I’m going to tell you a little story. It’s January 2006 and I am at my wits’ end. I’m strugging to make my latest novel, A Shout For The Dead, into anything like a coherent first draft. There seems to be so much that just isn’t working properly.
So I make the trip down to Dros Delnoch in the beautiful rolling East Sussex countryside. It’s a trip I’ve made a good few times. To relax, drink a glass of wine, eat one of David’s magnificently cooked steaks and chat away the night, talking about authorly things.
This time it went further than that. He made me talk about all I thought was wrong and why. We dissected problems and built solutions. We laughed at stupid things I’d done, things David said he’d done many a time, and resolved to straighten them out. Birds were singing by the time we’d finished but he’d given me a light to follow. A place to go where I could see through the fog and complete what I knew was a terrific book full of great action and ideas. David saw it too and that was why he wouldn’t let me sleep until we’d sorted it out. He saved me from further torture and I reckon he saved the book too. Part of him is in that book and I will be eternally grateful for that.
My wife, Clare, said I was a different person when I came back from the Dros that time. And I was. A tragedy that it was the last time I saw him. Thankfully I spoke to him enough times to thank him for what he had done.
David called me the day before he went in to hospital. ‘I don’t want friends to hear about this on the grapevine,’ he said. ‘You know, particularly if things don’t work out.’
Typical of the man. A more generous, passionate soul I have yet to meet.
David was my mentor and my friend. And he will remain both in my memory because I will forever be able to recall his words when I am struggling; and his great tales and his laughter when I am not. Today I am struggling.
I write this with the tears falling. So many of us will miss him for all that he gave us. When you read his books, know that the passion in his characters came straight from his heart. It was an honour and a privelege to have known him and to count him among my very good friends.
I am sad for me but I am devastated for Stella. To have such a man as David torn from her is as cruel as it is unjust. Keep her in your thoughts.