Today I’m delighted and a little bit excited to feature novelist Graham Minett. When I started this blog back in 2015, the very first post was a review of Graham’s first book Hidden Legacy which I loved. It was lovely to be able to say hello to him this year at Harrogate and hope that the invite to join us would be accepted. Thankfully it was and now you can discover Graham, if you haven’t already
Graham Minett studied Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge before teaching for several years in Gloucestershire and West Sussex. In 2008 he completed a part-time MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester and subsequently won both the inaugural Segora short story competition in 2008 and the Chapter One competition in 2010. The latter consisted of the opening sections of what would eventually become his debut novel, The Hidden Legacy. This was followed by Lie In Wait and Anything For Her and he is now deep into his fourth novel, The Syndicate, which is scheduled for publication in July 2020. Now writing full-time, he is published by Bonnier Zaffre and lives in West Sussex with his wife and children.
Over to Graham
Five On Friday Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
My father was a jazz drummer and taught me to keep a beat and use a drum kit from a very early age, so music’s always been very important to me. It’s so difficult to pick just five but I’ll do my best, as long as you bear in mind I’d probably come up with a different selection a week from now. Here goes . . .
Hejira by Joni Mitchell. Fell in love with her when I was at university (I have a very understanding wife) and still don’t think I’ve ever heard a singer/songwriter who opened up and poured so much of herself into her songs. The lyrics are always pure poetry and I could have chosen more or less any of her songs but this one really conveys the loneliness and ache.
Aja by Steely Dan. Fantastic musicians I first heard in the 70s and they’ve stayed with me ever since. My greatest regret is that I never got to see them perform live. Could have chosen any of their songs but the drumming of Steve Gadd as this track nears its climax is just amazing.
Wizzin The Wizz by Lionel Hampton. Please listen to this on You Tube – the piano’s not even his main instrument (he was also a brilliant drummer and vibes player) but this is astonishingly fast and precise. Perfect for when I’m missing my dad.
Glass Eyes by Radiohead. They’ve been a source of much personal grief over the years because no one else in my family can stand them so I have to listen to their music when alone. There’s something about Thom Yorke’s voice that really gets to me. Perfect music when I want to feel sorry for myself.
Violet by Seal. Eight minutes and thirty seconds of pure magic. Amazing voice, terrific support musicians. This is my go-to track whenever I want to wallow, eyes closed, and let the music wash over me
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Diet Pepsi. I don’t drink tea or coffee, find water tasteless and unappealing unless it’s icy cold, drink no alcohol apart from the occasional lager if out with friends, but get through more diet Pepsi than I probably should on a daily basis. I’ve heard all the tales about what it does to a coin that’s left immersed in it but I manage to persuade myself a cup of tea or coffee wouldn’t do it a lot of good either. Ought to drink less of it and more water and will maybe do something about it when I grow up
Exercise. I played a lot of sport when younger but am now reduced to fast walks around Pagham Harbour for an hour or so but I do them every day in all types of weather. Good opportunity to think about dialogue and plots . . . or was, until I discovered podcasts.
Novels. I’ve always read something in the region of 70-80 books a year over a wide range of genres. Lately, for obvious reasons, I’ve focussed more on crime novels and psychological/mystery thrillers but my all-time favourites are from outside that genre. Top five, in no particular order, would be Maggie O’Farrell, F Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Kate Atkinson and Kent Haruf (with Michael Farris Smith rapidly coming up on the rails).
Sky Sports. Cricket, football, boxing, rugby, athletics . . . all served up to me in my armchair for a mere fraction of what it would cost me to do it live. I’m an addict. I tried to name our first son Courtney after a West Indies opening bowler but my wife Elaine said no for some reason. She liked the name Alex though and was happy to go along with a middle name of Stewart. Cricket fans will understand my moment of triumph there!
The South Coast. I was born and raised in Cheltenham and, if you disregard my three years at Cambridge, I spent the first 24 years of my life there. I’m lucky enough to have family there to draw me back several times a year but, much as I love the town and the Cotswolds in general, I would find it difficult now to move away from the coast. I’m sure I take it for granted at times but all year round it’s a constant source of inspiration. I am very fortunate.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Oh yes. More like 500. Please remember I’m offering advice to myself here:
Wake up. I spent 45 years in the teaching profession and although I found it really rewarding I should have moved to a writing career much earlier. They tell me it’s never too late but 63 was maybe pushing it a bit! Some of my fellow authors at Bonnier Zaffre have labelled me the most protracted overnight success ever.
Don’t be such a wuss. Life has so much to offer if you’ll just get off your backside. Get out there and grab it by the throat. Embrace new technology rather than mistrusting it. Take a chance now and again. Inhibitions don’t necessarily keep you safe and may well be limiting the quality of your experience.
ALWAYS listen to advice. You don’t have to take it but it’s all part of forming a balanced opinion. You think you know everything but you don’t and life will find a way eventually of making this clear to you.
Microsoft. There’s this new company which is going to produce something called computer software and revolutionise the way we all operate. Buy as many shares as you can.
