DOWN the years Allan Tunningley has certainly done his bit for journalism. He started his life as a reporter at the Pontefract and Castleford Express near his home town of Knottingley and during a distinguished 50-year plus career went on to grace the likes of the Sheffield Star (Rotherham and Doncaster editions), two years at the short-lived Yorkshire on Sunday, concluding with several years at The Westmorland Gazette where he was deputy news editor from 2007 until his retirement.

Now, the highly respected former Gazetteer has turned his hand to a different form of writing, publishing his debut novel, Gilgarius, almost 40 years after he first got his inspiration for the story.

Published on Friday, November 15, the Kirkby Lonsdale author's cleverly crafted epic mixes fantasy and historical adventure, with a moving love story at its heart.

Allan said that the novel first started out as a short story which he wrote way back in 1982: "I remember typing it up on my old Imperial portable and it took me less than an afternoon to set it down; but I never sought to have the story published.

"That was around the time of Britain’s Falklands conflict with Argentina and that may have had something to do with my frame of mind.

"I remember thinking that fighting over possession of land is ultimately futile. When we create borders, we establish divisive stress points that can be exploited in all sorts of ways, like creating some kind of monster. That’s where the idea for child-eating Gilgarius came from. Children are the ones who suffer the most terrible harm from conflict and it can cause a lifetime of damage.

"Anyway, I put that first story away and thought no more about it until it was rediscovered among some old documents that I was sorting out back in 2008.

"I re-read the story and had a feeling I could make more of it. And that's what I’ve finally done with Gilgarius."

Although the story features a young protagonist, Allan stressed that Gilgarius isn't a children’s book.

"I hope the novel will appeal to readers on different levels," he added. "It can be read as a fantasy and as an epic historical adventure; while on another level it can be viewed as an allegory for today’s troubled world with all its evils. But ultimately, I hope all who read it will find that at its heart it is very much a moving love story."

Down the years, Allan - who is married to Natalja - has also carried out numerous freelance writing assignments and in 2002 was awarded a Master of Arts degree in creative writing by the University of Leeds.

n Gilgarius, published by Settle-based 2QT Limited, is available from the author direct (email or from Amazon Books from November 15 (RRP £11.99, including postage and packing).