Prof. John Sodeau of UCC. Photo: Clare Keogh

UCC prof goes out of his lane

A UCC chemistry professor has turned to alchemy to produce his first novel - a fusion of elements of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain!

Renowned air pollution activist John Sodeau is about to publish his first novel ‘Field Lane’ and it’s got an intriguing concept, bringing together characters and plots from literary classics ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’.

It is due to be published on 28 February by Troubador Publishing and stars Charley Bates, a member of Fagin’s gang in ‘Oliver Twist’, who was able to go straight and try and leave a life of crime. He found redemption and managed to turn himself into ‘the merriest young grazier in the whole of Northamptonshire’.

In ‘Field Lane’, characters from the two classics are brought together for further adventures. The novel tells the unwritten stories of both real people and newly imagined characters who might have influenced their lives and futures. This historical thriller also touches on slavery, famine, drugs, racial prejudice and snobbery.

John Sodeau said: “‘Field Lane’ is a book about a place where real-world people cross over with established fictional characters and newly imagined ones. It tells a metaphysical story behind the stories of some well-loved classics set in London by the Thames and along the Mississippi.

“The main character is Charley Bates. He has been neglected (often to the point of invisibility) as a character in the many and various treatments of ‘Oliver’. Yet he’s the one in the original book who had the strength of character to remove himself from a life of crime to seek out something better.”

‘Field Lane' reflects a 19th century world filled with social injustice, slavery, drug abuse and royal privilege. Its fictional characters become intertwined with real-life historical figures such as the Duchess of Kent (the mother of Queen Victoria), the scientist Michael Faraday and Sam Clemens, who would become Mark Twain.

John Sodeau is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at UCC. Previously he taught and researched at universities in UK, USA and Japan. Over a period of 40 years, he has written hundreds of thousands of words of academic writing but this novel is his first work combining his interests in literature, history, social justice and science. He is an air pollution and climate change campaigner. He set up an air pollution monitoring station in Cork in 2018.