A seasoned look at life - August 16, 2012

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I WAS chatting at Lytham’s quaint bookshop, Plackitt & Booth, with young owner Patrick.

He stocks signed copies of recent books, but was surprised my first was written almost 30 years ago, while working on the South 
China Morning Post in Hong 
Kong.

“Didn’t you get it published?” asked Pat, a rangy and amiable fellow.

Well, where to start? The background story of that book reads like a tragi-comedy with me as luckless hero.

It was to be a blockbuster romance set in the future – in 1997, when Britain’s last great colony would be returned to China.

If successful, my novel would transform me from downtrodden, roving reporter to international author.

“I sent details of its draft to publisher Heinemann in London,” I told Pat. “Amazingly, the chairman replied at length encouraging me to present the finished manuscript when back in Britain.”

“Brilliant!” Pat enthused.

The next year I returned . . . to find the old boy had died.

In any case, Heinemann was no longer interested.

Other publishers were unenthusiastic. But it’s a case of who you know. A former colleague who’d had a book published put in a good word for me.

His literary agent agreed to consider my efforts.

On the eve of our meeting I stayed with a friend in the East End (where I started in newspapers), foolishly drank too much and ended up at a Brick Lane curry house. Just as we were finishing our late meals (mine a suspicious “Quail Madras”), a team in spacesuits from Rentokil entered and sprayed everywhere.

Next day I had an upset stomach but duly arrived at the elegant, Adam-style home of the literary agent. It soon became apparent he had not read my book, but we signed a contract. Unfortunately, before leaving I had to use his downstairs loo and left the house under a malodorous cloud.

Still, further meetings ensued with an editor at renowned publisher Michael Joseph (of Penguin fame).

“You hit the jackpot there!” commented Pat.

“No,” I demurred, “after many revisions I got a postcard saying, ‘Sadly, this is not for us.’”

Fast-forwarding to the present, 1997 has come and gone and that first, typewritten manuscript slumbers still – stuffed behind my desk in Edmonds Towers.

“What a shame!” Pat exclaimed.

But, on reflection, if that novel had taken off I would not have come to work here on the Fylde, met my wife, made so many good friends . . .

So, you see, it was a happy ending after all.

* Roy’s novels and humorous memoirs are available in bookstores or online – see royedmonds-blackpool.com for details.