Starting a new chapter in life

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People used to tell Colin Bateman he had the perfect job. Well, what’s not to like about missing the English winters and being paid to watch sport around the world?

As a cricket correspondent for the Daily Express, he followed the England team around places such as Australia, South Africa, India and the West In-dies – all expenses paid.

Members of the Barmy Army, the band of fans who loyally support England through thick and thin, used to ask: ‘Need someone to carry your bags?’

Then there were trips across the Channel to report on the Tour de France – and the chance to sample some of the Continent’s best food and wine.

In 2011, Colin switched from reporting on cricket to become the Olympic Correspondent at the Ex-press for the excitement of the London 2012 games, which was followed two years later by the intrigue of the Winter Games in Sochi.

And yet something still nagged away. No matter how much he enjoyed covering sport, and producing copy for a national daily, he had always wanted the ultimate challenge of writing a novel.

‘I guess every journalist thinks that deep down they have a novel somewhere inside them, and I was no different,’ he says. ‘Producing 800 words in 45 minutes was never a problem, so what could be so hard about producing 80,000 words over a year or so? I soon discovered exactly what.’

On his 60th birthday, Colin handed in his notice. He had had enough of travelling, working every weekend, and the ever-increasing demands of modern journalism – being required to write as much for the website as the newspaper.

He wanted to spend more time at the family home in Cranbrook, and to tackle that long-awaited project of becoming an author of fiction.

‘I had written two books previously, but both about sport. I wanted to write something that had nothing to do with sport, and where I could let my imagination take charge,’ he says.

‘I loved reading modern fiction – the likes of Ian Rankin, William Boyd, David Lodge and Ian McEwan – and I wanted to have a crack at it.’

Three years later, the result is ‘A Dreadful Trade’ – a thriller set in Kent that takes its evocative lead from the county’s history of smuggling, although this is very much a story of today.

The lead character, Tom Kidd, has just lost his job as a journalist and been kicked out of the matrimonial home. He takes a holiday let on the Kent coast to decide what to do next in his life – only to find himself embroiled in the mysterious death of a young artist and the sinister world of smuggling.

A drowned body is washed up at a secretive scientific research site near Dover, but the police don’t seem interested. Kidd wonders why.

But when Kidd starts asking a few questions, the close-knit local community do not take too kindly to this outsider prying into their business.

While set predominantly in Kent, the story also takes us into scientific work surrounding rare orchids at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, a link Colin has been careful to research thoroughly.

‘I have friends who are botanists in Edinburgh, and the conservation work they do runs through the book. They also told me about the murky world of plant smuggling, which I never knew existed.’

‘Of course, I have a bit of a romantic angle. I have done that with advice from my wife’

With the book now published, Colin says local feedback has been very encouraging.

‘A lot of people have told me they really enjoyed it, especially the local flavour to it. A few local book clubs have made it their Book of the Month, and I am always happy to go along and talk to them about it – and face their criticism.

‘I learned so much writing this first book that I am keen to do another. Among other things, you have to invent believable characters – and of course, have a bit of a romantic angle. I have done that with advice from my wife.’

A Dreadful Trade (Edgehill Books) is available in paperback at £9.95 from bookshops, Hartley Dyke Farmshop in Cranbrook or direct from Colin, who will do special reduced rates for book clubs. He can be contacted at:

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