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Highbury author’s vinyl destination: a novel

A great love of music – and a huge record collection – inspires 70-year-old’s story

31 January, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Richard Smith among his vinyl collection with his book and the record that inspired its title, Homeward Bound

AGE proved no barrier as Highbury West author Richard Smith celebrated the launch of his debut novel this week.

The 70-year-old’s story of dreams, choices and rock ’n’ roll, was inspired by his own love of music, borrowing its title from Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 hit, Homeward Bound.

Leaning comfortably on the author’s own encyclopedic knowledge and enviable collection of vinyl records crammed into the coal room beneath his home, Homeward Bound reverberates with a passion for music and a longing for simpler times.

Mr Smith, a former video producer, told the Tribune he had had pieces of the story in his head for years, and always knew he wanted to write a novel.

“I would fly all over the world on video jobs, and spend the time travelling, writing bits and pieces based on experiences from my life and things I had seen,” he said.

“Having six to eight hours on a plane gives you the space, but I never felt I had the time to pull any of it together into the story I wanted.

“When I finished work, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I created a routine for myself, where I would got to the library and write until my laptop ran out of battery. It took 18 months of routine to finish it.”

A poignant tale of growing old, Homeward Bound follows recently-widowed George, who nearly became a rock star in the 1960s and has regretted his missed chance ever since. His teenage granddaughter Tara has taken refuge from her bickering parents by moving into George’s London home.

For Tara, living with her grandfather is a way to find her own path and develop her own musical ambitions. She isn’t prepared for the clash of generations and living in a strange house full of her grandfather’s memories – and vinyl records.

A series of events – unwittingly set in motion by George’s scheming son-in-law – leads to Tara being forced to face the same dilemma her grandfather faced five decades before, with the same life-changing choice to make.

“It’s very much a novel of drawing parallels between the generations,” explained Mr Smith.

“It’s a story for all ages and I’d like to think it has something for everyone.”

Mr Smith’s passion for music and vinyl started as a youngster in Crouch End, where he’d visit the John Trapp shop to buy records. His first three were My Old Man’s a Dustman by Lonnie Donegan, What Do You Want? by Adam Faith and Starry Eyed by Michael Holliday.

“My wife says I’ve got a collection of records no one else wants,” said Mr Smith. “I’ll listen to any­thing – old, modern, all genres. I prefer singles to albums. I used to open the windows in my parents’ living room and play them as loud as I could, hoping that people on the passing buses would hear them,” he said.

“I don’t know how many I have. Knowing that would mean I only care about the numbers. I love all of them, and my favourite changes by the hour. I play one song, which leads me to another, then to another.”

Mr Smith took his passion for vinyl into a short teaching career in his 20s, asking students to write reviews of songs he played in class. He confirmed he is already working on his second novel, and plans to continue writing until forced to stop.

Available on Amazon and on the Waterstones website, Homeward Bound is also stocked in a number of north London independent book shops.


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