My father was a musician and writer. During World War II he played with Nat ‘King’ Cole (no mean pianist himself) once, and was later offered a job with the BBC dance orchestra; he turned it down. In the late ‘60s, two of his plays were shown on television.
As a published writer, I began with music journalism. My first pieces appeared in the late ‘70s, after I’d moved to the US. I took to it seriously in the ‘90s, after giving up on my own dreams of being a musician. By the time I left America in 2005, I was a regular on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
I still write some music journalism, but for the last 15 years it’s all been focused on roots music from around the globe. Out of that has come a huge love of Danish folk music.
In 2011 I published a biography of John Martyn, a man whose music I’ve admired since I first heard it in 1972.
I finally gave away my bass guitar this year, accepting the fact I’m not likely to play it again. However, I can’t bring myself to part with my acoustic guitar, even though I haven’t touched it in about five years.
The most magical piece of music I know is Spem In Alium, by Thomas Tallis, especially the sublime version by the Oxford Camerata. Arvo Pärt’s music also moves me deeply.
My first novel wasn’t published until 2010, when I was 54. Since then I’ve had 18 books out – there are many (happily) unpublished ones more came before those.
After coming back to Leeds four years ago, I now live less than a mile from where I grew up. At first I felt as if every step I took had me walking with my own ghost. The feeling finally dispelled, and I feel at home in 2017.
Every couple of years I re-read John Lawton’s Frederick Tory series and Louis de Bernières’ Latin American trilogy. For the inspiration of language I dive into Michael Ondaatje’s work.
History, especially Leeds history, is a passion of mine. My ancestors first came to Leeds in the 1820s. Digging around, I’ve managed to trace my family back to the 1530s (when Parish Registers were first kept) in East Yorkshire.
The Year of the Gun – is out now priced £8.99 and published by The Mystery Press