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The Rev Richard Coles: ‘I think my CV looks like the work of a fantasist’

The Rev Richard Coles: ‘I think my CV looks like the work of a fantasist’


After achieving fame as a member of the Communards alongside Jimmy Somerville, Richard Coles later pursued a career as an Anglican vicar and broadcaster, notably co-hosting BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live for 12 years. Now a successful novelist, his second book in the “cosy crime” genre, A Death in the Parish, showcasing his character Canon Daniel Clement as both a vicar and detective, is currently available in paperback. A third mystery in the series is set to be released this summer. Coles currently resides in East Sussex with his two dachshunds named Pongo and Daisy.

You have recently finished a seven-month journey across the country called Borderline National Trinket. It appeared to be a tiring itinerary…

It has been quite an experience. The last time I went on tour, I was in my twenties. Eating hotel breakfasts and late-night kebabs in your twenties is not as damaging to your health and well-being as it is in your sixties. Therefore, I had to figure out a way to make it work. However, the shows were fantastic.

Are you receiving inquiries about the books from your audience currently?

Many are intrigued by the perceived similarities between my own life and the elements I include in my fiction: a rural priest, strong-willed mother, two playful dachshunds, and a noble estate, among other things. However, one of the joys of writing fiction is the ability to create my own stories. While my mother’s personality is reflected in Audrey, she is not the only inspiration.

Did you always aspire to become a crime writer?

When I was a child, my grandfather gave me the first official book I ever owned – a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories. I begged my parents to buy me a deerstalker hat and wore it around my town of Kettering, though I was constantly bullied for it (and rightfully so). But I was captivated by the mysterious nature of this character, always on the outskirts and able to perceive things others couldn’t, and fixing what had gone awry.

What factors do you attribute to the recent rise in cozy crime, alongside Richard Osman, Rob Rinder, and Janice Hallett?
I believe there are two ongoing occurrences. First, having a recognizable name increases the chances of having a discussion with a publisher. This presents a potential opportunity. Additionally, I believe there is a current attraction to crime fiction, possibly due to the widespread concern and unease currently felt by many. In this genre, we are thrown into a stable world that is then unexpectedly shattered. From there, someone attempts to unravel the mystery and resolve the chaos. I wonder if this resonates with my own feelings of apprehension during uncertain times.

What are the differences between having a best-selling novel and a top-charting record?

I have not experienced having my shirt removed by someone as a result of writing a popular crime novel. However, it has happened when one of my songs reached number one on the charts. Yet, it is incredibly satisfying to achieve success in my 60s, especially since my last hit was in my 20s. It feels like recognition and validation.

Is a television adaptation currently being developed?

The script for the first adaptation has been completed by someone else, so I am currently considering casting choices. One of the individuals who helped with the adaptation suggested, “There is only one actor who could portray Daniel.” Upon hearing this, I immediately thought of the same name, so that is a positive sign. However, I am not disclosing this information to anyone.

What are your thoughts on the upcoming book in the series?

This particular story is titled “Murder at the Monastery” and it accurately depicts what takes place. Daniel, who was once a novice and is now a priest, takes a retreat back to the monastery. As expected from his character, an unexpected and unexplained death occurs during his stay.

At what time and in what location do you prefer to engage in writing?

I have developed a routine where I immediately begin a new book after finishing one, as I value my discipline. Due to my constant traveling for the past six months, my latest book was written in a slightly unusual manner, such as in hotels in Swindon and on a train to Cardiff. I am able to write in various locations with the help of noise-cancelling headphones, which I believe is one of the greatest inventions of civilization.

Have you adjusted to your newer lifestyle? You retired from the clergy a few years back and departed from the BBC last year. Do you dear those positions?
I loved being a vicar and hosting Saturday Live, but it required a significant amount of my time, energy, and focus. Therefore, I was looking forward to having more time to pursue other interests. I wanted to spend more time at home and reconnect with my passion for playing the piano. I also have a new partner, Dickie, and I am focused on building a life together. However, I do deeply miss my role as a vicar. That is my current situation.

You have changed careers frequently, haven’t you?

I am curious about this. It seems like a diverse set of skills. However, what stands out to me is the similarities rather than the differences between them. Despite that, I feel like my resume may appear unrealistic. However, it is true and I cannot explain why. Perhaps a curiosity, an unrelenting drive, a constant need to satisfy a certain hunger.

Do you have any unmet aspirations?

I have a strong interest in painting, but unfortunately, I do not possess the skill to create art. Similarly, I am enamored by engineering, but I lack the ability to excel in that field as well. As time passes, I have come to accept that it is unlikely for me to accumulate the necessary expertise to construct a suspension bridge, given my current age.

Source: theguardian.com