May 3rd 2007: Make sure you’re outside apartment 5A Rua Dr Agostinho da Silva in Praia da Luz all evening and find some way to prevent a little girl from disappearing off the face of the planet. No family should have to go through what they have.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I promise they’re all true.
I have some form of OCD. I guess most people do but I tend to eat and drink almost the same things every day and at more or less the same times. I also play the old symmetry game of trying to even things out if I scuff one shoe while exercising. If I scuff the other a fraction too hard, I have to scuff the first one again until I’ve balanced things up. This can go on for a long time and I get through a lot of pairs of trainers. I also have a wife who repeatedly checks doors she knows she’s locked and a daughter who asks us to turn round in a circle if we’ve inadvertently turned the other way when entering the room. We’re a really entertaining family but be honest. YOU ALL DO IT.
I’m a complete philistine when it comes to food and drink. If I go to a restaurant I’ll probably go for the same option just about every time and it won’t contain vegetables or salad items if I can help it . . . pretty much anything green is ruled out really. And I’m married to a vegetarian!
I was the first person from my entire family to go to university. I wouldn’t want to question the effectiveness of the careers advice at my school but I went to Cambridge because we always supported them in the Boat Race. I wasn’t a bad sportsman when I was young. I’m not saying that played a part in my getting into Cambridge but within an hour of arriving there I’d been welcomed by the captains of the cricket and football teams. It is an urban myth that at my interview the Chaplain threw a rugby ball across the table to see if I’d catch it.
In his later years, my dad’s eyesight was very poor. When The Hidden Legacy first came out, my mother read the whole book to him and changed every single swear word to either flipping or blooming.
My surname, despite what it says in the audio book, is actually pronounced MY-NET not MINIT or MINN-ET. I used to correct people every time but now I think who flipping/blooming well cares?
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Be invited to give a talk at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. It’s such a major event and it’s in my home town. Still feels like a long way off but, then again, five years ago I was still unpublished and wondering if it would ever happen. Am quite prepared to beg if necessary.
Spend an hour talking writing with Maggie O’Farrell. If you want to improve, you might as well go for the best.
Spend a day at a Lords Test Match. Amazed I’ve never done it yet.
If I stop at three, it’s because I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate, travelled to some fantastic destinations and am happy for anything else to come my way rather than ask for it.
Many thanks for joining us today Graham, it was lovely getting to say hello back in July, and to learn a little bit more about you today. Nice to see Seal in your music choices, his was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. Some great advice to yourself, age and hindsight are real eye-openers. I suspect many people would agree with your thoughts re May 3rd, poor Maddie. You’re right with the OCD theme, I suspect we all have our little quirks and foibles. Fingers crossed you get to cross off some of those ‘to do’ items. Cheltenham is missing a trick!
ONCE YOU KNOW, YOU CAN’T FORGET
A DEVASTATING CRIME
John Michael Adams is just a small schoolboy, when a sudden shocking event tears his life and his family apart.
A LIFE-CHANGING GIFT
Years later, Ellen Sutherland is stunned when she inherits a beautiful cottage in the Cotswolds from a woman she’s never heard of.
A LONG-BURIED SECRET
As she begins to investigate, the mysteries around her new home only deepen. And it’s not long before she realises she’s not the only one asking questions about the cottage . . .
A man is dead. A woman is missing. And the police have already found their prime suspect…
Owen Hall drives into a petrol station to let his passenger use the facilities. She never comes back – and what’s more, it seems she never even made it inside.
When Owen raises a fuss, the police are called – and soon identify Owen himself as a possible culprit – not least because they already have him in the frame for another more sinister crime.
Owen’s always been a little different, and before long others in the community are baying for his blood. But this is a case where nothing is as it seems – least of all Owen Hall…
You’d do anything for the one that got away . . . wouldn’t you?
When Billy Orr returns home to spend time with his dying sister, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend Aimi, the love of his life. He might not have seen her in eleven years, but Billy’s never forgotten her. He’d do anything for her then, and he’d do anything for her now.
When Aimi tells him that she wants to escape her abusive husband, Billy agrees to help her fake her own death. But is she still the Aimi that Billy remembers from all those years ago?
Once Aimi disappears, Billy has to face the possibility that perhaps she had different reasons for disappearing – reasons that might be more dangerous than she’s led him to believe . . .
Sometimes trusting the one you love is the wrong thing to do.
Coming June 2020 and available to pre-order
YOU THINK YOU’RE FREE, BUT THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE . . .
Twenty years ago, Jon Kavanagh worked for a crime syndicate.
Then one night he made a mistake.
He left a witness at a crime scene. Alive.
Now, he is haunted by the memories of that young girl. Her face a constant reminder of the life he chose to leave behind. Time has passed and now he wants answers: What ever happened to her?
Anna Hill is an aspiring singer, but the bars and clubs she works in are far from exciting. When she is given the opportunity to work in Portugal, she takes it. This is her chance to finally kick-start her career.
But the job offer comes at a price; one that will endanger the lives of those she knows, and those she doesn’t. Becoming involved with the Syndicate is risky, and Anna will need her instincts to work out who to trust – and who not to . . .
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