A RETIRED headteacher turned author has published his fifth novel.

John Roberts’ latest work, Two Paths Diverge, centres around the English Civil War.

And he admits the project was quite a test.

“I set myself a challenge to write a historical novel and it proved to be a tough challenge, taking me four years to research and write,” said Mr Roberts, who was the head at Keighley’s Oakbank School ­– now Beckfoot Oakbank – for 18 years.

“Originally the English Civil War was to be one part of a five-section novel ending during the recent austerity years. But I got so fascinated by the civil war that it became the whole novel.”

Mr Roberts, 78 this month, says the novel is a love story.

It is the 17th century, Puritans sail in the Mayflower to found colonies in New England, Oliver Cromwell and King Charles fight the civil war in Old England, Alice and Will – in love at 18 years old – are forced by their parents to separate, with Will being sent to London and Alice to Amsterdam.

“I learned a lot about the civil war which is not taught in school,” said Mr Roberts, of Oakworth.

“This period is termed the ‘interregnum’, the time between two reigns – demeaning in itself.

“It was a crucial time. The monarchy was formally abolished and a republic set-up by an elected parliament.

“For the first time ever, an elected parliament condemned a king to death. Leading up to the civil war and during the time of the Commonwealth, fundamental ideas were proposed by ordinary men who had previously had no voice or influence – one man, one vote, equal parliamentary constituencies, common ownership of land.”

His research for the novel was extensive.

“I visited the Putney church where the great debates were held,” said Mr Roberts. “I found it a moving place because of course all these aspirations were eventually squashed, not to appear again for 200 years. There were great men I’d never heard of.

“The politics are woven into a powerful love story, but the politics have contemporary parallels. It was unnerving.”

Two Paths Diverge is priced £9, with all proceeds going to Martin House children’s hospice at Boston Spa.

It is available from Amazon or email johngroberts21@outlook.com.