Engineer Matt has designs on new adventure

THE former Chairman of a Morpeth business group has turned his hand to a new venture.

Matt Ritson, who led the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, has been inspired by his passion for ancient history to write time-travelling adventure novels which combine factual details with a fantastical plot.

After deciding to write a book, the industrial and property designer and engineer was helped by a vivid dream and a trip to Greece as he put together The Hippo-Chronos (AKA The Antikythera Key).

The second and concluding part of the tale, The Hippo-Tempus (AKA The Alexandria Key), will be published next year.

Central to the plot is the intense speculation about the Antikythera mechanism, which was found in 1900 among many 2,000-year-old statues.

It was a mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions and it has puzzled and intrigued historians of science and technology since its discovery.

Mr Ritson, who studied ancient history as a youngster, did research into this and other devices from the region said to be ahead of their time and he began to think of how they could be incorporated into a novel.

“From my design background, I wondered what this whole, unimagined technological world was like,” he said.

“Was it so different from our own? What was life like for ordinary people in that society?

“I thought, if it is not too late, as our own world stumbles along through the same old problems, we can still learn valid lessons from the past.

“The obvious challenge was for someone to repackage it all in an intriguing way — as an adventure in time.

“I am rarely able to recall dreams, but I had a short, bizarre one that I still remember in great detail.

“I was lying asleep in bed, in a darkened room, hovering above myself, when a bronze sculpture drifted slowly past me. It was in the form of a leaping horse, being ridden by a young boy.

“As it moved through the air, it was to me an almost tangible image of the passage of time.

“Yet I awoke in a state akin to euphoria with the words ‘The Hippo-Tempus’ echoing in my head — half Greek, half Latin.”

With the concept for the story in his head, Mr Ritson started writing it and he then visited mainland Greece and a number of Greek islands, including Rhodes and Antikythera, and talked to many of the residents.

The 54-year-old, who now lives in Amble, said: “This was when I became truly astounded at the many details and ‘coincidences’ I stumbled upon: so many that when I got home, I tore up the manuscript and started all over again.

“The story is not about ‘the Gods’ or other myths, a stuffy history lecture, nor is it just a romance story.

“It is a very balanced, bitter-sweet tale, a very human adventure story of both modern and ancient youth which features some unlikely heroes. It is also about belief and trust.”

At the start of the first book, 14-year-old Alex is struggling to come to terms with the first anniversary of the disappearance of his archaeologist dad.

When he and his friend Conna meet up with the new sisters in school, Maddie and Bex, they witness a bizarre explosion at his reclusive neighbour’s house.

There they discover Tom, lying hurt beside his strange sculpture called The Hippo-Chronos.

The dazed old Greek confronts Alex with a fantastic story, which shocks the normally level-headed boy to the core — his father is alive and well in Alexandria, but trapped in the year 48BC.

The Hippo-Chronos (AKA The Antikythera Key), published by Troubador Publishing, is available in paperback from bookshops and online priced £7.99. It can also be purchased as an ebook for Kindle and Mac.

For more information visit www.time-horse.com