St Helens author imagines what happened next to Sgt Pepper

Steve Goddard with his latest novel, Whatever Happened to Billy Shears?
Steve Goddard with his latest novel, Whatever Happened to Billy Shears?

A St Helens writer has used one of the 20th century’s cultural touchstones as the basis for his latest novel.

Steve Goddard took inspiration from The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, asking what happened next to the characters who populate the iconic album.

In Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? 63-year-old Steve, a former communications boss for the Angilcan Diocese of Manchester, imagines how the Hendersons, Mr Kite and, of course, Henry the horse fared during the 50 years since the record was released.

“Lyrically, Pepper gave us a snapshot of 1960s’ Britain in cultural flux,” said Steve Goddard.

“I decided to allude to Pepper as a reflection on the way society has changed over the past 50 years.

“The novel begins in the present day with a fatal car accident: a crowd gathers and gawps at a ‘face they’ve seen before’.

“The novel then charts events leading up to the crash with Canon William Shearwater, an ordained minister in the Church of England, reminiscing about his first love, Lucy Pitcher.

“He doesn’t believe in that well-worn myth about the 1960s. He was there and remembers them all too well, especially the way Lucy turned his quiet suburban world upside down with one handstand.

“As he secretly confesses all to his computer, English teacher Sophie Daggert is documenting her slow recovery from bereavement.

“Adopted at birth, she embarks on a search for her natural parents. A series of twists and turns bring Sophie and ‘Shears’ together in a shocking journey of self-discovery.”

A tragicomedy, in the footsteps of novelists like David Lodge, Willie Russell and Nick Hornby, Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? asks questions about changing social mores and beliefs.

Cindy Kent MBE, former lead singer with 1960s British folk-pop group The Settlers, said: ‘Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? is witty, tragic and emotional. If there’s a better-observed comic novel about the 1960s, I’ll eat my kaftan.’

Whatever Happened to Billy Shears is out now, published by Marylebone House.