James Lee, son of resort regular Maurice Lee, of Grumbleweed fame, draws on backstage childhood memories to set his first novel in a fictional northern coastal town - Grumby.
End of Pier tells the story of a stage hand who falls for a dancer but who also suspects the star of the Seaside Spectacular may be his father.
This may seem naive but this was pre-Savile, pre-Yew Tree
James, 46, said his own knowledge of seaside resorts and variety shows added an air of authenticity but stresses “this is no postcard from the good old days”.
Having spent much of his childhood backstage in theatres around the country James came to know many fascinating characters, and learned the mechanics of staging a production.
Father of two James, a Harrogate biology teacher, admits: “I became fascinated by the contrast between the public face of the cosy, loveable entertainer in a family show and the abusive not-very-nice person behind the curtain.
“This may seem naive but this was pre-Savile, pre-Yew Tree.
“I wanted also to capture the ‘feel’ of an end-of-pier show, as I have great love of it, despite the darkness of my novel.
“It was a tough read for my dad but he says I’ve captured, warts and all, the world in which he worked and lived for half a century.”
The book’s out on Tuesday June 28 but early reviewers have already hailed it as a ‘sharp evocation of a ‘dying world’ ‘lifts the curtain on the dark reality of summer season shows’ and ‘one of the best debuts I’ve read’.
• End of Pier by James C Lee, Matador Fiction, £4.99