Contrary to what some people think I can read and write. Harvard wrote and asked me if I wanted to teach expository writing. I said I thought that was what Frenchman used instead of an aspirin. I never heard from Harvard again.
The high point of my career, however, was when the late Pete Postlethwaite was performing in a little thing I ran up for the theatre and he paused, turned to the audience and said, ’Can you believe some guy actually sat down and wrote this shit?’
I gave up playwriting when on the opening night of a play at the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun in Matthew Street by the fab four’s famed Cavern Club, a large timber, part of the set, fell into the seat next to me.
Thoughts of Liverpool came to me when I saw Lynda La Plante, the best-looking female multi-millionairess south of Watford Gap, on television talking about her 26th crime novel Wrongful Death which comes out this week. (My fourth novel, Murder In A Cold Climate came out the week before.)
I’ve known Lynda since she was 21 and acting under the name Lynda Marchal. She was the funniest actress I’ve ever seen in comedies. When she came on stage the Playhouse audience would applaud, like they used to do in music halls in the 1890s.
But she could not stay in Liverpool for ever. She went to London. I remained in the North writing a supposedly humorous column for the Guardian. I kept in touch with Lynda because her flat was near Lord’s and I, a former baseball third baseman, had become a demon fast bowler (once no-balled seven times in a row; it was painful).
Many times Lynda said she was “resting” but her typewriter was going first thing in the morning and right into the night.
I had once written a novel 21 times (for that excellent agent the late Elaine Greene) but I never worked as hard as Lynda. She also did research. Being a newspaper reporter I didn’t like research – it was too much like work. Of course Tom Wolfe, who wrote one book in the Palm House in Sefton Park in Liverpool when he was staying with me, also did amazing research. My career was more casual. Starting out on a rural American daily, I use to churn out Society Jottings like “Big Nose Sam Saraceno is on the town with a pack of his Wop pals. The Evening Transcript takes the opportunity of letting San know he is a low-down dirty sticking rat.”
We went to work with six-guns on our hips. Sometimes we got a touch of glamour for Society Jottings. Such as: “Sarah Tyler French, the Broadway star who will be playing at our own Valley Players summer stock theatre, checked into the Eternal Triangle Bed and Breakfast with cowboy movie star Jackie Lee Spokene who is her latest beau. He was in the restaurant clutching her tits a few moments longer than the customary usages of society dictate. We wonder if Mrs Jackie Lee knows about this.”
I had to give all that up when I crossed what I like to call the whaleroad to England and the Guardian.
I have, however, attempted to re-live those days in the pages of my crime novels about a colourful Police Chief in a rural New England village. Guaranteed no forensics. Available £9.99 on Amazon or your neighbourhood bookshop.
The rest is glassy-eyed silence. I must go now and bring martinis to the deserving villagers.