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2024

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I was born in Blackpool, Lancashire, of Bolton parents, who returned to the family hometown when I was seven. I won a colouring competition and decided to be an artist when I grew up; my later paintings of American First People, with whom I identified, were displayed on my primary school classroom walls.

 

At eleven my teacher suggested I apply for Art School, but having previously become obsessed with Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I had decided to become a writer instead. The same teacher now encouraged my inventiveness when writing compositions in English lessons. I lived in Bolton until 1984 when, with my wife and son, moved to Skelmersdale New Town. After thirty years I transplanted myself to France with writer Harriet Devine where I currently live. I have never been a stay-at-home person for long and travelled the world, initially stimulated by a school trip to Switzerland and Italy.

Education and early day jobs

Having failed my Eleven Plus to attend Thornleigh Grammar School, I passed a Twelve Plus for Bolton Technical College. Having a split vocational personality between academic (literary) and technical skills (my father was an engineer), I became fascinated by electronics, building radios and amplifiers, even planning to build a radio telescope on a garden shed roof, at the same time writing science fiction stories with occasional satirical ‘grown up’ ones about my pals and their parents, inspired by P.G. Wodehouse and The Goon Show. 
At college I wrote sci-fi stories for my classmates and a comic observational piece about school life. One English teacher thought I should become a reporter while another was simply disappointed when restless me left college at 15 before even acquiring any educational qualifications.
 
Putting my literary ambition on hold, I became an apprentice television engineer - during which time I was persuaded to cool my restless feet and not become a maritime radio operator until my apprenticeship ended. But by then I was seduced into a conventional life, working in a friend’s electrical business and finally as a telephone engineer. However, at 23, I flew to Australia, spent a year living a bohemian life in Sydney and an adventurous one in the wilds of the Outback with a nomadic mining company. I then used up my savings travelling back to England via Japan, Hong Kong and overland on the Hippy Trail through India and Afghanistan, arriving home with £8.00 in my pocket. 

Basic writing career

My first published work was a letter on Australian life for the Bolton Evening News. The second was for a local publisher: a precis of a lifetime of letters home from an ex Boltonian in America, beginning during the Civil War. The fee was a guinea - which I never received. However, in 1971, twenty-two years after deciding to become a writer, and some years of unpublished short story and article submissions, I received my first professional payment of £20 from the prestigious Blackwood’s Magazine, for Generosity for a Gaijin, my account of travelling through Japan. I recorded all my peripatetic exploits, purely as a traveller, or on family holidays, or as my artistic work took me - writing either on the move or immediately afterwards, revelling in mundane details as a contrast to the grand geopolitical picture.
 
Having been brought up with the radio, I had comedy and thriller plays and serials broadcast, the first being The Oily Rag for BBC’s Radio 4, which received letters of approval from listeners, and was repeated on the World Service to a potential audience of a billion or more! I worked on TV series pilots, wrote gags for comedy shows and a kids play. I joined the Society of Authors, becoming the first secretary of Authors North, an adjunct of the Society based in London. I eventually became the author I always intended to be with a mix of WWI and WWII adventures and a cosy Victorian detective series. I later began research on non-fiction themes.

A film and stage producer

After penning nearly a dozen screenplays, I became an inventive guerrilla filmmaker producing one of my comedy scripts, Gobsmacked!, as an early example of a digitally shot feature film. I used a mix of dynamic amateur and professional actors. The director, Gabe Kern, started his acting career in Oliver!, both on the West End stage and in the film, and cinematographer, Daniel Whistler, was an experienced documentary maker. But I reckon the actual making it was more exciting than the movie itself. When Kern acquired the use of a disused theatre, he readily put on my first play, the Sherlock Holmes farce Mrs H of Baker Street, as their entry to the 2007 Manchester Comedy Festival. It was performed for a week to great success. Full of creative joy, I co-produced the event, pitching in with practical and creative skills set building and poster designing, and helping with casting and rehearsals. 

Currently...

During the Covid lock-down beginning January 2020 and four years following, I wrote a long dramatised account of my memories, from my early Blackpool childhood in hospital 1942 with Pink disease, to 2024 in a French hospital having a stent operation. In between I appear to have had an exceptionally healthy life. If I survive long enough I'll get the great epic published for the benefit of the whole world. What more can one desire?



 

Peter Tong is an all round English author, playwright, screenwriter, and radio and television writer of upbeat heroic action and humorous fiction, many based on diligently researched historical events. He has been a film and stage producer, book publisher and head of a ghost-writing company.

Early life

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