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  • peh61hall

Serving an ace?

Updated: Jan 8

Most historians believe that tennis originated in the monastic cloisters of northern-France in the 12th century, but the ball was struck with the palm of the hand, hence the name jeu de paume (game of the palm). Moving across the channel the game was first codified in England in the 1970's and was known as lawn tennis for obvious reasons.

For me tennis began at secondary school, where we had 4 hard courts set against a long brick wall, but only the kids who arrived early to school could ever get on a court. Since my journey involved the number 33 bus meandering its way through the Essex countryside to Chelmsford and stopping at every traffic light regardless of the colour, I never joined the elite group of players.

Instead I became a tennis watcher, my enthusiasm piqued by the Romanian entertainer come tennis player Ilie Nastase and especially his Wimbledon final against Stan Smith. Nastase always played the game in the right spirit, although perhaps he overdid the fun and games in some important matches, but he was always a crowd favourite.

Following my early retirement a few years ago tennis has staged a renaissance in my life. Alongside writing these two activities are the pillars of my sanity on a regular if not daily basis; a dose of physical exercise in the morning followed by some mental agility after lunch. Perhaps then it's no surprise that they should collide in my latest literary offering GAME, SET and DEATH, which features the death of my tennis coach, Russell. Harsh reward for his dedication to improving my backhand.

Russell is not the only friend to appear in the book; two long term friends provide the inspiration for my pair of dysfunctional detectives. Going back to the moment when I took my first step into the shadowy building in East Grinstead which offered a creative writing school, the only ideas I had in my mind related to these two guys; Scott and Ron. One sees the world as a glass half-full overflowing with optimism, while the other exercises a little caution and for him the glass is half-empty. I'll leave you to read the book and determine which is which, which won't be difficult.

I took this difference of approach, stretched and extended it until the end result is two people with polar opposite positions in just about everything, which is a long way from the reality of the two gentlemen in question, unless they start talking about football and then one is red and one is blue. It also means my depiction of the pair is far from biographical.

As it happened the advice on the course was to steer clear of writing a "bromance", so instead I began work on DREAM HOUSE with a single lead character. It was only when I was halfway through the first manuscript that it occurred to me that I could write a crime novel with two principal detectives and that these characters could be based on my friends. I know! But I got there in the end.

So as you may have guessed this is a shameless plug for the new book. GAME, SET and DEATH is available from Amazon NOW! Just pop my name and the title in the search bar at the top and it will appear.

Today's musical accompaniment is An Innocent Man, the 9th album by Billy Joel and commonly regarded to be his best. It was released in the summer of 1983 at a time when Billy was newly single and back out on the town. It's a period when he found inspiration from dating a couple of super-models in Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley. Tough life! Through the album he pays homage to many of his early musical influences from the late 50's and early 60's. Notably 'Tell her about it' echoes 'You can't hurry love' by The Supremes and the title track offers a nod to Ben E. King and The Drifters and 'Stand by me in particular. It's always a good sign when you're favourite track changes with your mood.

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