Engineering the look of the book
The striking cover of the book came about during a conversation
with Ken Shinn, good friend and fellow Doctor Who fan.
I wanted to get across the idea of human progress being stopped
in its tracks, and I also wanted to get something related
to Bristol on the cover.
We settled on the famous photograph taken in Millwall of Brunel
standing in front of the giant winch chains of the ss Great
macabre Brunel graces the cover of Reckless Engineering
is such an iconic image which sums up the pioneering spirit
of the Victorian era:
Brunel is dwarfed by the huge links of the chains, but seems
undaunted in fact he appears confident, cocky, with
his hands in his pockets.
His clothes are rumpled, yet smart, it looks like hes
been working all day in them.
And the trademark cigar and reinforced top hat (which served
a purpose its the forerunner to the modern-day
hard hat) are both in place completing an instantly recognisable
always give credit where credits due, and it was Kens
idea to replace Brunels face with a skull, to illustrate
the devastating effect of the cleansing which
prevents the Industrial Revolution from ever happening.
The resulting cover is very arresting, taking an iconic image
and giving it a surreal twist.
As for the title of the book, visitors to Bristol
who arrive by train will see, facing them as they walk down
Station Approach Road, the frontage of the Reckless Engineer,
and may wonder where the pub got its name.
Brunel had a reputation for recklessness, and
no wonder when you consider the following incident which took
place in 1836 after the laying of the foundation stone of
the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
1000ft-long iron bar had been slung across the Avon Gorge,
and a basket, suspended from a roller on this bar and hauled
back and forth by ropes, would provide a temporary means of
transport for men and materials.
and an un-named youth made the first crossing, but when the
basket reached the lowest point of the bar, the roller became
stuck, and the basket couldnt be drawn up the other
Suspension Bridge towers above Avon Gorge
the basket swung in the air nearly two hundred feet above
the River Avon, Brunel climbed out of the basket, up one of
its suspension ropes and freed the roller.
Then he returned to the basket, which was now able to complete
One can imagine the looks on the faces of the workmen and
other observers, and it is no wonder that Brunel gained his
reputation as a risk-taker.
hope I have captured some of the personality of Isambard Kingdom
Brunel in Reckelss Engineering and that people will enjoy
his teaming-up with the Doctor.
As for Bristol, well, as I have said, it isnt the real
Bristol in the book, its an alternative one where progress
stopped in 1843 and the city lies in ruins.
Its a haunting backdrop for the story, and in a way
the book shows what life in the 21st Century might have been
like without the benefit of men like Brunel, of what life
might be like if the Industrial Revolution never happened.
Indeed one character in the book thinks that life would be
better this way...
Judge for yourself, when Reckless Engineering hits the bookshelves