Thursday 30 June 2016

#Blogival - Book Review: Tim Connor Hits Trouble by Frank Lankaster

Last Updated: 01 May 2024

Clink Street Publishing Blogival

AD* | Tim Connor Hits Trouble defies conventional genres. It is funny, occasionally violent, intelligent, controversial and full of sexual twists and turns.

We meet Tim Connor just as his marriage hits the rocks and as he is about to 'escape' to a new job in the Social Science Department at Wash University. Far from finding tranquillity, Tim 'hits trouble' in Wash both personally and at work. Now on the loose, he has several interesting and 'unusual' encounters with women. At work, Tim finds himself drawn into a conflict between an old rebel academic, Henry Jones, and the ambitious Head of Faculty, Howard Swankie, that culminates in a tense and dramatic climax. 

Within the novel's lively narrative, characters argue, sometimes angrily, over the direction of contemporary higher education - making this a relevant as well as a gripping and highly enjoyable novel.

Tim Connor Hits Trouble by Frank Lankaster book cover

As a recent graduate, I will happily take any opportunity that presents itself to relive my university days. Tim Connor Hits Trouble was a perfect excuse to do just that. Even though it's told from the perspective of a lecturer (the eponymous Tim Connor), the author still manages to capture the essence of higher education. 

Higher Education Politics

I don't actually know much about the author, but from the way Lankaster writes, it's clear that he is very knowledgeable about higher education and social science subjects. The current controversial 'campus politics' and hierarchical restructuring that are present throughout the book show that Lankaster is highly familiar with the issues that face the majority of higher education institutions at the moment. I would hazard a guess that Lankaster is actually a lecturer himself, as parts of Tim's story sound almost autobiographical. 

As an English graduate, I have to admit I knew very little of even the most basic of the scientific and philosophical theories discussed in the book. I tried my best to understand as much as I could (having recently been introduced to the theory that the fields of literature and physics are in fact linked seemed to help) but I did find my eyes glazing over after reading several consecutive pages of academic indulgence. My concern is that the average reader, like myself, will become disinterested in these parts of the book. But then, maybe Lankaster did write it with an intended audience of intelligent and well-schooled academics in mind - who knows?

Old vs New

One aspect I particularly enjoyed reading about was the conflict between Howard Swankie (the head of the department) and Henry Jones. Henry and Howard represent the two most extreme polar opposites of academia. Howard is part of the new wave of academics. Everything is played by the rules, and anything that can't be neatly categorised and stops his rise to the top is wrong. Henry is the biggest thorn in Howard's side. Henry represents the 'golden age' of academics, where staff were left to their own devices without 'interference' (as he puts it) from the management. In many ways, Henry reminds me of Frank from Educating Rita. Think of the old, washed-up, and slightly sad alcohol-dependent academic, and that's Henry. Their constant conflict represents the struggle between the old and new ways in education on a much bigger scale, and the way things come to a head between them is fascinating.


For me, Tim's life outside the university took a backseat to the drama unfolding within it. His struggle to maintain relationships with his daughter and elderly mother were interesting, but I didn't find them as captivating as all the goings-on at Wash. The author also devoted a lot of time to Tim's relationship problems, when I would have preferred to have seen other secondary characters fleshed out instead. The American exchange professor, Brad, was one character in particular that I felt had a lot more to give. 

But despite all that, Tim Connor Hits Trouble is a solid, realistic account of academic life. Whether you're familiar with the higher education scene or not, it's still an eye-opening read.

Rating: 3 stars

Tim Connor Hits Trouble is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

I also have a signed copy of the book to give away to one lucky winner. For your chance to win, enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 10th July 2016 at 11.59pm (GMT)
2. The prize consists of one signed copy of Tim Connor Hits Trouble by Frank Lankaster
3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be sent to the winner by Authoright PR and Clink Street Publishing, NOT The Writing Greyhound
4. This giveaway is open to residents of the UK, US and Northern Ireland aged 18 and over
5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended
6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended
7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. fab prize fingers crossed x

  2. looks great, and I do enjoy your blog xx

  3. Never heard of the author, sounds different from normal books I read

    1. It can be a really good experience sometimes to read outside your comfort zone!

  4. Sounds an interesting read

  5. This looks really good! (@PeanutHog)

  6. Sounds like my type of book.

  7. Looks an interesting read. I don't read that many books where the main character is male for some reason (although my favourite author's 2 main characters in his series are male). Need to read some more books with main male characters. Thank you for the chance and sorry for the random ramble.

    1. No need to apologise Tracy! It's nice to get some variety into the books you read every now and again x

  8. This sounds a really good book

  9. Thanks for the prize and competition!

  10. I am a total book addict and have set myself a mega reading challenge for this year! Would love to add this interesting read to my list!