The Big Interview: More to Richard Madeley than Alan Partridge comparisons as he reveals thoughtful side ahead of visit to Letchworth in Q&A with wife Judy about his new book
- Credit: Archant
Richard Madeley may be misunderstood and occasionally sneered at – but this famous face, who made his name on daytime TV, took time out from his hectic schedule to reveal a more thoughtful side ahead of a trip to Letchworth in his role as a best-selling author.
The former This Morning host turned columnist and author is coming to Letchworth Free Church in Norton Road South to host a Q&A on his new thriller, The Night Book.
He’ll be joined by his wife Judy Finnigan for the event, which is in association with David’s Bookshop.
From the author of previous best-sellers The Way You Look Tonight and Fathers and Sons comes a novel of dark suspense set in the Lake District where, beneath the inviting water of the lakes, death comes.
Set in the long hot summer of 1976, people swan in tropic waters to cool off. But below the surface, the temperature remained freezing – and as the summer blazed on, the drownings begin.
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He explains: “It draws on my experiences as a news reporter. I left school at 16, starting near to the Comet on the Brentwood Argus in Essex, then the East London Advertiser. I was deputy editor at 19. I then got a job on local radio in Carlisle during the summer of ‘76 where you never saw a cloud.
“When I wrote this novel that was the canvas, but the story involves the weather. Drownings started. People were thinking the lakes were the Mediterranean and dived in. But what they did was hit this cold layer underneath and inhaling with shock or having heart attacks if they were older.
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“And I was on the radio saying: ‘Don’t jump in the water or you’ll drown’.
“So I thought it was a hook for my graphic, psychological thriller.”
Critics are already hailing The Night Book – but there’s far more to him than just being a top-grossing author. He’s a man steeped in journalism, explaining: “I owe everything in my career to those early years learning my trade in local journalism.
“It made me who I am without doubt. It gives you a rigorous grounding. The training on a good weekly local paper was second to none. How to interview people, how to tell a story. I learnt that by the time I was 20.”
Richard’s a successful man, but there’s an elephant in the room. Many have sneered for his straight-to-the-point mannerisms – traits likened to Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge.
He responds with a good-natured laugh, adding: “Alan Partridge is a brilliantly-observed character. I suppose I do have a bit of Partridge about me but there’s a bit of Partridge in every journalist on the planet. That’s Coogan’s gift.”
In a revelation as surreal as Partridge, Richard’s also related to a woman convicted of being a witch at infamous Salem trials in New England. He explains: “My Puritan ancestors in the 1600s were the first white people to land at Boston.
“A non-blood relative who might even have been a prostitute – certainly a beggar – became an outcast in Boston society. She was ‘saved’ by a guy who married her and took her to live in Salem.
“But she was fingered as a witch by these insane teenage girls and strung-up. She was on a cart with the rope around her neck about to dangle. And the witchfinder general grinned at her.
“She said: ‘I’m no more a witch than you are a wizard. You sir will drown in your own blood’.
“And he did – A blood vessel burst in his throat and he literally drowned in his own blood.
“Maybe she was a witch after all! I’d like to cast a few spells on people too – but they shall remain nameless.”
His book may draw on death, and his forebear cast spells – but Richard ends on an upbeat note. At least I think it is, as his scattergun intensity engages as ever.
“I’m a positive bloke – even if I’m interested in psychopaths,” he says.
Tickets for the Q&A from 7.30pm on Thursday, July 7, cost £7.99 including a copy of the book. Visit www.davids-bookshops.co.uk for more information.