Burnham-On-Sea’s oldest author is celebrating having her first book published in paperback this month.

Sheila Rainey, 96, who is partially sighted, has enjoyed writing for years and has now had latest novel, called ‘Innocents In London’, published after being encouraged by a friend.

We reported here that is Sheila’s novel sold enough copies on Amazon’s Kindle service that  it could be published in physical book form – which has now happened.

“I’ve always loved writing – it keeps the mind sharp – and this is my first book published,” she told Burnham-On-Sea.com. “It is very exciting to have my work in book form and available on Amazon.”

The historical fiction novel, which took Sheila around six months to write, is set in the 1800s and is a story of hope and advertisity. It follows a five-year-old boy whose mother died, and he is kidnapped from his father’s country estate and finds himself in Georgian London ’employed’ as a climbing chimney sweep.

Sheila, who has lived in Burnham for over five years at Kathleen Chambers House care home, was given a celebration party by staff and friends this week to mark the publication.

“A dear friend and my editor, Logan, persuaded me to get published after enjoying what I’d written.”

Judy Davies, a friend of Sheila’s, adds: “It is a wonderful book – a real page-turner of a read, intriguing, very exciting, and a most extraordinary story. She is a remarkable lady.”

The 282-page book is available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A music lover, Sheila as worked with major orchestras and conductors, including the Philharmonia, English Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Academy, attending them at all concerts in the UK and abroad.

While with BBC Publications she prepared printed programmes for concerts, commissioning and editing programme notes. A lifelong lover of literature, in her spare time she contributed articles and stories for house and local magazines.

A road accident in 1981 resulted in serious leg injuries and an inability to work for several months. She then obtained work as receptionist in naturalist Gilbert White’s Museum in Selborn. During the winter months she catalogued the Holt White archives, among which were the series of letters from Gilbert White’s niece Mary to her brother Thomas Holt White. She prepared a transcription of the letters for an M.Phil. degree, which was awarded in 1990.

Sheila moved to Eastbury, near Lambourn, carrying out freelance work for a Newbury publisher, Countryside Books, editing, proofreading and indexing. Failing sight forced her to relinquish this work.

It was in Eastbury that she started her Shefford series of detective novels. After moving to Froxfield, she continued writing the Shefford novels and it was here that ‘Innocents in London’ was born.

Sheila now lives in Kathleen Chambers House, a care home for the blind and partially sighted. Despite sight problems she continued during the Covid lockdowns to revise Innocents in London, the Shefford series and to write ‘Alec in Blunderland’ – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as viewed by a grumpy complaining old man!

She hopes to celebrate her 97th birthday in August and intends to continue writing so long as wits and sight permit.

Click here to order a copy of the book via Amazon 


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