Great reads

Bri­tish TV pre­sen­ter and au­thor Richard Made­ley shows us his dark side ahead of the re­lease of his new book.

Friday - - Friday Contents -

Richard Made­ley has worn many hats over the years; jour­nal­ist, TV pre­sen­ter, hus­band and fa­ther, but for what, specif­i­cally, is he known? You might an­swer that he rein­vented day­time tele­vi­sion in the UK with his co-host and wife of 28 years, Judy Fin­ni­gan. He has in­ter­viewed the likes of OJ Simp­son, Ge­orge Clooney and for­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. And he is a driv­ing force be­hind a TV book club that in­spired a na­tion to read while sky-rock­et­ing the pro­file of the nov­els it se­lects. But while it’s easy to rat­tle out his suc­cesses, Made­ley has a habit for over­shad­ow­ing them by putting his foot in it.

With a flick of his hair and an ex­ag­ger­ated arm move­ment he’s stunned view­ers by say­ing things such as this re­mark to for­mer US Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in 2004, al­lud­ing to the Mon­ica Lewin­sky scan­dal: “I was in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion to you. I was ac­cused of shoplift­ing. But un­like you, I knew I was in­no­cent” Clumsy at best.

You can just en­vis­age Judy rolling her eyes in dis­dain and say­ing, “Richard, stop it!” In fact, he’s tested his wife’s pa­tience more than once by clown­ing around on-air, or cut­ting her off mid­sen­tence and talk­ing pub­licly about their per­sonal lives to any­one who’ll lis­ten (for­mer US pres­i­dents in­cluded).

Un­til re­cently it was dif­fi­cult to de­ci­pher whether his care-free at­ti­tude proves he doesn’t give a hoot or masks the fact he deeply cares about what people think.

The thing is that now, at the age of 58, Made­ley wants to be taken se­ri­ously. This change in tack oc­curred just be­fore the re­lease of his de­but novel in July last year. At the time he told Bri­tain’s The

In­de­pen­dent, “You worry that people will

say, ‘Oh yeah – The wally from day­time TV has writ­ten a novel.’ I didn’t want to make my­self a tar­get.”

It seemed for the first time since he started his ca­reer on lo­cal news­pa­pers Made­ley was ner­vous. He needn’t have wor­ried though. His psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller Some Day

I’ll Find You, be­came the biggest­selling de­but fic­tion pa­per­back of last year within three days of hit­ting book­store shelves. And to top this he had the likes of Sadie Jones, cel­e­brated au­thor of The Out­cast, tout­ing his work as “im­mac­u­late sto­ry­telling, pacey and beau­ti­fully writ­ten,” (a quote that went straight on the front cover).

“It was a huge re­lief I didn’t have to an­swer ques­tions about a flop,” Made­ley tells Fri­day. “I couldn’t be­lieve it. Be­ing a TV per­son­al­ity, I thought people were just cu­ri­ous to see the book I’d writ­ten. But from the com­ments on Ama­zon and news­pa­per crit­ics’ re­views, I re­alised people gen­uinely found my book in­ter­est­ing. It would have been mor­ti­fy­ing for me to pro­duce a dud since I run a pop­u­lar book club and al­ways cri­tique other people’s work.”

T he ‘pop­u­lar book club’ he is re­fer­ring to is lit­er­ary pow­er­house The Richard and Judy Book Club, launched in 2004. It gave Made­ley a strong foun­da­tion for writ­ing his own novel. “We were mix­ing with au­thors and learn­ing from them and the way they wrote,” he says. “We didn’t ex­actly take notes. The learn­ing process was grad­ual. Then I thought, ‘If they can do it I can do it’.” It took Made­ley two years to come up with the plot though. “I strug­gled a lot,” he ad­mits. “I sim­ply couldn’t think of a plot. My agent Luigi would ring up and say, ‘Lis­ten, I’ve got this plot…’ and I’d say, ‘No, no, no!’ At one point I threw in the towel. I thought I wasn’t cut out for fic­tion so I emailed the pub­lisher and said that I couldn’t do it.”

Made­ley pressed ‘send’ and made him­self a sand­wich. It was then a light-bulb mo­ment struck. The main char­ac­ters, their names, ages, and where they lived hit him at once. “I was sud­denly aware there was a fam­ily liv­ing in my head – the Arnolds,” he says. “Diana and her fa­ther, Oliver, and her mother, Gwen. I knew them all.

“I kept run­ning around jot­ting down notes, and by the time I went to bed, the story was there. It was one of the strangest ex­pe­ri­ences of my life, but com­pletely real.”

And once he had the plot it took him just three months to fin­ish the book.

The story be­gins as a love story and fol­lows the lives of an­tag­o­nist James

Black­well, a psy­cho­pathic RAF pi­lot and Diana, the young woman who falls in love with him, in Eng­land in the very late 1930s. The love­birds marry, but on their wed­ding day, the groom re­ceives a tele­gram and is de­ployed to France. His plane is shot down on the field and new bride Diana is wid­owed.

The plot then fast-for­wards a decade and Diana, now 30, is liv­ing on the French Riviera with her sec­ond hus­band and 10-year-old daugh­ter, Stella, who is James’s child. One day Diana spots a man in a taxi who looks just like James and be­gins to won­der if he is still alive.

