A mythological soap opera

Tim Leach, author of The Last King of Lydia
Tim Leach, author of The Last King of Lydia

Sheffield writer Tim Leach is hoping he has carved out a niche for himself in popular fiction with his debut novel, The Last King of Lydia.

It is set in the world of Greek mythology and tells the story of Croesus who ruled his kingdom (now part of Turkey) from 560 to 547 BC until it was conquered by the Persians.

The 28-year-old hopes that readers will share his fascination with the ancient world which he came across from reading for pleasure rather than study.

“I went on a classics binge after university where I didn’t study the classics. It was something I picked up, and reading Herodotus in particular got me interested in Greek mythology,” he explains. “Especially the story of Croesus, there seemed unfinished business there. Herodotus seems to abandon him just at the point it really began to get interesting so that gave me motivation.”

Leach studied English and creative writing at university so had ambitions to write but first underwent the various jobs which look good on a writer’s biography - barista, life model and assistant at Waterstone’s in Greenwich.

He also worked in a bookshop in Greece run by his cousins. “It’s not a paid job at all, you live in the shop and get your room and board and it’s staffed by these wandering lost souls basically. It’s a beautiful romantic island and I was there three months. That’s where I started working on it, although I had done the reading before.”

The MA course in creative writing at Warwick University enabled him to complete what will be the first of two books on the man who went from being the richest man in the world to a slave.

“In Herodotus there is a point where he has this conversation with a philosopher called Solon about the nature of happiness which is the axis point for me. It really intrigued me because it seemed such amodern kind of question. It was amazing for me to see these two people 2,000 years before talking about something that seemed very much a 20th or 21st century concern.”

As to his potential readership, he says he sees it as the more literary end of the historical fiction market. “One of my tutors described it as a very intelligent soap opera and I am very happy with that. It’s characters struggling with problems but in a brutal world which is a very dangerous place.”

Originally from Ongar in Essex he now lives in Heeley as he completes part two. He relocated to Sheffield because an uncle and cousin live here (“I have a sprawling family of cousins all round the world”) and because it is a centre for climbing which he took up while at Warwick.

“I have given myself a year to live on the advance but I have a very low cost of living and I don’t anticipate having to take my clothes off again.”

The Last King of Lydia is published by Atlantic Books at £12.99 (e-book £8.99).