Stan Barstow r.i.p.

Sad to learn of the death of the novelist Stan Barstow this week, at the age of 83.

When my first novel was published in 1996 the Ilkley Literature Festival invited me to share a stage with Stan. Apart from a thinly attended event in a bookshop it was my first public reading and I was shredded by nerves, not least because there were around 100 people in the audience. In the green room beforehand I must have come across as a fool, babbling on to Stan about how much I liked his books and how influential they’d been on my development as a reader and writer, all of which was genuine but which no doubt sounded like so much fawning blather.

He could not have been more gracious or encouraging. On stage, he nursed me through the event – especially during the Q&A, deflecting questions my way when it became clear that most of them were being directed at him, and rescuing me from a couple of my less articulate moments. Afterwards, when he might have made his excuses and left, he took me off to the pub and a week or two later my wife and I had dinner at his home.

He had no reason to extend such friendship towards me and plenty of cause to hang me out to dry. At that time, Stan was entering the twilight years of his writing career and struggling to find a publisher for his autobiography, while I was the upstart, thirty-two years his junior, basking in the attention being paid to my first book. I shall remember him not just for his wonderful writing (“A Kind of Loving”, “Joby” etc etc) but also for his great generosity of spirit.

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