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Deric Longden - Best-Selling Author

Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007

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Deric Longden

Deric’s Story:

`A Best-Seller the World over'

Unlike the title of one of his bestsellers, Deric Longden is rarely, if ever, `Lost for Words’. In fact the Emmy Award winning best-selling author has proved himself a redoubtable wordsmith with his books becoming best-sellers throughout the English speaking world, - with most being translated into other languages; `The Cat That Came In From The Cold’ is available in most European languages and is a best-seller the world over, thus proving without doubt that the former Matlock man has become a master of his trade.

Chesterfield-born Deric has come a long way since his early days as a sports reporter with BBC Radio Derby, when the highlight of his week was ‘phoning in the Matlock Town match report every Saturday afternoon.

Deric covered the exploits of the Gladiators for about seven years and also wrote a unique and amusing occasional column for the short-lived free paper, the `Matlock News’.

He has happy memories of his Matlock Town days:

“We’d travel all over the country reporting on the fortunes –or not- of the Gladiators. I remember one game at Kendal. They had a three-sided pitch and it was surrounded by sheep. It was bitterly cold and very boring. Nothing much was happening and I saw these sheep positioned around the pitch and apparently watching the game. I kept scribbling away and noticed that after ten minutes or so, play had become so bad that even the sheep had turned their backs on the game”. Deric added laughing: `In those days I managed to scrounge a lift back on the team bus. However, when they heard my report about the sheep they stopped the bus and turned me off!”.

This little anecdote is typical of Deric’s winning style for he has made a success of `telling it like it is’ and utilising his uncanny knack of choosing seemingly insignificant details from the very stuff of life and turning them into highly amusing episodes.

His powers of observation have been honed by his journalistic and real life experiences, for example in his first major bestseller `Diana’s Story’ he remarks again about his Matlock Town days: “Saturdays were important to me. On behalf of BBC Radio Derby, I travelled not quite the length – but definitely the breadth of England reporting on football matches. I enjoyed it. It brought a breath of fresh air, chilblains, and the prospect of pneumonia into my life.”

It is exactly this kind of humour that has become the trademark of Deric’s success, that and the element of pathos that he interjects into his narrative. This winning formula – which basically is Deric’s happy-go-lucky charm, philosophical character and personality leaking out from the end of his pen, has proved successful ever since `Diana’s Story’ - which dealt with the mysterious illness and subsequent death of his wife in a tragic drowning accident and became his first international best-seller.

The dramatised version was screened in September 1993 when the BBC began its Screen One series with `Wide Eyed and Legless’ starring Julie Walters as Diana and Jim Broadbent as Deric.

For the uninitiated `Diana’s Story’ takes the reader through his wife’s 15 - year battle against myalgic encephalomyelitis, (or M.E.) with a warmth and humour conjured from Deric’s observations of this real-life scenario, which ended when Diana tragically drowned in her bath at their Matlock home in 1985. Previously Deric had sold his Chesterfield-based textile business to care for her.

Deric continued his work with BBC Radio Derby, doubling up as wicket-keeper with the Radio Derby Cricket X1, - and became a well loved broadcaster, known especially for his humourous talks about his cats, his mother who was quite an eccentric, and life in general.

He also became a National favourite with regular appearances on `Woman’s Hour’ and `Does He Take Sugar?’

Deric was born in Brampton in 1936, moving from Heaton Street to Old Road whilst still a youngster, and later to Storrs Road. He attended the Manor School on Old Road, but being numerically dyslexic made learning difficult, if not impossible, and Deric failed all his O levels.

He later went to technical college and re-sat them – but failed again.

“ I was useless with numbers and could never remember dates, says Deric; -`I could remember that Atilla The Hun was only 5’-4” and wore a cloak of field-mice pelts, - but I couldn’t tell you when”.

From school Deric went to work in the stores at Bolsover Colliery, and after a short stint underground he was called up and spent 2 years and three months on National Service with the R.A.F. stationed at Hereford.

Back in Civvy Street Deric became a sales rep at Fowlers, selling clothes, but he got the sack. He had two or three sales jobs afterwards and got the sack from them all; “Basically I was not a good salesman, says Deric matter-of-factly, `I could only ever think of reasons why not to buy whatever I was selling”.

So he decided that the solution was self-employment and took over a textile business which manufactured ladies underwear at premises on St. Mark’s Road, Chesterfield. This was later sold to allow Deric to care full-time for Diana as her health deteriorated.

He was catapulted to fame following the success of `Diana’s Story’ which was published in 1989, and other books soon followed.

1991 saw the publication of `The Cat Who Came In from The Cold’ and later came `Lost For Words’, which is described as `about the life and times of his mother, a loveable lady of unlikely logic’.

This was made into a film and screened on television with Dame Thora Hird playing the role of Deric’s mother superbly, so superbly in fact that it won her a Television Drama award.

In the interim Deric married blind novelist Aileen Armitage, who had featured in both the book and film of `Diana’s Story’ and leaving his painful memories behind in Matlock, moved to Huddersfield.

Being a Derbyshire man living on Yorkshire soil, Deric felt like an ex-pat in a foreign land and this bred another book of idiosyncratic observations with the publication of `I’m A Stranger Here Myself’, which was later followed by `Enough To Make A Cat Laugh’.

But success with the written word has turned to success with the spoken word in recent years; in 1998 the BBC screened `Lost For Words’ which attracted a record audience of over 12 million viewers,- and in a Women’s Hour listeners poll it was voted the Best Serial in the 50 years of the programme. Appropriately `Diana’s Story’ was chosen as the last ever Women’s Hour serial.

Last year Deric went to the States to collect a prestigious International Emmy Award for `Lost For Words’ and was also awarded the `Peabody Medal’ by the Americans.

Asked what the `Peabody Medal’ is for, Deric replies somewhat typically, - “I don’t know– but someone told me that Arthur Miller has got one!”

Despite his deserved popularity and world-wide success Deric retains an affinity with Derbyshire and strong links with his roots; he was at Peak Books in Chesterfield last October promoting his new book `A Play On Words’ and this month sees the launch of his new audio-tape,

`The Funny Thing Is’, available at most book shops or from ADA Mail Order, P.O.Box 800, Belper, DE56 2ZA, priced £8-99 for the tape or £12-99 for the C.D.

He is always in great demand, making personal appearances, addressing literary functions, opening new establishments, attending book-signing sessions, - but fame has not changed this essentially loveable and unassuming local character who shrugs off all the accolades with another typical `Longdenism’ when he says with a chuckle; -

“Yes, I must admit that success has taken me from local-wide obscurity to the heady heights of world-wide obscurity”. What an achievement!

A `play on words’ maybe? but that’s Deric’s story, and he’s sticking to it!

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Deric Longden - Best-Selling Author

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