Timing is everything with Rippingale author Richard Pike’s first seriously published novel.
His book is set in World War 1, which of course is the subject of much interest during this centenary year.
Richard has also used as one of his main characters someone from real life who is coincidentally only just receiving proper recognition for his musical work, the English poet-composer Ivor Gurney.
Gurney died in 1937 and spent the last 15 years of his life in a mental asylum, his talents becoming “lost”.
“I am probably the first person to have tried to portray this poet-composer and this kind of mental illness,” says Richard, whose book title, Do not Forget Me Quite, is taken from one of Gurney’s poems.
Although it is set in World War 1, Richard emphasises it is more of a human interest story, the fighting more of a backdrop to the reminiscences of one of the daughters left behind when her father goes away to war.
It is her father, a sensitive man who has joined the medical corps because he is not cut out for fighting, who meets Gurney when he is injured.
In real life, Gurney served in World War 1, as Richard discovered when he started researching his life.
The author says: “Ivor Gurney has been neglected for years and by chance I latched on to him and read a couple of biographies about him.
“His music is only just being known. He was a Radio 3 composer of the week in the summer and one of his pieces of music was played in a Prom concert.
“I collect pieces of music he wrote, one of which was only recorded last year, so somehow I am ahead of the game.”
It has taken the retired English teacher three or four attempts at writing a novel – and a self-published book about his school days that was popular with former colleagues – to finally be ahead of the game.
He says: “I reckon you need an apprenticeship of about half a million words before you know what you are doing.”
In Richard’s case, he also benefited from the “fairly ruthless” criticism of members of the various writers’ groups he belongs to.
The book’s timing is so perfect that Waterstones has agreed to stock it, as has Spalding bookshop Bookmark, and it’s been mentioned on Radio 3.
Do Not Forget Me Quite, by Richard Pike, is author published with Matador Press, £8.99, ISBN: 978-1-78306-452-6. richardpikeauthor.co.uk