Dark arts’ of diocesan PR covered in new novel

A novel which documents the ‘dark arts’ of diocesan public relations was published this week.

Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? (Marylebone House, £8.99), revolves round Canon William Shearwater, a PR consultant retained by the fictitious Diocese of Southbury.

‘When diocesan directors of communication get together, the first huddled conversation is often about the latest incident that could cause reputational damage,’ explains the book’s author, Steve Goddard. ‘Defending the sometimes indefensible can lead to intense ethical dilemmas.’


Goddard was director of communications for the Anglican Diocese of Manchester before returning to his role as a PR consultant.

‘We meet Shearwater dealing with a priest who has swapped wives with the church organist and has a previous track record,’ says Goddard. ‘However, “Shears” has his own hidden history and the priest is determined to exact revenge.’

As Shearwater secretly confesses all to his computer, English teacher Sophie Daggert is documenting her slow recovery from bereavement. Adopted at birth, she embarks on a search for her natural parents. A series of twists and turns bring Sophie and ‘Shears’ together in a shocking journey of self-discovery.

The book alludes to characters on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, arguably the most influential album of the 20th Century. The 50th anniversary of its release is on June 1st 2017.

A tragicomedy, in the footsteps of novelists like David Lodge and Nick Hornby, Goddard has attempted to open up a conversation about the 1960s and its disputed legacy, asking questions about changing social mores and beliefs.

Cindy Kent MBE, former lead singer of 1960s folk group The Settlers, said: ‘Whatever Happened to Billy Shears? is witty, tragic and emotional. If there’s a better-observed comic novel about the 1960s, I’ll eat my kaftan.’

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