The year was ’72 and it had not begun well. The miners’ strike. And as it dragged on, power cut after power cut for hours at a stretch. One lunchtime, Chester city centre blacked out, I dined by the light of a hissing hurricane lamp in a café with soup bubbling on calor rings like something from a witch’s den.
With this behind us though, came the thrill of Apollo 16 in April. I felt I was right up there, in the lunar highlands, treading moon dust with Drake and Young.
Equally thrilling, in an altogether different way, was meeting a real live author for the first time. Often, on lunch-breaks from the Town Hall drawing office where I worked, I’d pop down to Smiths for a quick browse around. And so it was on Monday, 15th May. Except that it was no quick browse…
Sitting at a table in the middle of the shop was a bearded gent who might have doubled for James Robertson Justice, the British actor. Well, almost. He was actually Raymond Foxall, the historical novelist. And before him on the table stood copies of his latest book, The Dark Forest, the third in his series featuring Harry Adkins, a real life Bow Street Runner of the Georgian era, nicknamed The Little Ferret.
The cover, with mysterious figures dwarfed in the depths of the ancient woodland, was irresistible. And skimming the blurb and Author’s Note, I learned that much of the Cheshire-based story was factual.
I commented that the research was quite a feat of detection in itself, and the author’s eyes twinkled. ‘Funny you should say that. Five minutes ago, I was interviewed by a reporter who said the same thing.’
He told me that before writing a line, he spends six months researching and visiting locations.
When I confessed my interest in writing, he said, ‘You’re bound to have disappointments, but keep at it. Don’t given up!’
I was twenty minutes late at the office, but with a treasure tucked under my arm.
I heed his advice still.
Submitted by Paul Beech, 73, Flintshire