 1996 she was a regular writer for the Newbury Weekly News with the weekly column Counterpoise, as well as book reviews, feature articles, interviews and commemorative supplements. Her journalism also appeared in Literary Review, The Daily Telegraph, the Independent on Sunday and Country Living.

Her published local history books include Norland (1992), Going with the Grain (1992), No Apology is Needed (1992), Newbury in the 1890s (1995) and Craven Country (1996). She also edited Battle for a Kingdom by Michael McNair-Wilson and East Garston Past and Present (1999).

In 2003 she gained an MSc in English Local History at Oxford University, choosing the local history of horse-racing as her dissertation topic. This was published in book form as Free Rein: Racing in Berkshire and Beyond 1700-1905 (2005). This was followed by Enborne and Wash Common: an Illustrated History (2011).

From 2006 to 2016 she edited the quarterly magazine of the Berkshire Family History Society, the Berkshire Family Historian, and she has recently completed The Common Good: the Story of Greenham Common, an illustrated hardback to be published by Greenham Trust in September 2017. She is currently working on a history of Georgian Newbury.


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Richard WestallRichard Westall

Richard was born in Southampton in 1952 and moved to Newbury eleven years later. He was a pupil at Park House School and then went on to Newbury College. He has worked in clerical and social work,jobs, most recently founding the Loose Ends Day Centre for the Homeless, at Newbury Baptist Church, where he is a member. He is married and lives at Turnpike. He suffers from M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).

Richard is currently a member of Time Spanner Projects, an association of musicians and artists based in West Berkshire, where he is in the process of setting up a writer's network.

He also works in partnership with Circle of Sound, who commissioned four new poems from him last year for the Timespan Project

Contact: www.circleofsound.co.uk/richw

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