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Law, war and the GrumbleGroar!

DSCF0062 146Rob Hann tells Local Government Lawyer about his other career as an author.

How did you become an author?

I started writing books through my work as a lawyer, as a way of explaining complex legal issues to myself. My first published book was A Guide to Local Authority Charging Powers which involved a huge amount of research through Halsburys laws and was designed to help councils to better understand when and how they could generate income through identifying statutory powers.

This topic has been very controversial and has come back into vogue during the credit crunch and recession. I have written or contributed to several other law books since. I find writing and updating law books a great discipline for keeping up to date with fast moving legal developments and my loose-leaf book ‘Local Authority Companies and Partnerships – LACAP’ has been in continuous circulation for over 25 years, now on its 37th update!

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Has your legal background influenced your writing?

Definitely. I was always keen to find a job that involved writing and being a lawyer certainly hits that objective. There have been many lawyer/authors of course so I think it is a natural progression of sorts.

Can you tell us a bit about your other books which seem to cover a wide range of genres?

Basically, I love inventing stories. When my two boys were small, I wrote some rhymes and stories on the train to and from work (Nottingham to London).

I loved reading my kids nonsense poetry such as Spike Milligan, Dr Zeuss and the daddy of them all - Edward Lear. The first rhyming story that popped into my head was The GrumbleGroar – a story about a fearsome creature who lives near the centre of the Earth and is responsible for earthquakes, volcanoes and other seismic events.

The GrumbleGroar serves as a metaphor for what really happens beneath our feet and schools like the concept as it triggers children’s imagination to want to find out more. The GrumbleGroar won the New Writers UK Children’s Book of the Year 2012 following feedback from schools in the East Midlands and was featured in the summer of 2016 as a visitor attraction at the Nottingham City of Caves which was really fun to do and involved audio, props, lighting and a script for actors to take smaller visitors round the caves complex to discover signs of the GrumbleGroar’s existence.

How did you come to write a prize winning book about war?

It is a bit strange going from children’s writing and law to something completely different but I wrote a book about my father’s experiences in the Special Air Service (‘SAS’) during the second world war (‘SAS Operation Galia’). This was my first attempt at a serious novel and it ended up forming part of my dissertation for the MA in creative writing at the Nottingham Trent University a few years ago.

The book won the Impress prize for New Writers. I republished it in 2013 following some great reviews by famous military personnel and after many of the families of the Galia squad got in touch. Channel 4 have recently screened a series of documentaries on World War II escape stories and the third episode ‘Rossano’ tells the story of SAS Operation Galia and, in particular, how my father and his colleagues escaped from the pursuing enemy forces.

Finding so much out about my dad’s army life after he had passed away was a really cathartic but rewarding experience. It was great to find so many photographs of my dad and his SAS pals hidden away in my mother’s drawer for so many years.

To be able to piece together what happened in war torn Northern Italy over 70 years ago and to tell the story in the right way - in my father’s voice, was the toughest challenge I have taken on to date.

Can you tell us your plans for the future?

I would like to get more children’s books illustrated and published. I love reading to kids in schools, helping them to read and to use their imaginations to invent more stories. I have many more rhymes waiting to be illustrated (for example, Bumble Bee Ten – the bee who just wants to stand out from the swarm and make jam, lemon curd, anything but honey’).

I have managed to get one other children’s book illustrated and to print to date – namely - Sidney Sneed – World famous footballing centipede and star of the mini-beast soccer league who ‘signed’ for Brentford FC a few years ago, bringing his particular brand of ‘grassroots football’ direct to schools in Brentford.

As Sid’s agent I am ‘pitching’ him currently to the Premier League which is aiming to provide teaching resources to more than 10,000 primary schools by 2019.

If we can export Sid’s amazing life-story (the highs and lows of being the talisman of the mini-beast football league) to all schools and football clubs in the UK who knows? I might even give up the law one day!

Insight 2 Cover 450 300dpi

This article was first published in the February edition of Local Government Lawyer Insight, which can be accessed at http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/insight

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