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Western Morning News – 5 minutes with author Gerry King

May 15, 2015

Riviera flâneur: Storyteller Gerry King relives his Torquay childhood

You bring to life the Torquay behind the glossy postcards. What was your childhood like in the English Riviera?

The John Hinde colour saturated postcards of Torquay during the 1960s really capture the memory of my childhood. It always seemed to be the summer holidays – on Oddicombe beach, rough pebbled with a deep shelf drop in the water. Diving off the Gentleman’s Bathing place and climbing down to the Giants Armchair. And if you had enough money, usually from taking bottles back for the deposits, a ride on the Shooting Star. The cliff railway whirred and the concertina doors clanked with the bell ringing for the last ride. I lived at the Crown & Sceptre pub in St Marychurch; Dad had a gym at the back. The world-class boxers Len Harvey and Howard Winston stayed. I went to St Marychurch school, the headmaster was an ex cricketer with a bent finger. I never liked cricket. I did like stories that were read out Friday afternoons and I especially remember ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.

What are your stand-out memories?

Summer jobs and importantly who you’d get to meet – especially girls – fabulous times. Seeing David Bowie play the Pavilion July 1972, I was working for Austin Webb at the Gibbons Hotel on the Strand then – he was to be shot at the Carlton Casino in December ’73. There was a massive restaurant near the amusement arcades on Cary Parade called Addisons; two or three floors with a coffee bar and great jukebox. This place certainly had its fair share of characters, such as the woman who poured tea into the clock-in machine at 5pm one afternoon. Across the road was the Marine Tavern, a biker’s bar that was run by Max the Axe. The Scottish waitresses would send me over to buy Scotsmac for them. I never had a problem with being young, it was growing up I’ve never been a fan of.

What is the importance of storytelling?

Stories are so important for me because they make sense of the past and the devil is in the detail; those little hooks and clues to a time and place. If we didn’t have stories, life would just be a timetable of meetings and events with no embellishment or elaboration: people and places would be grey.

You are crowdfunding for your next book, what are your thoughts on this new way of publishing?

My new book Smoke and Other Tales is a labour of love. As with my previous book, Lubin Tales, it has been designed and illustrated by my partner, Louise Burston. But even with a foreword by Will Self, publishing has been a nightmare. In order to raise the money we used Kickstarter. It was important to have a strategy, and certain things had to be in place. Obviously at the start you approach people who support your work and hope that they will then involve people that they know, but as the target approached I used every email and tenuous contact. Progressive social media updates created a sense of unity and involved the backers. If you are fortunate to have a few heavy hitting pledges, ask them to wait till the eleventh hour. The bottom line is you’ve got to have the goods to start with. You question if your work is any good and that has to be answered by other people.

Gerry’s book Smoke and Other Tales, is due for publication in June 2015.

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