The Quiet Churches and simple Sussex beauty

Horsham solicitor Nigel C Winter is challenging the expectations of literary success with his new book The Quiet Churches of Sussex, published by Amazon at £3.67 (no profit – but an invitation to donate to the Salvation Army).

Nigel C Winter
Nigel C Winter

“My initial idea was to write a book with a title at which your average literary agent would guffaw for want of commercial acumen – and then prove them wrong,” Nigel explains. “Blood, Sex & Violence should be a best-seller. Evensong in Sussex should not.

“So I set out with the intention of writing a John Betjeman-style account of 12 evensong services over the 12 months of the year. As this was the year of the coronavirus, it quickly became clear that this story would be dominant, and the book quickly became an account of The Quiet Churches of Sussex.

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“These were viewed at a time when everything appeared normal, but was not. During a beautiful summer where the level of traffic enabled one to see our environment in the same way as a traveller before the age of the internal combustion engine. Amidst all the heartache, there was one unchanging institution that could remind us of the happier times that would return; our churches. This is an unashamedly sentimental feel-good book in an age when the battered population need a nostalgic reminder that sometimes the simple things in life are the best, particularly if they are on our doorstep, here in Sussex.

“The book shelves need the addition of a reassuring book reminding us of the beauty of our churches that in normal times we take for granted. Part architectural, travel and theological, the book is intended to gently take the reader in a family’s cycle tracks around the parishes of Sussex during a difficult year. That year was, on the other hand, remarkably peaceful and might even be a reminder of what we leave behind when we race around the globe in search of thrills.

“The inspiration is the late Sir John Betjeman, as well as others including the architectural critic Ian Nairn. I sought to point out the virtue of what we have here our doorstep in Sussex, in a manner in which they might have done had they undertaken the same journey.

“The book is aimed at those seeking a happy unpretentious read after a trying year, in the hope that they will be reassured by the permanence of our churches.

“It was pleasure to find that in a year in which we were so restricted, we were able to devote so much time cycling from parish to parish and recording what we discovered and adding, what I hope readers will conclude, is my own gentle humorous spin.

“The starting point of the book was the pursuit of Sir John Betjeman’s dictum that we should seek out churches that are worth ‘cycling twelve mile in the rain’ to visit. This dictum was followed rigidly, but effortlessly. I hope that I will be able to produce as series, along similar lines, each year and in time for the Christmas market. It’s an ideal stocking filler!”

As for the £3.67 price: “I wanted to donate all the proceeds to the Salvation Army, but Amazon do not allow for writers to have two accounts and there would be tax consequences if the royalties came direct to me.

“Having seen the way the nation responded admirably to the Covid crisis in the summer, I reduced the price to at cost, but instead have a QR code in the book in which they can make a donation in lieu of a royalty. It could be a revolutionary approach to fund raising.”

Nigel added: “This is my second book. The first, Travelling with Mr Turner, is a travelogue come social history. I cannot really recall a time in my life when I wasn’t involved in writing.”