Keep­ing up with Judy

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

Could anx­i­ety have caused the men­tal block? Few writ­ers have been un­der the same pres­sure as Richard. For starters, he’s been cri­tiquing other authors’ words via the Richard And Judy Book Club – a legacy from the TV show that they have kept run­ning – for years.

It must have made him a bet­ter writer, though? “I sup­pose it must have done,” he says, re­sist­ing the chance to blow his own trum­pet.

One thing he did learn was that a good novel has to be a page-turner. “I don’t be­lieve when peo­ple say, ‘It’s re­ally good but it’s a bit slow at first, you have to get to page 130’. To me that’s a flawed book.”

There was also the lit­tle mat­ter of keep­ing up with the mis­sus.

“Judy’s suc­cess last year [her novel be­came a Sun­day Times best-seller] gave me a slightly schiz­o­phrenic re­ac­tion,” he ad­mits. “A large part of me is so proud of her. But of course it set the bar for me. I wasn’t aim­ing to over­take Judy though, that would be silly.”

But he did ask Judy to read his first draft. “Of all the ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ments when I sub­mit­ted the book, I was the most ner­vous when I gave it to Judy be­cause I knew she would tell the truth,” he con­fesses.

“She’s ruth­less, she can’t help it. It’s not cruel, she just can­not dis­sem­ble. If I make din­ner and she doesn’t like it she wouldn’t be able to say it was de­li­cious, and even if she did I’d see it all over her face.”

So what did she think of his novel? “I went out for the day and hid and when I came back it was great – she was lovely and nice about it. I knew she was telling the truth and she gen­uinely re­ally liked it.”

Richard and Judy, now 65, met while work­ing as lo­cal news re­porters. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tion – Judy had two sons from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage and wanted to be sure that Richard, still in his mid-twen­ties, was ready to be a step­fa­ther – they started a re­la­tion­ship.

In 1988 the pair landed their big ca­reer break pre­sent­ing ThisMorn­ing.

“They wanted some­one with se­ri­ous mus­cle to present it, but they picked us be­cause we were cheap,” Richard ex­plains.

The Bri­tish pub­lic in­stantly took to the cou­ple. “I felt closer to the au­di­ence of ThisMorn­ing than I did on any other pro­gramme. We opened up a lot and trusted them, and in re­turn they trusted us,” says Richard on re­flec­tion.

“I think that’s why the book club has worked so well. If Judy and I say hon­estly, this is a good read, peo­ple know we’re not say­ing it for money.”

But he’s adamant he doesn’t miss TV pre­sent­ing. “I’m proud of what Judy and I did. We be­came part of UK tele­vi­sion cul­ture, but I don’t yearn for it any more.”

As well as the novel, Richard writes a col­umn with Judy in the Daily Ex­press and does ra­dio work. He har­bours no plans for re­tire­ment.

“Maybe when I’m 70, but right now I feel like my third ca­reer is only just start­ing.”

Richard Made­ley’s de­but novel is an ab­sorb­ing wartime melo­drama

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