The 'Assured' Books
In his series of 'Assured' books, Nicholas Rhea reaches back in time, to a generation before the 'Constable' series, to his own childhood. These tales of life in the fictional Yorkshire valley of Delverdale explore very personal territory for the author, as he explains:
When I was a child my father was an insurance agent - "The Man from the Pru" as depicted in the advertisements. I remember him going off on his old Coventry Eagle motorbike round the farms and hamlets in remote parts of Eskdale. Many of his customers were not well off and if someone couldn't afford the premiums, he'd be willing to trade anything he could make use of in lieu of payment: a few fence posts - just what he needed for his garden; maybe a couple of unwanted carpentry tools - he never had too many of those; or a chicken from the farmyard - mother would welcome that. This was a way of life much removed from what we know today and I thought it would be good to write a book, fictionalising some of the tales my father told me and the sort of incidents that happened to him.
The 'Assured' series started with Some Assured: when Matthew Taylor exchanged his job as a butcher for a career as a local insurance agent, he never anticipated that on his first day he would deliver a stallion foal and kill seven pigs - all without selling a pennn'orth of insurance. But in the 1950's in rural Delverdale, deep in the North York Moors, this is all in a day's work and Matthew and his new family, wife Evelyn and baby Paul, are happy to rise to the challenge.
The trusting people he serves leave their payments in sheds or on window ledges - and, when money's tight, Matthew finds himself accepting goods and services in lieu of payment.
A colourful cast of characters - including a woman who sees spies everywhere and a tipsy crockery salesman who poses an insurance risk to all who encounter him - combined with the task of persuading hard-headed Yorkshire folk to part with their money "for summat thoo can't see", ensure that Matthew has his work cut out for him.
Set in Heartbeat country, this is a nostalgic and affectionate look at a past way of life.
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Rest Assured is Nicholas Rhea's second collection of tales of the "Man from the Premier", and features some of the same characters.
In Some Assured we met Crocky Morris, the amiable but accident-prone pot pedlar who travels on foot, selling crockery from a basket balanced on his head. Crocky likes a drink and most of his cash is soon spent in the local tavern. However, in his happy state, he manages to cause several unfortunate accidents' and, in Rest Assured, he continues to cause mayhem wherever he goes. Firstly, he jumps out in front of Matthew's car as he nervously teaches Evelyn to drive and, later, Crocky frightens a prized thoroughbred hunter into bolting. Dumped unceremoniously in the mud, Major Berkeley Carruthers is not amused! Nicholas Rhea clearly has a weakness for this entertaining rogue, who promises to be the Claude Jeremiah Greengrass of the series!
Rest Assured is published by Severn House Publishing.
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In Self Assured, Matthew and Evelyn have bought their new home - and are worried about the cost of maintaining it and paying the ongoing household bills, including the mortgage, the electricity and heating as well as providing the family with food and clothing. So there's no alternative but to work harder than ever before selling premiums for the Premier Assurance Association. The business is expanding sufficiently to need an office and consulting rooms at the new house.
But the mix of clients never fails to entertain - for instance, why did the Vicar want two bridesmaids to be insured before the wedding celebrations? Dolly and Daisy seemed to be very well-behaved shire horses. And then there was the lady who wanted to provide for her grandchildren's future - no problem with the endowment policies save that the names looked a bit strange: Henry II, George III and even Elizabeth I.
Life is hard but happy and warm-hearted, until a chance encounter threatens to remove Matthew from his livelihood...
Life Assured, the fourth in the series Nicholas Rhea's of Assured books, was published by Severn House books in March 2007.
The publisher has provided the following synopsis:
Following Matthew's motorcycle accident in which he broke his leg, he is unable to tour his widespread moorland agency, and so Evelyn, his wife, now completes the rounds on his behalf. Matthew, at home, is asked to edit Micklesfield's new village magazine as well as looking after some of his clients from home. The task of producing the magazine, looking after the house and his intriguing list of clients, certainly keeps him busy whilst on sick leave from the Premier Assurance Association. Amongst his clients is a retired ballerina wanting to insure her legs, a farmer threatened with bankruptcy, a priest who wants Matthew to insure a holy relic, a man wanting to open a nudist colony in Micklesfield and another who wants Matthew to insure his ship. It's all in the daily round of Matthew's insurance visits.