WEST Yorkshire author David M Barnett will be appearing at the Grove Bookshop in Ilkley this month to celebrate the publication of his novel Calling Major Tom.

Barnett, who lives near Bingley, is at the shop on Thursday July 13 from 7pm, where he will be talking about his tragicomic novel, which has just been published by Trapeze Books, the new imprint from publisher Orion.

Calling Major Tom is the story of Thomas Major, possibly the most curmudgeonly astronaut in the universe. By way of a series of comedic errors and mishaps, 40-something Thomas finds himself on a one-way mission to become the first man on Mars.

While initially glad to be away from everyone else, Thomas accidentally dials a wrong number from orbit while trying to make one last call to his ex-wife, and makes contact with a rather dysfunctional family in the North of England.

The Ormerods have their own problems — grandmother Gladys is suffering from dementia, and supposed to be looking after 15-year-old Ellie and her brother James, 10, while their father is in prison. But Ellie is working three jobs to keep the family together and James, while a brilliant pupil, is being mercilessly bullied. Then Gladys unwittingly puts their entire home life in jeopardy.

Thomas finds himself being drawn in to their problems and realises he can not only help, but can perhaps find some peace for himself after a life of broken dreams and missed opportunities.

The idea for the novel was sparked by a real-life event when the British astronaut Tim Peake called a wrong number from the International Space Station at Christmas 2015 and spoke to a pensioner in the UK.

Barnett said: “I wondered what might have happened if the conversation had continued over a period of time, and Calling Major Tom is the result of that. It’s hopefully very funny and uplifting, but it also deals with some serious issues and the characters do have their fair share of tragedy.”

There's also a link with David Bowie, who died in 2016, through the title and the main character Thomas’s love of music. Barnett added: “Music is the one thing that keeps Thomas going through his bad times, and the death of Bowie hits him hard, like it did a lot of people. But music, and the Ormerods, also help him to start to come to terms with what he’s been through.”

David M Barnett’s Calling Major Tom is out now from Trapeze Books, and he will be at The Grove Bookshop in Ilkley at 7pm on Thursday July 13. Tickets are £5 including refreshments and for more details call 01943 609335.