“I em­ployed sus­pense to draw read­ers in and keep them guess­ing,” Made­ley says. “I set the sec­ond part in 1950s France be­cause I’m fas­ci­nated with that pe­riod and place.”

Made­ley and Judy have a hol­i­day home in France in Saint-Paul-de-Vence and he wrote the last chap­ters of his book at the house, sit­ting out­side with an um­brella shad­ing his lap­top from the sun­shine.

“We’ve spent our sum­mers there for the past 15 years,” he says. “All the places are real – ho­tels, the hills be­hind the sta­bles that Stella vis­its. I be­lieve in keep­ing to re­al­ity as much as I can.”

On typ­ing the words “The end”, Made­ley booked a ta­ble for two at lo­cal restau­rant La Colombe d’Or to cel­e­brate with Judy. But when he emailed the fin­ished doc­u­ment to his pub­lish­ers, Si­mon & Schus­ter, dis­as­ter struck. “It hadn’t gone to the out­box. I checked my hard drive but couldn’t find my work,” he re­calls. “The doc­u­ment had dis­ap­peared,” and with it the last four chap­ters of his book. “It was the worst mo­ment of my life,” he says. “I couldn’t be­lieve I hadn’t backed it up. But, de­spite an in­cred­i­bly heavy heart, I sat down and wrote it in four days straight, be­cause it was still fresh in my mind”. Made­ley wrote his sec­ond book,

The Way You Look Tonight, to be re­leased in July, on email soft­ware. “I wrote a chap­ter straight on to email and sent it to my son, daugh­ter and agent so my work was backed up on four com­put­ers,” he says.

The sec­ond novel fo­cuses on Stella, Diana’s daugh­ter who was kid­napped as a young girl in Some Day I’ll

Find You. The story opens in 1962 with Stella, a re­cent grad­u­ate from Cam­bridge Univer­sity, in a plane fly­ing to Los Angeles to start study­ing for a PhD in psy­chopa­thy – a jour­ney she’s em­barked on in an at­tempt to bet­ter un­der­stand her fa­ther, James.

There’s a dark un­der­tone to the book be­cause, Made­ley says, he en­joys writ­ing about psy­chopaths.

“They’re the strange crea­tures in the dark­est cor­ner of the hu­man zoo,” he says. “To flesh out psy­cho­pathic char­ac­ter­is­tics I con­sulted a friend who is a psy­chi­a­trist.”

Made­ley says his jour­nal­is­tic back­ground was a good foun­da­tion for mov­ing into lit­er­a­ture. “Jour­nal­ism gives a sense of or­derly writ­ing and writ­ing to dead­line,” he says. “I love writ­ing and get­ting to tell sto­ries. Jour­nal­ism gives you fa­mil­iar­ity with words and helps you write in an un­fussy way.”

Un­fussy yes, but Made­ley doesn’t skimp on de­tail. He ex­plains he gets this from be­ing a very ob­ser­vant trav­eller. On vis­it­ing Dubai for the first time in March, Made­ley was im­pressed by how dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly Arab and Bri­tish people, work to­gether in har­mony here. Richard lis­tened to His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum, Vice Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai talk at the Emi­rates Air­line fes­ti­val of lit­er­a­ture and says, “he spoke about Western his­tor­i­cal cul­ture with great knowl­edge and in­sight. This shows we can work side by side with mu­tual tol­er­ance and dif­fer­ent cul­tures can give and take from each other.”

But what did Made­ley, think of Dubai? “It’s is an amaz­ing place; the best of both worlds. The tow­er­ing glass build­ings and tra­di­tional struc­tures. A few min­utes’ drive from the high-rises you are sud­denly greeted by an end­less mass of sand and colourful Be­douin tents un­der the beau­ti­ful starry sky. In the UK I rarely see the sky.”

Born on May 13, 1956, Made­ley grew up in Rom­ford where he landed a re­porter’s job at a lo­cal news­pa­per aged 16, be­fore mov­ing on to BBC ra­dio Carlisle. On his first day at Granada Tele­vi­sion in 1982 he met Judy. “She was ap­pointed to be my ‘mum’ to show me round. I was thrilled. I’d al­ways ad­mired Judy’s work.” They hit it off, mar­ried in 1986 and have two chil­dren Jack, now 28 and Chloe, 26.

When it came to tak­ing the lit­er­ary leap Judy led by re­leas­ing her de­but novel Eloise in 2012 to rave re­views. So Made­ley handed his first fic­tion man­u­script over to his wife and held his breath. “Judy is very hon­est, I like to run stuff by her be­cause I value her opin­ion,” he says. “And she’d been through it all a year ear­lier and is writ­ing her sec­ond book, too.”

Made­ley has signed a new three­book deal with Si­mon & Schus­ter, and the next book will come out in 2015. This time he says he’s feel­ing ex­cite­ment, rather than nerves. “I can’t wait to hear their feed­back on the psy­chopath in The Way You Look

Tonight,” he says. “I think he’s darker and even more dan­ger­ous than James.” And maybe Made­ley is darker and more dan­ger­ous than we give him credit for.

‘Judy’s very hon­est, I like to run stuff by her as I value her opin­ion. And she’s been through it all’

The Richard and Judy Book Club changed the way Bri­tons read

Richard with Judy and their chil­dren, Jack and Chloe

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