AUTHORS in West Oxfordshire have produced a unique collection of short stories featuring a Witney ‘mega casino’ and a pursuit in the Bodleian Library.

Fifteen people from the villages of Freeland, North Leigh and Hanborough came together to produce Unexpected Tales 2, with profits going to Helen & Douglas House hospice.

The anthology, launched last month, follows the 2017 edition of the same name, with a third already planned for 2019.

The idea was first mooted at a wine-tasting evening by residents Martin Marais, Steve Battersby, Matt Coburn and David Lloyd.

All four were either writing novels or aspiring to do so when they met back in 2016 and they began reading each other’s work.

But this was a world away from a published short story collection and Mr Marais admits the venture developed quicker than expected.

He said: “We suggested a book of stories written by people from our villages and, in what must have been a drunken moment, we all agreed.

“We didn’t realise how much work it would be but we all enjoyed doing it.

“There’s a story in there for everyone.”

The book’s tagline is ‘an anthology of short stories from OX29’ and several tales are set in Oxfordshire, including a treacherous underground investigation in Botley, plus the Witney casino and Dan Brown-esque Bodleian pursuit.

Mr Marais revealed this year’s anthology features ‘almost every’ genre, although he said erotica was not accepted.

It is less than two years since the quartet announced the first book in February 2017.

Over the next few months, they created a website and appealed for other residents to contribute their stories, editing them over the summer.

The debut anthology was launched that December, featuring 14 stories by 11 authors and raising £250 for Helen & Douglas House.

The 2018 edition built on this, with four more authors signing up to write works of between 2,500 and 7,500 words each.

Unexpected Tales 2 was launched at the Oxfordshire Yeoman pub in Freeland, with the village’s micro brewery, Little Ox Brewery, selling 100 bottles of its Unexpected Ale.

Unexpected Tales 2 is available to buy in paperback or e-book form from Amazon.