Anton Rippon catches up with former Derby Telegraph reporter Richard Cox who is about to launch his latest book.
Most book launches take place in bookshops. That makes sense. But when Richard Cox launches the third title in his thriller series set in the town in the 70s, the event will be held in the pub where he enjoyed his first pint in Derby, bought for him by the paper’s then chief crime reporter, Dick Wallis.
The concept behind the Simon Jardine series is that a Derby Telegraph reporter is drawn relentlessly into the plot as he searches for a front page lead. He’s dogged, but naive, and his occasional blundering puts him and his two accomplices, crime reporter Dave Green and DJ-cum-private investigator Tom Freeman in fear of their lives.
The first book in the series, First Dead Body, looked at the corruption surrounding Derby’s new inner ring road. The second title, A Fatal Drug, dug down into the flowering drugs scene. This latest work, Vinyl Junkie, lifts the lid to reveal a money-obsessed record industry, drugs and greed combining, and the involvement of the feared IRA.
Richard, who writes under the name of Tony R Cox, said: “I was born in Greater London and, having a father who worked for British Rail, lived in Scotland, Lancaster, Cheshire and also Lahore, Pakistan, where my father had been seconded to the United Nations to lecture on railway signalling.
“But I spent seven years at the Telegraph as a reporter and then moved on to Nottingham where I became Business Editor, then a career change saw me spend the next 25 years in public relations. So why write about those seven years in Derby? Because the town, now little city, made a lasting impression.”
There is, though, also another more significant local connection: Both my parents came from Derby. Mum was a nurse at the DRI; Dad trained at the signalling school. He went off to war and when he returned a hero he joined British Railways and never again lived in Derby. When my mother died in 2010, surviving Dad by 18 years, I was clearing out her bungalow in Church Broughton when I happened upon Dad’s medals, including those for Dunkirk, North Africa, Italy and Germany, plus the Military Cross, bestowed for his role in the battles of Cassino, Italy.
“I’ve donated the medals along with lots of memorabilia to the museum of the Royal Corps of Signals. I also found a massive Cox family bible started by my great grandfather who died in Ockbrook on Boxing Day 1904. In essence this mighty tome sets out our family history in Derby from the mid 1800s.
“Thomas Cox, my great grandfather, was apprenticed to ironmongers Weatherhead Walters & Co., who later became Bennetts of Irongate. Thomas got out of the ironmongery business, started dealing in wine and beer and married the daughter of the landlord of the Kings Head, Cornmarket. He went on to become a Derby town councillor and founded Cox and Garrard, wine and beer merchants.
“My maternal grandmother was the last private nurse to the last of the Arkwright family that lived at Willersley Castle, Cromford. Her husband was a school teacher at Wilmorton and retired as headmaster of Gerard Street School in 1939. He’d been Conductor and Chairman of Quorndon Musical Society.
“So although I wasn’t born and raised in Derby, but I went to school in Buxton and had seven great years working on the Telegraph. The city and county are deeply ingrained in my blood. I’m now retired and living in Leicestershire, but a frequent visitor to my favourite little city and its real ale pubs.
“The Simon Jardine thriller series is based around newspaper life in the 70s. It was a time when stories emanated from pubs, and Derby then and especially now, had some fantastic pubs. Where coffee shops have now taken over High Streets everywhere, Derby’s pubs were the source of news stories, and the inspiration for my books.
“My very first pint in Derby was at The Exeter Arms and The Dolphin was also a haunt, and The Old Silk Mill became the heart of the town’s rock music scene, thanks to John Pierrepont. We used to venture out to The Greyhound and the Travellers Rest, occasionally the Great Northern. We used to frequent Tiffany’s, Cleopatras, the Hippodrome, Derbyshire Yeoman, College of Art and Technology, Hatton Youth Centre and many more venues.
“Music was, and is, an over-riding influence: just as it is for Simon Jardine.
“The series is set in the 1970s when the pill was available to allow women more control of their bodies; the drugs scene was spilling out of London’s West End and Soho; and rock music ruled the airwaves. The series, in a nutshell, is Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll.”
Richard, 67, is launching his latest book at The Exeter Arms. He says: “Book launches can be staid, introspective affairs. I want something different. I wanted to interest occasional readers, even non-readers as well as fellow authors and friends. The launch of Vinyl Junkie will be a party; a celebration; a time to mix with like-minded people. Boring it certainly won’t be!
“The book is all about the music of the 70s and the garrulousness of a great pub. My solution is to go back in time. The Exeter Arms is near perfect as a venue: it serves fantastic beer, has a lively but mature atmosphere, and it is central to my books. The music will be provided by Pouk Hill Prophetz, who played at the 50th Convention of Slade, with an acoustic and later an amplified set.
“It’s a free event, open to all who want to help me celebrate. I would love to see those whom I knew from those heady early 70s, particularly from Cleopatra’s; those great journalists in Derby and Nottingham; and the exceptionally supportive band of writers and readers who make those long, lonely hours poured over a keyboard bearable and often enjoyable.”
Vinyl Junkie will be launched at The Exeter Arms on March 24 from 2.30pm – the party will go on all evening – and anyone wanting a copy signed by the Author should order it in advance through Amazon (Kindle and paperback) or direct from the publishers, Fahrenheit Press (www.fahrenheit-press.com) and bring it along. From March 1, Vinyl Junkie and the second in the Simon Jardine series, A Fatal Drug, can also be ordered through any bookshop.